- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

D.C. United midfield maestro Marco Etcheverry has gone from Major League Soccer's player of the week to left hamstring of the week.
Etcheverry will sit out tonight's game against the Dallas Burn at the Cotton Bowl because of his troublesome hamstring. It flared up minutes before last Wednesday's kickoff in United's 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids, causing him to miss the match.
In addition to Etcheverry, reserve forward Ali Curtis will be idle tonight because of an abdominal strain suffered during training yesterday. That leaves only teen-ager Santino Quaranta and Abdul Thompson Conteh as available forwards and just four reserves.
This situation has left usually upbeat coach Ray Hudson frustrated.
"There's no compensating for Etcheverry," Hudson said. "It's cause for concern when players miss this much time. I don't want this to be a one-man show. There is too much responsibility, too much demand and too much of a burden put on him. That's just not right."
A good part of Hudson's frustration stems from injuries to stars Ben Olsen and Jaime Moreno. Add Etcheverry to the casualty list and the team is forced to rely on young, relatively inexperienced players to carry the load.
And that leaves first-yeear coach Hudson feeling the effects of United's massive roster purge from two years ago. During that housecleaning, United traded away veteran stars like Jeff Agoos, Carlos Llamosa, Richie Williams and Tom Presthus in an attempt to dump high salaries.. Unfortunately, United's younger players aren't ready yet, and the club has paid dearly for it in 2001 and this season.
If Hudson gets his way with management, he'll bring in experienced players before midseason. Olsen and Moreno are at least a month away from returning.
"I'm going to get on the phone because we need to get something else and look to bring in another quality player onto this team," Hudson said. "There is such a gaping hole and massive dropoff [without Etcheverry]. This is not the way to construct a team. We need a bit of an infusion with players who have whiskers on their chins. We need a stabilizing influence on this team."
United (1-2-0) is lost without Etcheverry. In five competitions this season, including two CONCACAF Champions Cup games, United is 2-1 when Etcheverry is in the lineup and 0-2 without him.
"It's called quality he's the closest player we have that can have an overall impact on the game," Hudson said. "It's not Marco Etcheverry the solo performer but how he affects the rest of the team. He has an overall effect whether he plays good or bad. We are conspicuous by his absence."
Just last week, Etcheverry, 31, was named MLS player of the week for his spectacular free-kick goal from 22 yards against the Chicago Fire in a 2-0 victory.
Jose "Chino" Alegria will handle Etcheverry's central playmaking role tonight against the Burn (0-1-0). Alegria, a junior international, appeared in just seven MLS games last season and is making just his fifth career start.
"Our intention is not to deconstruct this team and pull it apart," Hudson said. "It's difficult to admit that we're still learning in vital positions. The younger players are burdened with responsibility, and it can be too much. It takes time. You can't force sand through an hourglass. You cannot be too exposed because it defeats the whole purpose of nurturing players along."
Notes United will try out Brazilian strikers Carlos Henrique de Pedro, Alessandro de Jesus and Joares Miguel and Bolivian midfielder Alex Vasquez on Tuesday. The Brazilians are all supposedly members of Brazilian club Juventus of Sao Paulo, although the Brazilian league is still in season. Moreno is due to return to Washington from his native Bolivia after undergoing acupuncture treatments to ease the pain in his surgically repaired right knee. United's medical staff will evaluate Moreno's condition and put him on a rehabilitation timetable.


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