- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

After a couple of up-and-down seasons with the New England Revolution, former D.C. United captain John Harkes finally is enjoying soccer again.
"I'm just having fun playing," Harkes, now of the Columbus Crew, said this week. "It's refreshing. Things have certainly turned around for me."
Harkes, who raised two MLS Cup trophies in his three years with United, was traded from the struggling Revolution to Columbus in May. Harkes was reluctant to leave New England, but since the move he has found new life with the Crew, and both he and the club have prospered.
Columbus (11-5-6, 39 points), which takes on United today at RFK Stadium, extended its undefeated run to nine games (7-0-2) with its victory last week over the New York-New Jersey MetroStars. With the win, the Crew became the fifth team to qualify for the MLS playoffs.
As a member of the Crew, the 34-year-old Harkes plays a defensive central midfield role behind attacking midfielders Wilmar Perez (eight goals, 12 assists) and the in-form Brian Maisonneuve (six goals, four assists), who this week was recalled by the United States national team. The three midfielders have become the engine of the Crew this season.
"We play very much for each other," Harkes said. "That's the way teams have to survive today. Even when you look at the great teams like Manchester United, every player has to play for the other players. There are not too many free roles left in the game."
Harkes, who still owns a home in Fairfax, refused to comment on the problems facing United but conceded that MLS competition is now "very tight" and that organization on the field is a priority.
"If everybody is playing all over the field, you're going to get shut down very quickly in this league," Harkes said.
Get lost, Thomas Soccer America magazine reports that a number of disgruntled United fans have hired a plane to fly over RFK during today's game towing a banner urging coach Thomas Rongen to step down.
MLS playoffs Along with Columbus, San Jose, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago Fire have earned spots in the MLS playoffs. Eight teams will qualify.
New York-New Jersey (38 points), Kansas City (33 points) and Dallas (28 points) look set to claim the final three spots. D.C. United (20 points) is eight points behind Dallas, which holds the eighth spot.
It would take a miracle for United, which has five games remaining and a possible 15 points, to make the playoffs now, but stranger things have happened in soccer.
The MetroStars need just one more win to see postseason action. Kansas City needs six points and Dallas 11.
WUSA title game The Atlanta Beat take on the Bay Area CyberRays today in the inaugural Women's United Soccer Association championship in Foxboro, Mass. The game will be aired live on TNT.
The Beat and CyberRays finished first and second, respectively, during the regular season and tied with a league-high 37 points. Both survived tough semifinal games to earn a spot in what is being called the Founders Cup.
The teams faced each other three times this season. The Beat won the first game 1-0, the second was a 1-1 tie and the Beat downed the CyberRays 4-0 in the third.
Today's game is expected to be close and could lead to overtime. If the game is still tied after sudden-death overtime, the outcome will be decided on penalty kicks. That could set up an interesting situation.
CyberRays captain Brandi Chastain scored the penalty kick that won the World Cup for the Americans over China in 1999. Beat captain Briana Scurry was in goal that day for the United States and made a crucial save on Liu Ying's kick to keep the Americans alive. Sun Wen, the captain of the Chinese team, now plays with Scurry for the Beat and is Atlanta's main penalty kick taker.
"I'm just glad I didn't have to face Bri in 1999," Chastain said this week.
Said Scurry: "If it were to come down to that [penalties], it would be very ironic."
WUSA will be back The WUSA expects to be around next year. "The future of the league is very bright," CEO Barbara Allen said this week.
According to Allen, the results of a survey of fans at games this season "bodes well for the future."
"The great players around the world are knocking on our door to get into this league," she said.
Expansion is not in the immediate future for the WUSA, but Allen said there are several interested parties and that the league is "enthusiastic about expansion."
The Dove lands Hamisi Amani-Dove of Columbia, Md., recently signed with MLS and on Thursday was assigned to the Dallas Burn, which beat Miami and Kansas City in a lottery for the speedy forward. The former Wilde Lake High School and Rutgers star was drafted by the MetroStars in 1996 but chose to play overseas. Amani-Dove played in the Netherlands, Austria and Israel. His last club, Hapooel Tsafririm Holon, finished last in Israel's First Division.
Champions League Champion Bayern Munich (Germany) is in Group H with Spartak Moscow (Russia), Sparta Prague (Czech Republic) and Feyenoord (Holland) this week, as it seeks to defend its title in the prestigious 32-team Champions League. Manchester United has an easy draw in Group G with Deportivo la Coruna (Spain), Olympiakos (Greece) and Lille (France). Spanish giant Real Madrid faces Roma (Italy), Locomotiv Moscow (Russia) and Anderlecht (Belgium).

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