The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on October 26, 1998 · Page 26
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 26

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Monday, October 26, 1998
Page 26
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BIO MONDAY, OCTOBER 26, 1998 NA LOS ANGELES TIMES MLS m cup Chicago I m united o After 17 Years, He Should Know His Soccer Teams In the bedlam of the Chicago Fire locker room Sunday afternoon, one man stood out. He was also on hand 17 years ago, the last time a Chicago soccer team won a national championship. That would have been the Chicago Sting in 1981. j And the Sting's owner was banker Lee Stern, i whose interest in the sport has never waned. , "What a great group of players," Stern said. "Nobody believed they could do it. I was talking to a lot of the media this week and they all said, 'Oh, you're thinking with your heart.' I said, 'I'm thinking with my head. They will beat them.' "Sure enough they did. I'm very, very proud of them. I've seen all the games and it's been a great thrill for me. And I didn't have to write any checks." Goalkeeper Zach Thornton won all the plaudits for shutting out the defending champions, but at least one Chicago player remembered a Fire player who was not in Pasadena on Sunday. Jorge Campos was in Mexico, having returned to play for the Pumas of UNAM before the MLS playoffs began. But defender Francis Okaroh of Nigeria, wasn't about to let the Fire's missing keeper be forgotten. "Campos is a fine player and he brought a lot to this team," Okaroh said. "He figured that Pumas needed him more, but he's part of this championship that we've won. Definitely." O Sunday's attendance of 51,350 ranks MLS Cup '98 second among the three championship games. MLS Cup '96 at Foxboro Stadium drew 34,643 in a downpour, and MLS Cup '97 at RFK Stadium also was played in the rain and attracted 57,431. The current and former U.S. national team players on the D.C. United each had a view on Washington's loss, one that caps a difficult year for them. "People say one is the loneliest number," said defender Jeff Agoos, "but I think two is. We worked just as hard all year to get back here. It comes down to one game, you don't get a break here or there, and that's the whole season. It's pretty tough." Said midfielder John Harkes: "Everyone's talking about the controversy of their goals, but that's the game. You deal with it and play on. It wasn't meant to be, but we can hold our heads up high for making it here three straight years." The end of the MLS season does not mean it is the end of the season for the D.C. United. By winning the CONCACAF Champions Cup this summer and becoming the top team in North and central America and the Caribbean, Washington advanced to play South American champion Vasco da Gama of Brazil for hemispheric bragging rights. The first game of the two-game series will be Nov. 14 at RFK Stadium, with the second on Dec. 5 in Florida. In between, Vasco da Gama flies to Tokyo to play Barcelona of Spain in the Toyota Cup for the mythical world club championship. -GRAHAMEL. JONES With his club coach, Bruce Arena, about to be named U.S. national team coach, Harkes is hopeful of a quick return to international soccer. "Of course I want it," said Harkes, who was cut from the U.S. squad two months before the World Cup by Steve Sampson. "If I get back on the national team, it will be an honor to put the shirt on. I'll probably break out in tears. "Bruce knows me very well. He knows what I've gone through and what disappointments I've had on the national team. He knows I have a lot of soccer in me and I'm still a leader. He knows I'm versatile I can play central midfielder, left midfielder, right back." Harkes stopped short of saying he expected a national-team recall with Arena in charge. "No," he said. "After what I went through this year, you lose a lot of faith in people, people I worked hard for for a long time. "For Sampson to do what he did to me, someone with no international experience to do that to someone with 11 years' experience, is inexcusable. "My wife is the only person I trust. She is probably the reason I'm still playing professionally this year." -MIKEPENNER m wMiyyYjpppiyfii i i" 1 I , .-...I ,. . VI J UiUil Ul-li!. i, . I . 1 Summary Fire 2, D.C. United 0 Chicago 2 0-2 Washington 0 00 First half 1. Chi, Podbrozny (Nowak, Razov), 29th minute. 2. Chi, Gutierrez (Nowak), 45th minute. Shots Chicago 10; Washington 22. Shots on goal Chicago 4, Washington 8. Saves Chicago 8; Washington 1. Comer hicks Chicago 3, Washington 1 2. Fouls Chicago 2T; Washington 8. Goalies Chicago, Thornton; Washington, Presthus. Attendance 51,350. Continued from Page 1 Diego Gutierrez and held on to dethrone the two-time defending champions. Coach Bob Bradley thus becomes the first MLS coach to win three titles. He was an assistant under Bruce Arena when Washington won in 1996 and '97. And he did it with an expansion team. A year ago, the Fire did not exist, but that fact never bothered Bradley. "When we started building our team, we never thought we weren't supposed to be a good team," .he said. As for Arena, he was gracious in praising Bradley and the Fire but, days before being named U.S. national team coach an announcement will be made Tuesday in New York he pointed an accusing finger in the direction of the game officials. "The Chicago Fire did what they had to do today," Arena said. "The breaks certainly didn't go our way. I think the missed call on Marco Etcheverry early in the game was a big call. The offside call for the second goal was a big call. "Yet give them credit. They hung in there. Zach Thornton played extremely well. The breaks went their way. They deserved to be here. They deserve to be champions." Unlike the previous two MLS finals that were played in heavy rain, Sunday's game got under way under bright skies and with a larger-than-expected crowd, given the Galaxy's failure to reach the final. It might have had an especially dramatic beginning had referee Kevin Terry awarded D.C. United a penalty kick in the opening minutes when Etcheverry was sent sprawling in the penalty area. To the Fire's immense relief, no call was made. Minutes later, it was D.C. United's turn to look to the heavens in thanks when defender Jeff Agoos managed to clear Chris Armas' shot off the line after goalkeeper Tom Presthus had been beaten. It was evident that Chicago, with a lineup that featured winger Roman Kosecki as a surprise starter, was not going to simply sit back and defend. D.C. United, which was playing its third game in eight days, was soon being pulled and pushed all over the : field. The first goal was the work of Kosecki's Polish compatriot, Peter Nowak, who deservedly was named the game's most valuable player. He exchanged passes with former UCLA forward Ante Razov, then drew Presthus out of the net before passing to Podbrozny for the 29th-minute goal. It awakened the small knots of red-clad Chicago fans in the stands and forced D.C. United to attack with more vigor. And then, seconds before halftime, the Fire struck again. Again it was Nowak who created the goal and should have been given credit for it. He collected the ball from Gutierrez, beat a couple of defender and unleashed a shot that deflected off Gutierrez's chest and into the Washington net. But Razov had run through the goal area on the play and appeared offside on the goal, which was credited to Gutierrez. Referee Terry disagreed. "In the opinion of the referee," he said afterward, quoting the time-honored rule book, "Razov, while in I m r-- t f r - T js LF5" . - teE& r r I - -' 1 Wii M .V-,ta -7' V A . AN ACLETO RAPPING Lo8 Angeles Times D.C. United's Jaime Moreno tries to split the defense of Chicago's Francis Okaroh, left, and Jesse Marsch. an offside position, did not interfere with the play." So the goal stood, Chicago took a two-goal lead into the locker room and was untroubled very much in the second 45 minutes as D.C. United looked increasingly tired and ragged. Etcheverry was marked out of the game by Armas and when he did get free, Thornton was unbeatable in goal. Commenting on Arena's quibbles about the referee -ing, Bradley agreed that he might have had a point. "There's a chance Bruce is right on those issues," he said. "That's how calls go in the game sometimes. I do believe that those were some of the breaks that we got that helped determine the outcome." Meanwhile, Razov's explanation of the second goal was curiously convoluted, but matched Terry's opinion. "I didn't touch the ball," he said. "I had nothing to do with the play, so he can make a case that I was offside, but if I don't touch the ball ... It deflected off Gutierrez. If; it hits me, then I'm offside. I think I could even have gotten to it and tapped it in, but I knew I was offside." It was all academic after the final whistle, however. For the Fire's "Eastern Bloc" of Poles Nowak, Podbrozny and Kosecki and Czech defender Lubos Kubik, who played another superb game, it marked a championship that the four veterans long have sought. For the American players such as Thornton, Armas and C.J. Brown, it marked the culmination of an extraordinary season. Frank Klopas, former U.S. national team forward and Chicago native, had time for a quick comment while running off the Rose Bowl field. "It's been great season and this tops it all," he said. "We knew it.was going to be a tough game. I hope we can defend the title as well as D.C. has." Teammate Francis Okaroh, the take-no-prisoners defender from Nigeria, had another outlook. He made it plain that he was unhappy at not having been protected by the New England Revolution last fall, a move that allowed the Fire to claim him in the expansion draft. "This," he said, "makes it worth the trip to Chicago." MLS Continued from Page 1 before the World Cup, thinks so. "Anything, really, will be an improvement," Harkes said as he peeled off his soiled United jersey. "It can't get any worse than the way we were last tournament. The only way is up right now." Bruce Arena, a man unaccustomed to losing, got a whiff of his immediate future Sunday as he winced and grimaced through a 2-0 defeat of his two-time reigning MLS champions at the hands of the nondescript, nonexist-ent-in-'97 Chicago Fire. The setting was Pasadena, late October 1998, but listening to Arena in the postmatch interview room, it just as easily could have been Mexico City or San Salvador in the spring of 2000. Arena complained about a penalty that wasn't called when D.C's Marco Etcheverry, the MLS MVP, was tripped in the box early in the first half. Arena complained about the offside violation that wasn't called when Chicago's Ante Razov screened D.C. goalkeeper Tom Presthus on a shot that ricocheted off Fire midfielder Diego Gutierrez into the back of the net. "I would have liked to have had a game where we felt like we had a chance," Arena groused. "Today was not a great soccer game. Maybe it was exciting for the fans, but it was not a good game. There was so much controversy involved." And: "It felt like in some ways we didn't get a chance to defend our championship." Well, Arena had best get used to it, because the friendly confines of RFK Stadium and friendlier defenses in Kansas City and Tampa Bay are about to be traded in for the ever uneven minefield of on-the-road World Cup qualifying. In Arena's defense, he had a point on both non-calls. Lubos Kubik stuck an ankle out in front of Etcheverry's in the Chicago 18-yard box it should have been whistled a penalty. Razov was in an offside position when Peter Nowak wound up and fired the ball off Gutier- t35 4-l.if -.abm.-) ' "'Mi i V'm.- - s i,-5 $k ml IS- m mMM ill uli piHI 1kv AN ACLETO RAPPING Los Angeles Times The Fire turns into a conflagration after the game's first goal in the first half. rez's pectorals he should have been flagged. But, Bruce, until you've been down to San Jose, Costa Rica, for a CONCACAF qualifier with biased officiating, corroded batteries, empty whiskey bottles and cups of urine raining down on you, you haven't seen anything. Arena's official appointment as U.S. national coach is expected to be announced Tuesday in New York. Reportedly, he has already agreed to a four-year contract, believed to be worth $1 million a year. Sunday, Arena wasn't confirming or denying any such reports, but his silence on the matter spoke volumes. Reporter: "So, do you have an appointment in New York Tuesday?" Arena: "I have no comment." Reporter: "Is this the end of an era with D.C. United?" Arena: "I don't think this is an end to an era. These players will be back next year. They will be back to try and reclaim their championship." Reporter: "Will you be back?" Arena: "I ... I am not commenting on that at this time." Reporter: "I am from San Jose. Will I be seeing you Nov. 6?" Arena: "What's in San Jose Nov. 6?" Reporter: "The national team's next game. Against Australia." Arena stroked his chin and looked off into the distance. 1 "I may have to see that game," he deadpanned. Thus, the Bunsen burner is about to be applied to the latest experiment gurgling in the mad laboratory that is U.S. Soccer: Can the best professional coach in America cut it on the international big stage, where Yankees in this sport are not feared, are not revered, are generally looked upon as rather tasty hors d'oeuvrest Arena, winner of five NCAA championships at the University of Virginia and the first two MLS Cups, has hit the wall in terms of soccer achievement in this country. Within these borders, he has won all there is to win. The great outdoors is the great un-' known, of course. It is the logical next step for Arena, but U.S. Soccer was concerned enough about his lack of international credentials to wave big bags of money in front of former Portuguese national coach Carlos Quei-roz and to toy with the concept of Bora Milutinovic: The Sequel. "A lot of people say he doesn't have the international experience," Harkes said, "but Bruce has won on a lot of different levels. I think he'll be a good one. "Bruce is strong at organization, which is important on the national level. He understands players he's a players' coach. Over the years, he's been very successful at picking the right personalities to fit together in a team. "It's going to be a rebuilding thing for him. It has to be we've got to forget what happened in '98. He's looking at a long haul. I wish him the best." .Not much of an act to follow that's the good news for Arena. The bad? Take another look at that Chicago Fire roster. Podbrozny. Nowak. Kosecki. Kubik. Already, Arena is 0-1 against the Eastern bloc. NATIONAL EDITION in VI 12-- -- '

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