- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2008

D.C. United’s newly signed midfielder Marcelo Gallardo ostensibly replaces another Argentine attacking midfielder — Christian Gomez — this season.

The 32-year-old takes over the coveted No. 10 shirt and the playmaking duties associated with it. Inevitably, the high-priced Gallardo will be compared with Gomez, who helped United achieve a championship (2004) and two Supporters Shields (2006-07) and was good for more than 10 goals a season.

Gallardo was a star in Argentina at 18 and comes to United after playing 40 times for one of the best national teams in the world.

Gomez on the other hand, came to United relatively unknown and became a star, earning the league MVP honor in 2006. He never wore his national team jersey, but his goals and assists tally at United for a midfielder — 39 goals and 29 assists in 97 games — was remarkable.

Gallardo likely will earn more in one year than Gomez did in his entire United career, but can he match Gomez’s numbers?

Clearly United is taking a risk, and Brazilian striker Denilson’s big-ticket failure at FC Dallas could be an issue too.

Still, United might be looking for something different in this latest signing: success in the post-Bruce Arena era, in an international tournament and the broader recognition that comes with it.

With Gallardo surrounded by a bevy of South American talent on the United roster, a good run in the CONCACAF Champions Cup or the SuperLiga, might justify his signing, even if his stats fall short of his predecessor.

For some fans, just crushing a Mexican team south of the Rio Grande might be enough to justify Gallardo’s designated player status.

Negotiations between Gomez and United over a new contract recently fell apart. He apparently wanted to up his modest yearly salary from $215,000 to about $500,000.

United wanted to spend its cash on a pedigree player. If a second-tier Argentine player like Gomez could produce, why not Gallardo, who is younger and comes with an impressive resume?

However, like Marco Etcheverry before him, Gomez leaves a big hole for the team to fill, and Gallardo will be asked to fill it.

Gomez was not only a valuable player for United, but he was a popular player. When he was suspended, Gomez joined fans in the stands at Giants Stadium and banged on a drum.

Hall of Fame — United president Kevin Payne has been named to the Virginia-D.C. Soccer Hall of Fame, along with Marco Etcheverry.

Mexico again — The United States and Mexico continue their rivalry on Wednesday night, when they play in Houston. More than 50,000 tickets have been sold for the game at Reliant Stadium.

One player U.S. coach Bob Bradley will be looking at to help beat the Tricolor is his son, Michael, who is in rollicking form at Dutch club Heerenveen, where he has scored 15 goals this season, including 11 in the league for the fourth-place club.

His 15 goals are a record for most goals in a season by an American-born player competing in a top-flight European league, beating out Brian McBride’s 13 goals at Fulham.

In remembrance — England players will wear black armbands when the team plays Switzerland on Feb. 6 in memory of the 50th anniversary of the Munich air crash, when 23 people, including eight Manchester United players, died.

United will remember the accident in its game on Feb. 10, when the players will wear replica 1958 jerseys.

Super Bowl — New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes was pictured wearing a Celtic FC jersey in the New York Post recently.

Tynes, who came to Florida from Scotland when he was 10, is a big Celtic fan and was a talented soccer player at Milton High School.

Fair on the move — Former U.S. women’s team star Lorrie Fair will play for the Chelsea Ladies in London.

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