- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2002

D.C. United forward Abdul Thompson Conteh is feeling the heat from Ali Curtis, but coach Ray Hudson is not ready to make a change at forward.

In United's nationally televised home opener against the Chicago Fire today at RFK Stadium, Hudson will start Conteh and Santino Quaranta as his strike force despite Conteh's uninspired play in the preseason and last week's regular-season opener. Curtis came on for Conteh in the 55th minute and scored United's lone goal in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"We've got to give Abdul the opportunities of finding his groove, working harder and showing the fans what he is capable of," Hudson said. "It's down to him. I still want to give him a chance to redeem himself. We believe in him, and he is still our purest goal scorer."

Conteh, 31, also was United's leading goal scorer last season with 14. The striker from Sierra Leone wasn't the only returning United player who didn't perform well in the club's last match. None of the club's first-year players had much impact against the Galaxy.

"Ali Curtis came in and scored a goal, and it makes the other forwards immediately think, 'I've got to score that's the way it is,'" Conteh said.

Meanwhile, United midfielder Mark Lisi is out for today's match with a bruised left knee. Lisi had been expected to start at left-flank midfield for Bobby Convey, who must sit out because of a red card. With three games looming in eight days, Lisi said he hopes to be ready for games at Colorado on Wednesday and at Dallas next Saturday.

Also, United invited Bolivian midfielder Alex Vasquez for a tryout in two weeks. Vasquez, 20, played last season for Bolivian club The Strongest and can play as a central playmaker or left-flank midfielder, where United is thin. Vasquez has a green card and would not count as an international player against the roster.

Hudson said his starting midfield will be a game-time decision but he is leaning toward starting Jose "Chino" Alegria on the left. Hudson said 17-year-old midfielder Justin Mapp, who was called in for this game, probably will play.

Mapp is attending high school in Brandon, Miss., and won't join United full time until late May. A starter on the U.S. Under-17 national team, he was United's first pick (fourth overall) in last month's MLS draft.

"I'm really looking at putting him in at some point tomorrow to get a bit of the atmosphere, to get him settled in the big leagues," Hudson said. "He's good enough and old enough in my opinion. He's got that ability to open the game to create something out of fresh air."


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