- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

Even though D.C. United is desperate for a goal scorer, the team apparently will take its time before signing one.

Jamie Cureton and Silvio Fernandez completed weeklong tryouts yesterday. Of the two, Cureton was the more impressive. Cureton, who played last season with English First Division club Reading, returned to England last night having no idea if he fits into United’s plans.

“We’re not held to pick one of these two,” coach Ray Hudson said. “It’s hard to judge in two or three days, but they’ve shown enough to say that they could be on our team. … The question then becomes, what’s the value? If they are too expensive, then we’ll have to look further down the feed line, and that’s the way we will analyze it.”

If United signs a foreign goal scorer, it will take weeks to process the paperwork and get the necessary work visa for the player to join United. Meanwhile, 37-year-old Hristo Stoitchkov believes he can still play at the Major League Soccer level. If United signs an international forward, the plan is to make Stoitchkov an assistant coach to free up a senior international roster spot.

Stoitchkov, however, is opposed to United’s plan. There are rumors that a Spanish Second Division club is interested in the Bulgarian. Hudson said Stoitchkov also has mentioned returning to Barcelona in some sort of coaching capacity.

The scene is reminiscent of last season’s revolving door of tryouts. United invited a slew of international players, most notably hard-partying English midfielder Paul Gascoigne, and signed none.

The 5-foot-8 Cureton said he enjoyed this week but that he is going to do what is best for him and his family. Cureton, 27, said he has offers from several English First Division clubs.

“I’m only 27, so football at the moment is my main priority. I still feel that I have a lot of good years,” Cureton said. “It was nice to come out and look and see what it was like. If I want to come back, it’s an option for me. Obviously, money does come into it.”

United has had problems manipulating MLS’s stringent $1.7million salary cap, and it translates onto the field — as evidenced by the club’s three consecutive last-place finishes. Ten games into this season, United again occupies the Eastern Division basement, four points out of a playoff spot. United is ninth in the 10-team league in shots (114) and ninth in shots on goal (53).

Despite last week’s season-high three goals in a shutout victory against a depleted Columbus Crew team, Hudson reiterated that United is still looking for a goal scorer.

“We’ve still got a couple of others that we are seriously thinking about,” Hudson said. “The decision is not made yet.”

One thing is certain: United’s attack has become more dangerous with the insertion of forward Ali Curtis into the starting lineup. Hudson said he will start Stoitchkov next to Curtis for the second consecutive game tonight against the New England Revolution (4-3-3) at RFK Stadium.

The Revolution have shut out United in their last three meetings. A United castoff, Revolution utility man Brian Kamler, has scored more goals (four) than all of United’s forwards combined (three).

Despite its offensive woes, United is undefeated (2-0-1) in its last three matches and sports the best defense in MLS. D.C. has allowed just nine goals all season and has shut out half its opponents.

“Now that we finally got over the [scoring] hump, we need to start putting the pedal down and really start driving it home,” Hudson said. “We’ve weathered a tough storm and now we’ve got the wind in the sails and we need to go for it now.”

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