- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2003

In a surprise move, Japan has pulled out of next Saturday's exhibition against the U.S. team at Seattle's Seahawks Stadium because of security concerns. Instead, Venezuela will face the Americans.
"We provided [Japans] federation with ample evidence of the extensive security measures in place," U.S. Soccer president S. Robert Contiguglia said yesterday. "We continue to have every confidence that Seattle will provide a safe environment for the players and fans to enjoy an outstanding display of soccer.
Japan, which reached the second round of the 2002 World Cup, had been scheduled to play Uruguay at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium on Wednesday and face the Americans in Seattle three days later. More than 16,000 tickets had been sold for the Seattle game.
The United States and Venezuela have met only once, playing a 3-3 tie at the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador.
U.S. coach Bruce Arena has named a mix of domestic and overseas stars for the Seattle game, including 2002 World Cup players Brian McBride, Landon Donovan, Earnie Stewart, John O'Brien, DaMarcus Beasley and home-state hero Kasey Keller. Also called up was Birmingham City-based Jovan Kirovski.
This will be the first time the U.S. team has European-based players on its roster since a 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Germany at the World Cup last June21.
"We're excited that Venezuela has accepted the invitation to play us," Arena said. "Over the past two or three years, the Venezuelan national team has made great strides, and I think they are perhaps the most improved team in South America."
United at last? Things are looking up for D.C. United. After a powerful two-hour "chalk talk" by coach Ray Hudson on Wednesday, the club responded the following day with a 2-1 victory over the A-League's Richmond Kickers. It hasn't been a smooth preseason, but Hudson said his team is finally coming together.
"We laid down the demands collectively and individually, and the players responded," Hudson said.
American star Earnie Stewart scored two goals, and key midfielder Marco Etcheverry played stunningly. Hudson called defender Mike Petke the man of the match and raved about the work of reserve forward Ali Curtis, who had appeared out of the club's plans earlier.
"Ali is emerging as a contender to start in Kansas [City for the Major League Soccer season opener April 12]," Hudson said.
Meanwhile, United's attempt to acquire Spanish midfielder Mario Rosas seems to be over. To obtain Rosas, 22, who once played for Spanish giant Barcelona, United would have had to unload midfielders Eliseo Quintanilla and Jose Alegria, and it decided he was not worth it.
In other news, the injury to central defender Galin Ivanov appears worse than expected. The Bulgarian had surgery to repair a double hernia this week and could be out for six weeks.
Next for United is a game against American University on Tuesday, followed by a game at the A-League's Charleston (S.C.) Battery next Saturday.
War woes According to Hudson, newcomer Hristo Stoitchkov's efforts to obtain a green card are being held up by the "pedestrian pace" of the immigration service, owing to the war against Iraq. United would like to acquire Russian forward Yuri Petrov, 28, but the club has no foreign player slot open until the Bulgarian forward obtains a green card.
United on TV Comcast SportsNet will air a record 15 D.C. United matches this year, beginning with the opener. Dave Johnson and former United coach Thomas Rongen will call the games. An additional five games will air on ESPN2. The club also has an agreement with WMET (AM-1150) to broadcast all the club's games live on English radio for the first time.
McBride heads home Brian McBride has played his last game for Everton after the English Premier League club and MLS failed to agree on a deal to extend the Columbus Crew player's three-month loan.
McBride left England yesterday and will play in the Crew's CONCACAF Champions League game against Arabe Unido of Panama at Columbus Crew Stadium tomorrow.
The American World Cup star scored four goals in eight games for Everton.

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