- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 18, 2002

D.C. United coach Ray Hudson has mentioned all season that he may have a surprise coming. Is that surprise legendary English midfielder Paul Gascoigne?

Rumors out of England contend that Gascoigne is close to signing a deal with Major League Soccer and then will be handed to United. If this is true, it certainly would be a surprise.

Gascoigne and Hudson are both from Newcastle, England, hence the connection. Gascoigne, who will turn 35 in two weeks, has said in the past that he would like to end his playing days in MLS and with Hudson.

However, that comment was made when Hudson was the coach of the now-defunct Miami Fusion. Gascoigne was loaned this past season from Everton, of the English Premier League, to English First Division club Burnley and his contract will expire at the end of June.

"We will take stock of what offers are available and sit down and discuss them," Gascoigne's agent, Ian Elliott, told the Burnley Express & News. "We have options on the table and it's possible Paul could move abroad."

Hudson flew to Europe after practice on Wednesday and is expected to return later tonight. Last weekend marked the season finale of most of Europe's top professional leagues. If Hudson went to Europe on a scouting mission, then he's not looking at talent in one of the top leagues.

There is some speculation that Hudson went to Europe to meet with a player. United has been pursuing Scottish forward Paul Dalglish, who played for Wigan Athletic in England's First Division. Dalglish trained one week with United last month and doesn't need to meet with Hudson since he is familiar with the club and contract offer.

Elliott told the Burnley Express & News that other First Division clubs are interested in speaking with Gascoigne. Gascoigne signed a recent television deal to be an analyst during the World Cup. After today's game against the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, United has a three-week break for the World Cup. This window in the schedule gives United the necessary time to secure a visa for any international player the club brings in.

In addition to MLS and clubs in the Middle East, English First Division club Portsmouth has expressed interest in Gascoigne.

MLS is well-known for signing former European superstars at the end of their careers. If signed, the mercurial Gascoigne would join the likes of Lothar Matthaus, Roberto Donadoni, Walter Zenga, Preki and Hristo Stoitchkov.

Meanwhile, United will most likely be without the services of midfielder Bobby Convey for today's game at RFK Stadium. The game is part of a doubleheader with the Washington Freedom.

Convey suffered a bruised rib in last Sunday's 1-1 tie against the Columbus Crew. Convey aggravated the rib Wednesday in a scrimmage against the Northern Virginia Royals, United's Division III affiliate, and is listed as doubtful. Midfielder Jose "Chino" Alegria will probably replace Convey as United's left-flank midfielder.

One week after getting traded, former United players Mark Lisi and Craig Ziadie get a shot at redemption against their former teammates. United traded Lisi and Ziadie to the MetroStars (3-4-1) for Petter Villegas and Orlando Perez.

Lisi is expected to start at right-flank midfield for injured midfielder Rodrigo Faria and Villegas will start on the right for United (2-5-1). Both Perez and Villegas said getting traded to United was in their best interests.

"New home, new team, hopefully it works out better than it did in New York," said Villegas, who grew up in New Jersey. "I was supposed to go to San Jose, but I told the coach [Octavio Zambrano] and trainer that my thigh was sore and that I didn't want to make the trip so I could rest my leg. The next day I heard I was traded to D.C."

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