- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2002

Tony Sanneh has played many games at RFK Stadium. In a D.C. United uniform, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound attacking midfielder competed in 86 matches, scored 20 goals and helped United win two titles from 1996 to 1998.
Today Sanneh returns to his former pitch in a different role as the U.S. team takes on Uruguay in an exhibition game before leaving for South Korea later this month to compete in the World Cup.
Playing now as a defender, Sanneh is hoping to win the starting right back role when the Americans face Portugal, South Korea and Poland at the start of soccer's biggest event next month.
"I just have to keep my confidence up, play simple and play within the guidelines of the team and hopefully really jell with the players that are here," Sanneh said. "Then I think I'll have a really good chance to be on the field in Korea."
Sannah, 30, frequently has been coach Bruce Arena's first choice at right back, but speedy Frankie Hejduk also is fighting for the position.
Sanneh was one of Arena's golden finds in United's heyday. The former United coach spotted Sanneh originally a striker at a Major League Soccer combine. The Minnesota native scored in each of the club's first two championship games.
After a career in MLS, Sanneh moved on. He is now a starter for FC Nuremberg in Germany's Budesliga, where the cash is good and the soccer sublime.
The journey from semipro ranks with the Milwaukee Rampage in 1994 to top German soccer and a place at the 2002 World Cup has been quite a ride for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate, who first became interested in soccer when he visited Gabon, West Africa, as a child.
"You set goals for yourself, and when you reach your goal, you just make a bigger one," Sanneh said. "I've improved during my career, and I've always gone for new challenges. Starting to play professionally after college was a great thing for me. Going to D.C. and winning and coming to the national team was incredible. Then moving to Europe and playing for a Champions League team and now moving to a team where I have a leadership role."
Last month Sanneh was a major factor as FC Nuremberg staved off relegation by upsetting German giant Bayer Leverkusen in a crucial game.
"The next day or two, I got a million phone calls congratulating me," Sanneh said. "It's an honor to be chosen and a dream come true."
Sanneh's first shot at playing on the U.S. team came in 1997, but it was only when Arena took on the national team coaching job that he became a regular starter.
Sanneh is not only a strong defender, he is good in the air and amazingly fast for his size. While he was growing up, he admired Dutch great Ruud Gullit.
"Like me, he is a big player, but he was so smooth," Sanneh said.
In South Korea, Sanneh will have to face brilliant Portugal striker Figo, currently the FIFA World Player of the Year. As for today's game, Uruguay might just be a tad easier.
Notes The U.S. team's friendly against Jamaica at Giants Stadium on Thursday now will be a doubleheader featuring the New York/New Jersey MetroStars against legendary Italian club A.C. Milan. The U.S. match at 7:30 p.m. will be televised live on ESPN2, followed by the MetroStars-Milan game at 9:30 p.m. The U.S. team plays its final game before leaving for South Korea on May 19 against Holland.
The Dutch will be bringing a strong squad, including Manchester United star Ruud van Nistelrooy, Barcelona's Patrick Kluivert and Juventus midfielder Edgar Davids. However, the star-studded Dutch team failed to qualify for the World Cup.
South African captain Shaun Bartlett, who once starred for the MetroStars and Colorado in MLS, will miss the World Cup after being told he needs an operation to repair an Achilles' tendon injury. The 29-year-old Charlton Athletic star is South Africa's all-time leading scorer with 24 goals in 60 games. Betting in London has made France the World Cup favorite at 4-1. Argentina is 9-2, while Brazil and Italy are 6-1.


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