- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Marco Etcheverry, D.C. United's midfield maestro, needs surgery on his left big toe.
While many disgruntled United fans have called for Etcheverry's removal from United's starting 11, coach Thomas Rongen admitted yesterday that Etcheverry has played the past two seasons with a condition that requires surgery.
According to Rongen, Etcheverry has torn the ligament that attaches to his left toe completely from the bone. Rongen also said it was Etcheverry's decision to play because United's All-Star playmaker wants to help the rebuilding team win.
"In all due respect to what has been written and said about him, not too many people would play with a toe that is hampering him and still be able to do what he can do," Rongen said."
Even with a bad toe, Etcheverry is tied for the Major League Soccer lead in assists at 10 with Colorado's Ross Paule and Etcheverry (16 games) has played two fewer matches.
Citing Etcheverry's toe, his team-leading 1,414 minutes and the small confines of San Jose's Spartan Stadium field (70 yards-by-110 yards), Rongen said he will not play Etcheverry tonight when United (6-10-1) takes on the surprising first-place Earthquakes (9-3-5).
Rookie midfielder Mark Lisi will assume Etcheverry's central midfield role, and Stephen Armstrong will replace Lisi at left-flank midfield.
Etcheverry, 30, is coming off his worst year and United's. He tallied just eight assists last season for the club, which finished 8-18-6 its first losing record. Before last season, the Bolivian midfielder averaged 16.5 a season.
This season Etcheverry is outfitted with an orthopedic insert in his shoe. At the beginning of the season, Etcheverry struggled with the insert, and his normally deft placements on free and corner kicks were off the mark. It appears Etcheverry is more comfortable now; he has produced at least one point in three of United's last four league matches including two assists on corner kicks.
"After the season, we are going to let our [physician] in Baltimore deal with him," Rongen said. "He can't do any more damage. We've diagnosed the problem and have tried to eliminate some of his pain. Off the field, we're trying to let his toe rest and heal."
Etcheverry, who shares the MLS single-season record with 19 assists with Colorado's Carlos Valderrama, probably will undergo surgery once the season ends.
Without the injury Etcheverry probably would be playing somewhere in Europe right now. But even injured, Etcheverry remains one of the top players in the league. In a fan ballot, Etcheverry was voted to start his sixth straight MLS All-Star Game just one of five players in the league that can make such a claim.
Rongen also said the league's change in balls has slowed Etcheverry, MLS' 1996 and 1998 MVP. The league switched from Mitre to Kappa this season, and some United players said the Mitre balls are much softer.
"The highly technical players can feel the difference in the ball," Rongen said. "Those few centimeters makes a difference for them, especially for an artist looking to find forwards going towards the goal."

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