- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

An exhibition between D.C. United and American University was suspended 10 minutes into the game yesterday after AU freshman midfielder Freddy Llerena was rushed to a hospital with a broken leg.
Llerena's right leg was broken on a wild, two-footed tackle from United striker and assistant coach Hristo Stoitchkov. The Bulgarian striker, now in the twilight of his playing days, was European Player of the Year in 1994.
"It was a very bad tackle and there is no defending it," said United coach Ray Hudson. "Hristo Stoitchkov would never intentionally hurt another player."
The injury to Llerena, of Germantown, came seconds after the Eagles had tied the game at 1-1.
"Stoitchkov ran 15 yards and did [Llerenas] leg out of frustration," said AU coach Todd West. "It was completely uncalled for."
West said Stoitchkov, 37, was upset about the tying goal and was arguing with the referee's assistant, insisting that the goal was offside. Seconds later, the veteran striker made the rash tackle in front of the AU bench as Llerena planted his foot to trap the ball.
"I want to offer my sincere apologies to the kid, his family and his teammates," Stoitchkov said.
Llerena, 18, a Northwest High School star, sustained a compound fracture of the right tibia and a possible fibula fracture and was set to have surgery at Montgomery General Hospital late yesterday. After the incident, coaches on both teams decided to postpone the game and replay it at a later date.
"The guys had no heart to go on after that," Hudson said.
Stoitchkov, who led Bulgaria to the semifinals of the 1994 World Cup, is know for his fiery temper. In his early playing days, the stocky forward received a lifetime ban after a brawl during the Bulgarian Cup final, but the ban was later reduced. In seven years with Spanish giant Barcelona, he earned a record 11 red cards and once stomped on a referee's foot.
"What he did is inexcusable because of his position on the coaching staff," Hudson said. "He has to set an example, and I will talk to him. He's an ultra-competitive player and he's devastated at what happened."
Stoitchkov joined United this year from the Chicago Fire, where he spent two seasons earning 19 goals in 45 games.

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