- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

If Major League Soccer goes along with its plan to disband certain teams as recent reports suggest, a number of coaches will be seeking the D.C. United coaching vacancy.
With rumors swirling concerning the fate of the Miami Fusion, the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Colorado Rapids, coaches like Roy Hudson, Perry Van Der Beck and Tim Hankinson are suddenly looking like candidates for the United job.
Of course, much of this is speculation. MLS commissioner Don Garber tried to squash rumors yesterday, saying that "contrary to published reports, Major League Soccer has not finalized any decisions regarding how many teams will compete in the league during the 2002 season."
Still, it appears some form of contraction is imminent, and it would seem logical for the United position to be filled by a laid-off MLS coach.
"MLS is continuing the ongoing process of evaluating all team markets and, as previously stated, will announce any changes prior to the end of the year," Garber said.
If the Rapids fold, Hankinson would be a likely choice for the D.C. position because he is already being paid by the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates United, Colorado and three other MLS teams.
Outgoing United general manager Kevin Payne, who is the senior vice president of AEG, was in Los Angeles this week for a meeting to discuss the future of the Rapids.
Payne did not return calls to The Washington Times but did say through a spokesman, "We are in the process of addressing [Uniteds] coaching needs and considering several quality candidates."
Hankinson, 46, joined the Rapids this season after 21/2 years at Tampa Bay, where he guided the Mutiny to a 39-38-3 record. Colorado finished the season as the second-worst team (5-13-8, 23 points) in MLS.
At Miami, Hudson turned the Fusion around, producing the club's best record (16-5-5). The former English player, known for his colorful quotes, rebuilt Miami into a serious contender for the MLS championship. Miami won the Eastern Division title and tied for the league's most points (53).
Van Der Beck took over the Mutiny coaching job in midseason from Alfonso Mondelo, who resigned with the team's record at 3-12-1. The new coach had little impact, and the Mutiny finished 4-21-2.
Recent reports have indicated that Miami and Colorado are the strongest candidates to be folded.
"Sometimes you have to take a step back to move two steps forward," Colorado midfielder Marcelo Balboa told the Rocky Mountain News. "If the step back means dropping a team, then the steps forward may include stadiums being built for the remaining teams."
United notes D.C. United will play the first leg of the 2002 Football Confederation Champions Cup against Guatemalan club CSD Comunicaciones on March 6 in Guatemala City. The return game will be March 13 at RFK Stadium. The winner and runner-up of the Champions Cup will advance to the 2003 FIFA Club World Championship. United won the Cup in 1998. …
United midfielder Ben Olsen, who missed the 2001 MLS season because of an ankle injury, says he is expected to be back in full training next month.
"I would say I'm a week or two from starting to run," Olsen said. "The second surgery went well, and the bone is healed. I just have a little bit of tendinitis that has delayed my initial running. That was tough news because the bone is healed. When the tendinitis popped into the picture, it was a little bit frustrating."
Top player Speedy attacking midfielder Earnie Stewart was selected Honda Player of the Year on Wednesday after leading the U.S. national soccer team in scoring. The 32-year-old veteran received 290 points beating out 2000 winner Claudio Reyna with 205 points and Jeff Agoos with 181. More than 250 journalist participated in the vote.
Stewart, who plays in Holland for NAC Breda, scored five of the U.S. team's 14 goals in 2001 and played in all 10 qualifiers this year.
Past winners since 1991 have been: Hugo Perez, Eric Wynalda, Thomas Dooley, Marcelo Balboa, Alexi Lalas, Wynalda again in 1996, Eddie Pope, Cobi Jones, Kasey Keller and Reyna.
Reyna is ready American captain Claudio Reyna sat out Sunderland's Premier 0-0 tie with Chelsea on Sunday with a slight groin strain but expects to make his debut when the Black Cats travel to Southampton today.
Reyna is eager to get a taste of English Premier League soccer after his $6.8 million transfer from the Glasgow Rangers, a Scottish power, on Dec. 7. The American midfielder is expected to help the club's floundering offense, which has scored just 13 goals this season.
"We've signed Claudio Reyna, and although he's not renowned for his goals, he does get one or two, and hopefully he'll chip in," Sunderland forward Kevin Philips told the Daily Star. Phillips has seven of the team's goals.
In other news, Chicago Fire striker Josh Wolff is on a trial with the Blackburn Rovers, a Premier League club. The 24-year-old U.S. team player was recommended to Blackburn by the club's American goalie, Brad Friedel.

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