- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 20, 2002

These are bleak days for D.C. United.
The 6-9-1 team is struggling to score goals, winless on the road, absent from the U.S. Open Cup and tied for last place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference. No United player was selected to start for the MLS All-Stars against the U.S. national team Aug.3 at RFK Stadium. United is even in danger of not making the playoffs for the third straight year.
Sadly, the once-great club is looking very ordinary and at times just boring. There have been so many trades recently that it is tough recognizing players.
"Some of the players I've brought in have fallen short, but if you pay peanuts, that's what you get," said coach Ray Hudson, who joined United this year after working wonders with the now defunct Miami Fusion last season.
The turnover continued this week when United said goodbye to defender Orlando Perez and signed Salvadoran striker Eliseo Quintanilla. I certainly hope the United staff checked the credentials on this 19-year-old, because if Hudson doesn't start him, the loyal Salvadorans who pay their hard-earned money to watch this team certainly will complain.
Not long ago, United set the standard in MLS. The team played free-flowing, all-attacking "champagne soccer." United not only won games but did it with style. RFK used to be a venue where other clubs feared to tread. Now even the blue-collar boys of the Columbus Crew, who were once winless for 14 games at RFK, breeze into the place and beat up the home side.
Hudson's long postgame analysis in the RFK press room after a 3-1 loss to Columbus last week was captivating and brutally honest. His timing and use of language "I smelt it [the loss] before we went out," he said was brilliant. But this is not a public speaking contest. It left me thinking whether the loquacious and passionate coach knows where he's taking this team. I really hope he does.
"As a coach, it makes you doubt yourself and makes you wonder whether you have handled the process well," mused Hudson.
We're all wondering that, Ray.
The sense is that Hudson hasn't really settled in with United yet. This is still not his team. Does he have the freedom and control over this club that he had in Florida?
"We don't have the players here who can play the fluid football I played in Miami," he said. "I can't do that here I have not read this the right way."
Still, there's plenty of season left for Hudson to save this team, and hopefully he'll soon have speedy winger Ben Olsen back on the field.
Hudson is such a colorful and honest guy that all associated with United soccer want him to succeed. The league needs people like Hudson. But losses tonight at Chicago and Wednesday at Columbus could mean big trouble for the English native.
Hudson now has to dig deep and prove that his success at Miami last year was not just a one-time wonder.
All-Star Game I've never really had much enthusiasm for the All-Star Game concept, but this time around I'm looking forward to watching Brian McBride and Landon Donovan team up again for the U.S. team against the MLS All-Stars.
Donovan and McBride are class players who performed well above par in the World Cup, where they scored two goals apiece. Not only that, but the MLS All-Star team will be spearheaded by former Maryland ace Taylor Twellman, who is becoming one of the most exciting and refreshing players to watch in MLS.
Donovan, 20, recently has been linked to a move to English Premier League clubs West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur according to the Mirror newspaper.
"I had a bad time at Leverkusen [in Germany] when I was younger and have no intentions of going back. A move to England would be my preference," Donovan said.
Young stars The 2002 U.S. Youth Soccer National Tournament kicks off Tuesday at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown. Forty-eight teams from around the country will compete in age groups from 14-19.
Four teams from Maryland Bethesda Fury in under-18 girls, Bethesda Alliance in U-17 boys, Bethesda Eclipse in U-14 girls and the Maryland Bays in U-14 boys are among the top teams. So are two from Virginia, Chantilly Milan in U-15 girls and the Vista Firestars in U-16 girls.
For the birds Former U.S. team coach Bora Milutinovic wants a traditional Tibetan "sky burial" when he dies. Milutinovic, who recently guided China into its first World Cup, was touring in Tibet this week and said he would like the "sky burial" referring to the Buddhist practice of dismembering corpses and leaving them for birds of prey.
The 57-year-old Yugoslav stepped down as China's coach after the team went 0-3 at the 2002 World Cup.

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