- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 28, 2003

D.C. United will welcome midfielders Bobby Convey and Earnie Stewart and defender Ryan Nelsen back to its lineup for tonight’s road game against the Columbus Crew. All three missed several games while on national team duty at the FIFA Confederations Cup in France.

However, Convey and Stewart won’t be home long. Both have been named to the U.S. team for the friendly against Paraguay on July6 at Columbus Crew Stadium and likely will remain on the roster for the Gold Cup from July 12 to 23. Both will miss D.C.’s game at Dallas on Wednesday, according to United technical director Dave Kasper.

Nelsen and Convey likely will start against the Crew (4-5-3, 15 points), while Stewart probably will come off the bench. Coach Ray Hudson says he will go with Ben Olsen, Convey, Dema Kovalenko and Marco Etcheverry in the midfield for United (2-3-6, 12 points), choosing Olsen over Stewart.

On the front line, Hudson again will start the in-form Ali Curtis and Hristo Stoitchkov. Just three weeks ago, Hudson was suggesting that the temperamental Stoitchkov had played his last game. Now the fiery Bulgarian, who scored a brilliant goal in last week’s 1-1 tie with New England at RFK Stadium, is set to start his third game in a row.

“There are times when you have to rattle the cage,” Hudson said. “Even Stoitchkov needs that. Hristo has risen to the challenge. He’s never looked fitter in all his [Major League Soccer] days. He’s kept himself in check and kept the lid on the boiling pot.”

Meanwhile, English First Division striker Jamie Cureton, who had a tryout with United last week, has signed with a club in South Korea for $500,000, Hudson said.

“We had first pick of him, and we were his first choice,” the coach said. But it appears MLS didn’t have the money to entice Cureton.

As for Colombian forward Diego Serna, who trained with the team this week, Hudson said, “Serna will go home now. We know his worth, and we will discuss it.”

Albright reborn? — Goodness gracious, I nearly fell out of my chair. Chris Albright scored two goals in a span of four minutes in the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 2-2 midweek tie with the Colorado Rapids. What’s next, peace in the Middle East? A cure for cancer?

This is big news. When Albright joined D.C. United from the University of Virginia in 1999, the young forward was heralded as a future star of MLS. Alas, Albright managed just four goals in three seasons with United after missing a basketful of good chances. He moved to the Galaxy last season and still didn’t find the net. Now he has his first two goals for the team. Could this be the beginning of Albright’s glittering career?

Reyna on the move — American team captain Claudio Reyna could be joining American goalie Brad Friedel with Premier League club Blackburn Rovers. Reyna has been told he can leave Sunderland, which was relegated from the Premier League last season.

Blackburn is willing to pay $2.5million for the playmaker, depending on how he performs with the U.S. team against Paraguay and then El Salvador and Martinique at the Gold Cup. Reyna has not played since he tore ligaments in his knee playing for Sunderland in October.

Blackburn is hoping the 29-year-old Reyna will replace David Dunn, who is expecting to move to Birmingham. The Rovers play D.C. United at RFK Stadium on July23.

German club Bayer Leverkusen also is interested in Reyna.

Real changes — Real Madrid fired coach Vicente del Bosque a day after the club won the Spanish title and signed former New York/New Jersey MetroStars coach Carlos Queiroz. The 55-year-old Portuguese coach leaves Manchester United, where he was an assistant for the last year. He earned a 12-12 record with the MetroStars in 1996.

Del Bosque must be the unluckiest coach in history. In four years at Real, the club won two European Cups, two Spanish league titles, one European Super Cup and one World Club Cup — and he still got fired. Del Bosque leaves the team after winning 104 games, losing 40 and tying 42.

Corner kicks — Dutch star defender Arthur Numan could be headed to MLS. Numan will stay with Glasgow Rangers for another six months and then plans to finish his career in America, where the Galaxy are keen to sign him, according to England’s Mirror newspaper. …

Turkish champion Besiktas, German team 1860 Munich and Club Nacional of Uruguay will replace Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and Sao Paulo at next month’s Peace Cup in South Korea. The eight-team event also includes the Los Angeles Galaxy, Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa), Seongnam Ilhwa (South Korea), PSV Eindhoven (Holland) and Lyon (France). …

Kansas City Wizards midfielder Preki just gets better with age. Preki, who celebrated his 40th birthday Tuesday, was named MLS player of the week after registering a goal and three assists against the Chicago Fire last Saturday. The former American World Cup player leads MLS in scoring with seven goals and six assists. He has 72 goals in his MLS career, fourth all time.

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