- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

Reports that D.C. United's venerable midfielder Marco Etcheverry will remain with the team for another season are good news.
I've had qualms with Etcheverry and made it known in this space, but I never doubted his skill. "El Diablo" has been a frustrating player to watch at times and, according to some, not an easy player to coach. However, the Bolivian maestro certainly has created a number of magic moments for Major League Soccer. And in a league that has hemorrhaged more than $200million since its inception in 1996, Etcheverry is one of a select few to have been paid generously.
Although Etcheverry is a big fish in MLS, he will go down on the international stage as a one-dimensional player because of his obsessive preference for the left foot. He has failed to execute a number of scoring chances in his career because of his refusal to use his weaker right foot. And it's a rare day when Etcheverry ruffles his long black locks with a header.
That said, Etcheverry is one of the greatest players to come out of South America. Who can forget how he single-handedly dismantled Brazil in World Cup qualifying in 1993? And in MLS, he led United to six titles in the club's first four seasons, striking a partnership with fellow Bolivian Jaime Moreno.
In a league cluttered with ordinary players, Etcheverry stands out with his ball skills and spectacular passing. Until MLS is willing to part with more money for talent, he will be a refreshing anomaly, And even though his passes have gone astray and his dead-ball marksmanship has waned somewhat, Etcheverry still brings badly needed flair to MLS.
Now in the twilight of his career, the 32-year old midfielder will have to prove to his teammates and critics that he is still worth the league's top salary of $270,000.
Some skeptics were ready to write off Etcheverry last year after he collected a red card while wearing the captain's armband, whined incessantly about the referees and failed to find the back of the net. "So goes Etcheverry, so goes United" became a media mantra.
But this year Etcheverry has shown flashes of his old self, proving he still had some shelf life. In August, he turned in a brilliant performance in leading the MLS All-Stars past the U.S. team at RFK Stadium. He walked away from the game with the MVP award, leaving some United fans wondering why he couldn't duplicate that performance more often for his club.
Off the field, Etcheverry spends time helping younger players develop their skills and is genuinely charming in interviews.
Now comes his greatest test and perhaps his last season in a United jersey. The club can ill afford not to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, and all eyes will be watching Etcheverry's contributions closely.
Americans overseas American goalie Marcus Hahnemann continues to shine. Last week he earned his seventh consecutive clean sheet for fifth-place Reading in a scoreless tie with league leader Portsmouth. The Seattle native hasn't given up a goal in 698 minutes in English First Division play. He also has refused to shave while the club rides its winning streak, something that has not gone down well with his wife.
Hahnemann still has a way to reach the club record set in 1979 by Steve Death, who went 1,103 minutes through 11 games without giving up a goal. Death was only 5-foot-7, and his streak came to an end on an own-goal.
Women's update The U.S. women's team will travel to China next month to play in the Four Nations Tournament featuring the top four teams in the world as they prepare for the 2003 Women's World Cup in China later next year. The United States, Norway, Germany and China will play in a series of three doubleheaders in three Chinese cities beginning Jan.23.
Earnie on his way Dutch club NAC Breda, has offered a free transfer to three-time American World Cup star Earnie Stewart as the club seeks to escape financial difficulties. The Dutch-born attacking midfielder is likely to join MLS when the transfer window opens next month.
Stewart, who has played 84 times for the U.S. team, has spent his entire professional career in Holland. He scored 49 goals over a five-year span for Willem II before joining NAC Breda. If he joins MLS, Stewart, 33, is likely to be allocated to a team, possibly to the Dallas Burn (his father lives in Houston) or the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Scottish powers Did you know that it's been 17 years since a team other than Glasgow Celtic or the Glasgow Rangers has won the Scottish Championship? In 1985, Aberdeen won the title for a second year in a row. The Aberdeen coach was Alex Ferguson, who went on to lead Manchester United to seven English championships.
Since 1891, the Rangers have won 49 titles, Celtic 38 and nine other teams have shared 19.


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