- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

World-famous Bulgarian forward Hristo Stoitchkov, acquired Monday by D.C. United, was introduced to the local media yesterday at RFK Stadium. Joining Stoitchkov was top Bulgarian defender Galin Ivanov, who signed a contract with Major League Soccer yesterday and was allocated to United.

"These are two wonderful signings," said United coach Ray Hudson. "Obviously, the big name is Stoitchkov. They don't come any bigger they don't come any better. He is a legend."

Stoitchkov, 1994 European Player of the Year, comes to United from the Chicago Fire for United's second-round pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. The Bulgarian national team star will be a player and assistant coach with the three-time MLS champion.

In signing Ivanov, the club used its sole remaining player allocation, acquired after United traded Jaime Moreno, Eddie Pope and Richie Williams to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars last month.

MLS does not reveal financial details, but Hudson said Ivanov was "a bargain."

Stoitchkov, who speaks six languages, also will help Ivanov get used to life in America. It was Stoitchkov who suggested that Hudson take a look at the tough defender.

"This is one more opportunity for me to stay in the United States," Stoitchkov said of signing with United.

Ivanov, 27, comes here after playing six seasons with top Bulgarian club CSKA Sofia. He also is a member of Bulgaria's national team. The 6-foot, 172-pound Ivanov, whose style of play Hudson compared to former United defender Carlos Llamosa, briefly played with Stoitchkov at CSKA in 1998.

"I am very happy to play in MLS," Ivanov said. "D.C. United is a big team."

Stoitchkov, who turns 37 next month, joined the Fire in 2000 and had 17 goals and 15 assists in 51 games. Hampered by injuries last season, he made six starts in 16 games with two goals and three assists.

Stoitchkov led his national team to the semifinals of the 1994 World Cup in the United Sates and shared the Golden Ball award as the tournament's leading goal scorer. The fiery striker, with one of the best left-footed shots in the game, has played for such famous clubs as Barcelona in Spain and Parma in Italy.

Meanwhile, United will begin training at RFK Stadium's auxiliary field at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Single-game tickets for the 2003 season will go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m.

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