- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2002

United States team coach Bruce Arena should, and likely will, take speedy left-sided wing Eddie Lewis to the World Cup.

Re-signed to the reserve team at Fulham in the English Premier League, Lewis fell out of favor with Arena and played only one game in World Cup qualifying last year. Getting red-carded in a crucial game didn't help his cause. But in recent months, the former San Jose Clash star has stormed back into the Cup picture and looks like a good bet to make the roster for the trip to South Korea in May.

So far this year, Lewis has played in six of eight games for the U.S. team. He earned rave reviews for his play at the Gold Cup, and last Sunday he scored the game-winner against Ecuador.

When it comes to crossing the ball, Lewis is the closest thing the Americans have to David Beckham. He may be a one-dimensional player and sometimes fades from a game, but if the U.S. team finds itself down a goal with time running out at the World Cup, Lewis is the ideal man to send in the curling passes to target man Brian McBride.

Goalies hate those swerving crosses that seem to bend just out of their reach, and a high percentage of goals are scored off such passes.

If I could digress slightly to support my argument for Lewis: At the 1994 World Cup, the play the Brazilians feared most from the Americans was that coach Bora Milutinovic would send his tall players, such as Alexi Lalas, into the box and start lofting in crosses from the flanks.

"We were minus a player," said Brazilian coach Mario Zagallo, reflecting a year later at a Washington hotel. "If Bora had sent up a center-forward, it would have occupied our two stoppers, and it would have been like 11 players to nine players in favor of the Americans. But the Americans continued to play defensively, and we didn't feel the absence of [the ejected] Leonardo. … Every time there was a dead ball situation, the Americans swarmed our box and we were worried about Alexi Lalas getting a head to the ball."

Arena's style of play is far more offensive than Milutinovic's, and he has an ideal center-forward in McBride. Who better to serve McBride than Lewis?

The U.S. team's next game is against Germany at Rostock on March 27, where Lewis will get another chance to prove he should be on the World Cup team.

United news In no uncertain terms, D.C. United coach Ray Hudson has sent a message to midfielder Marco Etcheverry that the team's fate is in his hands.

"Who will be the glue this year to gel this team together?" Hudson said. "It has to be Etcheverry. Was it him last year? It's questionable. But we will rise and fall on Etcheverry this season. He is under pressure, but pressure makes diamonds."

Etcheverry has heeded Hudson's remarks. On Wednesday night, the Bolivian midfielder ran himself ragged in United's 2-1 victory over Comunicaciones.

"He came on like a light bulb," Hudson said.

United's newest player, Milton Reyes, looked sharp in his first start. The Honduran defender is a hard worker who can tackle, run and set up chances, and with that ponytail he looks like Marcelo Balboa. I wonder if he can do bicycle kicks? His fast runs down the right flank are most welcome following the loss of Ben Olsen through injury.

Reyes is not only expected to help United on the field but also to fill some seats in the stands. An official at the Honduran Embassy said more than 10,000 Hondurans live in the local area and most of them are "football crazy." When the U.S. met Honduras in World Cup play last year, more than half the fans at RFK were Hondurans waving their light blue and white flags.

It will be interesting to see how United's El Salvadoran fans and Honduran supporters get along. In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras went to war over a soccer game.

Freedom update The Washington Freedom will scrimmage against the U-19 Long Island All-Stars at the RFK auxiliary field today at 11 a.m. The All-Stars will be coached by Tony DiCicco, former U.S. women's team coach and now commissioner of the Women's United Soccer Association. Following the game the Freedom, along with star Mia Hamm, will hold a Fan Fest in Lot 4 at RFK, 1 to 4 p.m. … This week the Freedom waived midfielder Justi Baumgardt. The club needs to shed one more player to get down to a roster of 22 by Friday's deadline.

Vanney in France Another American has landed a spot on a European team. Defender Greg Vanney, 27, has signed a four-year contract with French First Division club Bastia. Vanney has played six years with the Los Angeles Galaxy and has made 15 appearances with the U.S. team, but none since November.

MLS notes Former D.C. United captain John Harkes, 35, finally has re-signed with Major League Soccer and will be back with the Columbus Crew next season. However, Eric Wynalda has decided to sign with the A-League's Charleston Battery for a $75,000 salary after MLS could offer him only $43,000. The Battery recently signed former Irish star Terry Phelan and former United defender Mark Watson.


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