- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 28, 2004

Mia Hamm leaves the game with a remarkable record. She won two World Cups (1991 and 1999), two Olympic gold medals (1996 and 2004), four NCAA titles at North Carolina (1989 to 1993), a WUSA title with the Washington Freedom (2003) and scored 153 goals in 266 games from 1987 to 2004.

Probably her greatest achievement, though, was giving soccer a friendly face in America. Along with Hamm, the U.S. women’s team earned some welcome respect in a nation largely resistant to the world’s most popular sport.

Even their male counterparts were skeptical. I once was told by a famous American male player that I was being “tempted by the dark side” when I mentioned how well the women played.

Women’s soccer has come a long way in a very short time, as evidenced by the amazing skill of the unlucky Brazilian players in the Olympic final this week. With Hamm and her fellow veterans leaving the scene, the Americans will have a tough time staying in front. Brazil, Japan and Canada are catching up, and the game is growing in nations stubbornly loyal to the men’s game, such as England and Mexico.

Lest we forget, Hamm followed great players like Michelle Akers and Carin Gabarra, and shared the limelight with other notable stars not seen in Athens, notably Tiffeny Millbrett, Tisha Venturini and Shannon MacMillian.

Thanks for the memories.

United faces Revolution — D.C. United striker Alecko Eskandarian will sit out today’s game at New England after spraining his ankle in practice this week.

The 22-year-old forward went down after being tackled by defender Mike Petke. Eskandarian is tied with Jaime Moreno as the team’s leading goal scorer this season (seven in 19 games).

“Mike made a clean tackle and Alecko went down on his left leg,” coach Peter Nowak said.

On the goalkeeping front, Nick Rimando is healthy again following knee surgery. Rookie Troy Perkins claimed the starting spot earlier in the season, spurring talk that the high-salaried Rimando could be let go in this year’s expansion draft that will stock the league’s new teams in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.

“There are many rumors around,” Rimando said. “Some say I’m going to Chivas [in L.A.]. Some say I might be going to Salt Lake City and that [former Chicago Fire goalie] Zack Thornton is coming here. … My goal is to play. If it’s here, who knows? I just want to play.”

Nowak has an abundance of midfielders to call on for today’s game, including recently acquired Christian Gomez, who came off the bench in last week’s 2-2 tie at Columbus. Gomez has been struggling with the heat and humidity in practice but could be ready to play 60 minutes, Nowak said.

“He’s good at possession and very crafty in the midfield,” midfielder Ben Olsen said.

The Revolution will have English defender Steve Howey available for the game. Howey, acquired by New England this week, played last season for English Premier League clubs Bolton Wanderers and Leicester City. The 32-year-old also made four appearances for the national team.

Convey settling in — Former D.C. United midfielder Bobby Convey’s first home start for his new club, Reading in England, was a tough one last week. Reading defeated Rotherham 1-0, but Convey left the match with an ankle injury after a mediocre performance.

“In the States we often play in temperatures of 90 degrees, and so the game is much slower and less physical,” Convey told the Sun newspaper. “Over here, they water the pitch to make it even faster.”

Still, Convey can get advice from Reading’s American goalie, Marcus Hahnemann, who has taken his new teammate under his wing.

“He is not used to the long ball and we do seem to send a lot of balls 30 yards over his head,” Hahnemann said. “He comes round my house for dinner and stuff like that. My kids love him. I have done all this five years ago, so I can tell him what it’s all about.”

Convey still keeps in touch with his former teammates at United.

“I talked to him recently,” Ben Olsen said. “It’s not easy over there, but the important thing is for him to get his foot in the door. Ever since the Tottenham deal fell through last year, his head wasn’t here.”

Forget it — Former United coach Thomas Rongen, who now directs the U.S. under-20 team, has taken his name out of consideration for the job with the new MLS franchise in Salt Lake City.

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