- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2002

After a painful losing season, D.C. United coach Ray Hudson is not getting much of a break. According to Hudson, the postseason makes the playing season seem "like bliss."
Until Major League Soccer's contractual talks with United veterans Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno are resolved, Hudson can't do much to reshape a team that failed for a third consecutive season to make the playoffs. The three highest-paid players Etcheverry, Moreno and Eddie Pope eat up nearly two-thirds of the team's $1.6million salary cap. Etcheverry and Moreno are inevitably facing pay cuts or a move to another club.
Rumors have been swirling recently concerning the future of United's Bolivian duo and even Pope, the highest-paid defender this side of the Rio Grande River. All three have been with United from the first season (1996) and helped the club win numerous titles. Until this year, their status seemed untouchable.
"Let's face it," said former United coach Thomas Rongen last year, "this is not Thomas Rongen's franchise. This is not Kevin Payne's or former coach Bruce Arena's it really is Marco's, Eddie's and Jaime Moreno's team."
That was then. United is now clearly Ray Hudson's baby, and he knows the situation can't continue.
"The potential for substantial and meaningful change is great," Hudson said. "We have our house in order and once the dominos fall, it will all happen. Everything is etched in soap. It could happen with lightning speed or get drawn out."
Etcheverry's name has been linked with the Bolivian national team's coaching job, and there has been talk of Moreno joining the New York/New Jersey MetroStars under former United assistant coach Bob Bradley.
It's likely that Etcheverry will remain with the club at a lower salary but Moreno and Pope could be on the move.
One thing is certain, at least: Talented defender Ryan Nelsen is not leaving to play overseas.
"Ryan Nelsen is under contract for two more years with the league and isn't going anywhere," Hudson said. "He was our best defender last season. We haven't received any offers, and he wants to stay."
The United coach is also warning that he might keep Virginia star Alecko Eskandarian, who is expected to be the top pick at the MLS Draft next month. There have been reports that United, which has the first pick, will choose Eskandarian and trade him to Chicago for Ante Rasov or Josh Wolff. The MetroStars are also interested in Eskandarian, whose father, Andranik, played for the New York Cosmos.
"It's not automatic," Hudson said, concerning any deals. "I've seen Eskandarian play, and I rate him very highly."
Hudson is also planning another scouting trip soon. He's looking for a "dynamic and feisty" midfielder and a "dagger" for the frontline.
Meanwhile, United players Bobby Convey and Santino Quaranta are likely to be called to the U.S. team's training camp next month as it prepares to face Canada in an exhibition game at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan.18.
Manchester tour set Manchester United will face Italy's Juventus at Giants Stadium on July 30 as part of its 16-day tour of the United States. Manchester United then will play a top European team at the Philadelphia Eagles' new stadium Lincoln Financial Field on Aug.4. The Red Devils also are expected to play an MLS all-star team in Los Angeles.
Manchester's tour is sponsored by former MetroStars general manager Charlie Stillitano, who runs ChampionsWorld. The Nike-sponsored team also will visit Nike's Portland, Ore., headquarters.
Women's team travels The U.S. women's team will travel to Portugal in March to compete in the Algarve Cup for the eighth time. The U.S. team is in Group A with Canada, Sweden and France, all of which have qualified for the 2003 Women's World Cup in China.
Transfer grapevine American striker Joe-Max Moore may not be returning to Major League Soccer after all. Moore, who was released by Everton this week, is being eyed by the Wolverhampton Wanderers, a Division One club. If Moore joins another British club when the transfer window opens next month, his international work permit would almost certainly be renewed. If he doesn't, Everton will have to pay him for the seven months left on his contract.
Hall of Fame English player Paul Gascoigne, who tried and failed to play with D.C. United, was included in the first group of stars inducted into the new Football Hall of Fame in Preston, England. The shrine is modeled on the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Surprisingly, Geoff Hurst, whose hat trick won England's 1966 World Cup, did not make the list, which also included French ace Eric Cantona. One woman was named in the first group: Lily Parr, who scored more than 1,000 goals for the Dick, Kerr Ladies club in the 1920s.
So long, Mike D.C. United goalkeeper Mike Ammann retired from Major League Soccer this week. The 31-year-old goalie missed the entire season after suffering from ulnar nerve transposition in both elbows. Ammann underwent a pair of operations and had hoped to return.

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