- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Now World Cup soccer has a lively ball, too.
Across Japan and South Korea, attackers and goalkeepers have come to the same conclusion many baseball players and fans have reached in the United States: The balls are juiced.
"It's the biggest difference in balls that I've ever seen," forward Brian McBride of the U.S. team said. "It's been a nightmare for the goalkeepers because if you shoot it right, it flies. If you don't shoot it on center, it doesn't go. There might be a few more spectacular goals."
Unveiled at last December's draw by Adidas, the Fevernova ball replaced Tricolore, used four years ago in France. At the World Cup in 1994, played in America, the Questra was used.
"It is a truly revolutionary ball," FIFA said in its announcement. "The improved syntactic foam layer, consisting of highly compressible and extremely durable gas-filled micro-balloons, has remarkable energy return properties and additional cushioning for enhanced control and accuracy."
Don't tell that mumbo-jumbo to goalkeepers. They're not thrilled about having to stop the ball.
"I think it's a terrible ball. It doesn't fly straight," said Kasey Keller of the United States, who slightly injured his left elbow in practice yesterday. Team doctors said the injury was minor and he would not miss any training.
Brad Friedel, Keller's goalkeeping colleague and rival, said the ball is hard to control and harder to see because it's gray.
"The ball's not made for goalkeepers," he said. "They want more goals."
For months, the U.S. team has been using the ball in practice, but because Nike is a sponsor, the Americans don't have much game experience with the supercharged sphere. And when they did use it against Ireland, the game was played in a downpour, when any ball would tend to get slow.
Some U.S. players said this ball picks up speed when the temperature gets warmer. Forward Joe-Max Moore described how the ball knuckles when it's hit on the sweet spot. That allows it to take off.
DaMarcus Beasley prefers this ball to the ones he usually gets, saying, "It feels so soft on the foot even if you pump it up hard, it feels soft." During U.S. practice, Beasley claims it's been whacked more than 70 yards.
"The [Major League Soccer] ball needs some work," he said. "You can't really kick it well. It's not ideal, I guess."
Earnie Stewart is the U.S. attacker most experienced with rabbit balls and dead balls. He plays in the Dutch first division.
"In Holland, every team has its own ball. You have to get used to it," he said.
When NAC Breda, Stewart's team, gets to town, it practices with balls provided by the home team.
"They're always flat," he said. "You get the older balls."
It's not just American players who have noticed. Belgium's Marc Wilmots is predicting goofy goals and perhaps bloody noses for goalkeepers who get their faces in front of shots.
"It has phenomenal swerve," he said. "We will have bizarre goals from 30 meters. We will have comical goals."


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