- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2004

In an emotional farewell, Marco Etcheverry officially ended his eight-year career with D.C. United yesterday at a news conference in RFK Stadium.

Etcheverry, a seven-time Major League Soccer All-Star, was the last remaining player from United’s inaugural season in 1996. He finished last season as the club’s leading scorer with six goals and seven assists.

Both U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena and United president Kevin Payne became emotional when they praised Etcheverry’s illustrious career at United.

“This is a bittersweet day,” Payne said. “The most important player in the history of our team and the most important player in MLS is leaving us.”

Etcheverry, who always earned the league’s maximum salary of $270,000, might be leaving United, but he is not hanging up his cleats. The 33-year-old midfielder has signed to play for Bolivian team Bolivar in the Copa Libertadores, South America’s biggest club event. His family will remain at his Fairfax County home.

“My first recollection of Marco as a player was not a good one,” said Arena, who coached him with United from 1996 to 1998. “I only saw him in the World Cup [where he played a few minutes before being red-carded]. Then he turned up in Chula Vista for training with no boots. But I would say he meant more to me than I meant to him. … I learned a lot more from Marco than he learned from me.”

In United’s first four years, Etcheverry helped the team win six titles, including three MLS Cups.

“I’ve had very few difficult moments in my life, and this is one now,” Etcheverry said through a translator. “It’s been eight spectacular years. I love this team, and I always gave it 100 percent. … I want to thank the fans for all their support. They were there on sunshiny days and rainy days.”

With his long curly black locks and piercing look, Etcheverry was known as “El Diablo,” or “The Devil.” He earned worldwide fame when he helped Bolivia hand Brazil its first World Cup qualifying game loss in 1993, but he suffered a devastating knee injury shortly thereafter. He regained his form in MLS and played 191 games for United. He is the club’s all-time leader in assists (101) and also scored 34 goals.

“It will be strange without Marco on the field,” United midfielder Ben Olsen said. “I won’t know who to give the ball to.”

When Etcheverry ends his playing career he has an open invitation from Payne to rejoin United in some capacity.

Meanwhile, D.C. United’s Bobby Convey, Doug Warren, Alecko Eskandarian, Brian Carroll and David Stokes were named to the U.S. under-23 roster. The Americans left for Guadalajara, Mexico, yesterday in advance of the 2004 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying event, Feb.2 to 12.

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