- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

D.C. United received another blow during practice yesterday when midfielder Mark Lisi suffered a left knee bruise and is listed as doubtful for Saturday's home opener.
Lisi was injured late in training on a tackle by defender Bob Brennan, who is not even on United's roster. Lisi's injury further complicates United's depth situation. Unless United calls up players from one of its affiliates, the club will dress just 15 players for the game against the Chicago Fire (1-0-0).
Lisi was expected to start. The second-year midfielder was carried off RFK's auxiliary field and was unable to put any pressure on his left leg. Lisi yesterday saw team physician William Hazel, who found no serious damage. Team trainer Rick Guter will re-examine Lisi sometime today.
"It was a real bad, clumsy tackle at the end there by Bobby," United coach Ray Hudson said. "It's unfortunate. We were looking for [Lisi] to come into the game on Saturday."
United (0-1-0) already was shorthanded for Saturday's game because of the red-card suspension of left-flank midfielder Bobby Convey, who was sent off in the 40th minute of last Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy. Referee Noel Kenny penalized Convey for kicking Galaxy forward Carlos Ruiz when replays appeared to show Convey playing the ball.
"I'll say it flat out, the refereeing in MLS [is bad]," said United forward Abdul Thompson Conteh.
According to Conteh, Kenny said to Convey, "Oh yes, I saw it, [Ruiz] hit you first, but I have to give you a red card."
Officiating in MLS has long been a contentious issue among players and coaches. Many have said the level of officiating has not kept pace with the improved level of the players.
"Red cards are part of the game," said Joe Machnik, MLS' assistant to the deputy commissioner who oversees the league's officials. "The referee's report indicates that when Bobby went to strip the ball his ankle was stepped on by Carlos Ruiz. Bobby then swung his leg and connected with Ruiz just below the knee after Ruiz had already passed him. The referee had no hesitation to show the straight red as an indication that this type of play was dangerous and reckless.
"That play clearly endangered the safety of a player," continued Machnik. "The discipline committee looked at it and we all thought that it was a good red card. That is the kind of play that we want to get out of Major League Soccer. Had the referee shown the yellow card, we would probably be looking at [the call], wanting to know why the referee had not shown the red card."
Three years ago after a controversial goal allowed the Galaxy to beat United in the waning seconds, then-defender Jeff Agoos said of the officiating, "This league is a circus." Then-coach Thomas Rongen said of the officiating following that loss, "It's one of the reasons why our league is not taken seriously."
Lisi just adds to United's mounting casualty list. Star forward Jaime Moreno (knee) and midfielder Ben Olsen (ankle) are out at least a month. Goalkeeper Mike Ammann (elbow surgery) is likely out for the season. Defender Craig Ziadie suffered an eye injury last weekend while on loan to the A-League's Richmond Kickers and will miss one to three weeks.
First-round draft pick Justin Mapp is finishing high school and currently unavailable. It's unknown whether United will call in the 17-year-old Mapp for Saturday's match.
Hudson said he will probably move right back Milton Reyes up to right midfield and insert Ryan Nelsen into his four-man back line. Lazo Alavanja will most likely move to left-flank midfield.
Hudson also has a decision to make at forward, especially because of Ali Curtis' inspired play last Saturday. Playing a man down, Curtis gave United a 1-0 lead in the 76th minute after a brilliant 50-yard diagonal run capped by a left-footed blast to the right corner.
Curtis came on for Conteh in the 55th minute and made the most of his playing time, scoring United's only goal of the game. Hudson called Curtis' showing "a 24-carat performance." However, Hudson said it was too early in the week to name Curtis as a starter.
If United doesn't call up any players, the team will have just three field players midfielders Bryan Namoff and Jose "Chino" Alegria and either Conteh or Curtis available as reserves.


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