- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2003

Ronald Cerritos is set to make his D.C. United debut tomorrow against one of his old teams, the San Jose Earthquakes. Cerritos joined United this week from the Dallas Burn in a surprise trade for Ali Curtis.

United coach Ray Hudson believes Cerritos has all the hallmarks of a finisher in front of the goal and a player who works hard off the ball. Hudson says he likely will start Cerritos alongside Alecko Eskandarian on the front line.

“He’s coming to a team that should fit him probably better than any team he has been on,” Hudson said. “With all due respect to those early San Jose teams, they weren’t very good, so he’s coming to a club now that should fit him well.”

Cerritos spent five seasons at San Jose, where he had 55 goals and 38 assists. In 2002, he joined the Burn and added four goals and six assists. This season Cerritos has hit the net three times and added one assist.

“The coach took a chance,” said United midfielder Dema Kovalenko. “It’s a gamble but we need somebody who can score goals.”

Hudson said the club originally was looking for an American striker, but the “likes of Clint Mathis and Jason Kries” were not available. United was attracted to Cerritos, who is from El Salvador, because he has a green card and does not count against the club’s quota of three senior international players.

United has one senior international spot open and is looking very closely at a player from Australia that it can sign as a “discovery player” before the club’s extended trading deadline on Sept.12.

“What I know of Ronald is that he is a very sneaky player and the kind we need,” said United captain Ryan Nelsen. “We need a natural goal scorer, and I think Cerritos provides that. He’s proven what a handful he can be, and I think when he comes here the El Salvadoran crowd will be behind him and he will be fired up to prove some people wrong.”

So far this season, no one on the United roster has been able to score consistently, and Hudson is hoping Cerritos, who has earned 62 goals and 45 assists in his Major Soccer League career, will fill that vacuum.

Curtis said goodbye to his teammates in the locker room Wednesday night in College Park, where United beat Maryland 2-0 in an exhibition game. According to Hudson, Curtis was not part of the Cerritos trade until the “11th hour,” and he was very sorry to see him go.

The Earthquakes (10-3-7, 37 points) are riding a five-game winning streak and have one of the best defenses in the league, giving up 21 goals in 20 games, as they play host to United.

Injury-plagued United will be missing defender Mike Petke (broken ankle), midfielder Eliseo Quintanilla (sprained right knee) and forwards Hristo Stoitchkov (minor knee surgery) and Santino Quaranta (sprained knee).

There is some good news, however. Defender Milton Reyes, who had reconstructive surgery April18 to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, is close to returning and could be back in the lineup next month.

Beat-up Beat — Atlanta Beat forward Leslie Gaston is a walking miracle. The 23-year-old rookie, who will have her hands full tomorrow dealing with Washington Freedom strikers Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach at Founders Cup III in San Diego, has undergone 11 knee surgeries since seventh grade, including five ACL surgeries.

The former North Carolina star has suffered a broken collarbone, a broken nose and two broken ankles and once was hospitalized for a week with a kidney ailment.

“I feel I’m a pro at rehab now,” she says. “I now take everything very slowly, trying to watch my body and figure out what it’s telling me.”

Corner kicks — With Tim Howard starting at Manchester United, along with Brad Friedel at Blackburn and Kasey Keller at Tottenham, the United States has three goalkeepers starting in the English Premier League, the most of any country besides England (seven). …

The Winnipeg Sun reports that Real Madrid is exploring the idea of creating a sister team to play in MLS. Mexican clubs Chivas and America also have been looking at proposals on how to break into the U.S. market with sister teams. …

The Dallas Burn lost star Jason Kries for the season after he tore the ACL in his left knee in last week’s game against San Jose. Kries is three goals shy of Roy Lassiter’s career record 88. …

The Colorado Rapids strengthened their defense this week when the club signed Joe Cannon the 2002 MLS goalkeeper of the year, from the San Jose Earthquakes for three future draft picks. Cannon signed with RC Lens of the French first division in January and spent six months with the club.

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