- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

D.C. United coach Ray Hudson said he felt like a "kid with his Christmas list" as he headed to Europe this week searching for talent he hopes will turn around his struggling club.
Hudson will be on the road for three weeks visiting players whose agents have contacted the club in the past year.
Based in his hometown of Newcastle in the north of England, Hudson will cross the border into Scotland to attend a game that will involve four players one South American and three Europeans he is keen on. He also will travel to France and visit London to attend a West Ham United game.
Hudson declined to name specific players he would be looking at, but he has shown interest in former French striker David Ginola and veteran West Ham forward John Moncur, both 35. Ginola has no contract and said on his Web site this week that he is looking at offers. Moncur has talked about retiring from English soccer at the end of this season.
The United coach also says he wants to check out a Czech striker. A few weeks ago, Hudson was raving about Sparta Prague's big forward Jiri Jarosik, but he might well be out of United's price range.
Still, bargains abound. The recent economic problems affecting South America and the collapse of ITV Digital's television contract with England's First Division have clubs tightening budgets, cutting wages and offering players at reasonable prices.
"The transfer market and the quality of players available has changed dramatically," Hudson said. "You can now sign players for half the price from a year ago."
According to Hudson, United has plenty of young talent, and what he needs is a veteran with "effective experience."
"Effective is the key word," Hudson said. "Look what Ronnie Ekelund did for San Jose. A veteran player who some might say is past his prime can still be very fit and give you two or three great years and make an impact."
Ekelund, an intelligent and creative midfielder, is the kind of player Hudson would like. The 30-year-old Danish star, who was playing for unfashionable Walsall in England's Second Division last year, notched six goals and eight assists this season at San Jose, earning more points than striker Landon Donovan.
Hudson did say that the "central holding position" at United was not his "number one priority," which means his focus is on a creative midfielder or forward.
The problem facing Hudson is that United will have to let go some players to bring in new talent. United has three players Jaime Moreno, Eddie Pope and Marco Etcheverry eating up more than half of the club's $1.7million salary. One player surely will have to be cut.
"Finding players is the easy part," Hudson said. "The hard part is bringing down the ax."
Parity at last Major League Soccer wanted parity when it set itself up as a single-entity league seven years ago. Now the league finally has parity, but is this really what MLS wanted?
When the regular season ended Sunday, only six points separated Eastern Conference leader New England (12-14-2, 38 points) from last-place D.C. United (9-14-5, 32 points). All five teams in the conference had losing records.
The Western Conference led by the Los Angles Galaxy (16-9-3, 51 points), offered a little more variety. Eight points separated the top four teams, all of which had winning seasons. Kansas City was at the bottom, 15 points adrift of Los Angeles.
Last year 27 points separated the top and bottom teams in the then-Eastern Division. A whopping 39 points separated the top and bottom teams in the Central Division, and 24 points separated the top and bottom clubs in the Western Division.
Unlike the first four years of the league, when D.C. United dominated the landscape, it was a real dogfight for teams to earn points this year, with no club running from the pack.
Amazingly, the Galaxy and New England Revolution were the only teams to win three games in a row, and both streaks came in the last contests of the season. In previous years, there was always a three-game winning streak by a team well before May.
"I personally like a dynasty, a great team that everyone can shoot at and try and knock off," Hudson said.
United fund-raiser D.C. United will play English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur Oct.17 in a fund-raiser at White Hart Lane in London.
German Jurgen Klinsmann and current Spurs manager Glenn Hoddle, two former Tottenham stars, are scheduled to play in the game, which will raise funds for former Tottenham players. The English club is currently third, and its starting goalie is American Kasey Keller.
Confederations Cup to France France will play host to next year's Confederations Cup from June18 to 29. It will involve world champion Brazil, the champions of the six confederations France, Colombia, Cameroon, the United States, Japan and New Zealand plus one invited team.

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