- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

D.C. United coach Ray Hudson was hoping Wednesday's exhibition game at the University of Maryland would be a chance for forward Jaime Moreno would remember how to score goals. The club's key striker has gotten just three this season. and one of those came on a penalty kick.
Sadly for Hudson, United's offense seriously lacked imagination against the collegians and Moreno failed to finish his chances. When asked what it might take for the Bolivian star to break out of his slump, Hudson said jokingly, "An exorcist."
The College Park game produced few positives for United as it prepares for a crucial Major League Soccer match against the New York/New Jersey MetroStars tomorrow. United barely squeezed past the Terrapins 1-0 on a fluke goal by Ryan Nelsen. The best player of the night was Maryland goalie Noah Palmer.
If United hopes to avoid missing the playoffs for the third straight year, it must earn some big points against the MetroStars. With six games remaining on its schedule, United has to play the MetroStars traditionally its fiercest rival three times in three weeks. (Who dreamed up this crazy schedule?)
United is six points away from the eighth and final playoff spot now occupied by the New Jersey-based club.
"We know that going into Giants Stadium, there will be an atmosphere in the locker room of a big-time game," Hudson said. "This game is beckoning us and calling for a big performance."
The odds are stacked against United. The club hasn't won on the road this season and has failed to win overall in its last nine games. The one glimmer of hope is that the MetroStars have lost four of their last five home games and look very vulnerable on defense.
Moreno has done very well against the MetroStars. In 22 regular-season games against the club, he has scored 16 goals.
United returns to Giants Stadium on Sept.12 and then plays the MetroStars again two days later at RFK Stadium.
The last time the teams met was May 18 when United beat the MetroStars 4-2 at RFK.
Gazza protests
The saga of why English midfielder Paul Gascoigne failed to earn a contract with Major League Soccer has grown more curious.
A Scottish newspaper reported earlier this week that Gascoigne's "wife-beating past" wrecked his chances of playing in America. According to the report in the Scottish Sunday Mail, Gascoigne was on the verge of joining D.C. United, but the deal fell through when the club was threatened with massive protests from women's rights groups in the Washington area.
Gascoigne admitted to abusing his wife in Scotland in 1996, and United heard from various women's groups that there would be a backlash if Gascoigne joined the club.
"The number of activists and groups who would get involved is incredible," Hudson told the Mail. "There were parents' groups and wife-abuse groups, and I didn't want the lad in the middle of a circus."
Gascoigne trained two days with United last month, but the club opted not to sign him, stressing the timing of the deal and financial concerns.
Hudson downplayed the Scottish report this week but didn't deny it.
"We heard rumblings and some groups were voicing concerns," he said. "I thought [Gascoigne] was going to get a second chance. I thought if they are attacking him on that front, what chance has he got? It took me by surprise because the incident took place seven years ago, and he and Sheryl have had an ongoing makeup relationship that hasn't produced one iota of another [violent] reaction."
Although Gascoigne's future in America looks bleak, Hudson is eyeing a London-based veteran Premier League forward and a Croatian midfielder as possible additions next season.
Keller on top
He may have been the backup to Brad Friedel at the World Cup but American goalkeeper Kasey Keller appears to have won the starting job at Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League over Scottish goalie Neil Sullivan. Keller played well in the club's 2-2 tie at Everton last week.
"Probably going to the World Cup and the fact that he trained, even though he didn't play, meant he came back looking very sharp," said Tottenham coach Glen Hoddle.
Meanwhile, American World Cup winger Eddie Lewis is set to leave Premier League club Fulham to join First Division side Preston North End. The clubs have agreed to a fee, but the deal has been held up by Lewis haggling over personal terms.
Local notes When the Washington Freedom plays the Carolina Courage today in the Women's United Soccer Association final in Atlanta, the team will be facing a local soccer hero. Carolina coach Marcia McDermott, the only female coach in the league, was a star player at McLean High School before becoming an all-American at the University of North Carolina. McDermott, 37, went on to coach the University of Maryland women's team in 1989.

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