- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2004

With five D.C. United players on its 20-man roster the U.S. under-23 team will battle for a berth at the Athens Olympics next week when it plays three qualifying games in five days in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The Americans — including United’s Bobby Convey, David Stokes, Brian Carroll, Doug Warren and Alecko Eskandarian — take on Panama on Tuesday, Canada on Thursday and Honduras on Saturday in Group A. The top two finishers in the group advance to the semifinals Feb.10 against the top two teams in Group B, which includes Costa Rica, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and host Mexico.

The semifinal winners meet in the championship game Feb.12, and both advance to Athens in August. The Americans are looking for their sixth consecutive trip to the Summer Games since 1984. The U.S. team reached the medal round in 2000.

Convey is the only United player expected to start, but some of United’s youngsters could come off the bench because of a grueling schedule where the Americans could play five games in 10 days.

“I think it’s great experience that all five of us can be here,” Convey said yesterday.

On paper the Americans have a seasoned attack with World Cup veterans DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan and U.S. national team star Convey, but an inexperienced and depleted defense could hurt them. The team is missing a number of key players. Midfielder Ricardo Clark (hernia), striker Edsun Buddle (Achilles) and midfielder Kyle Martino (hip) are all injured, while defender Oguchi Onyewu of Louviere, Belgium, and forward Conor Casey of Karlsruher, Germany, were not released by their clubs.

Though the U.S. team is a favorite to advance along with Mexico, a nightmare scenario could develop if the Americans face Mexico in the semifinals and not in the final game.

“We will be the away team here because it’s in Mexico and because of the rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico,” coach Glenn Myernick said.

Stadiums galore! — Major League Soccer announced last week that Bridgeview, a suburb of Chicago, had agreed to build a $70million, 25,000-seat soccer stadium for the Chicago Fire in conjunction with Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates D.C. United and four other MLS clubs. AEG also is set to unveil plans for a new stadium for the MetroStars in the next 30 days in the New York area.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Burn, operated by the Hunt Sports Group, will break ground next month on a 20,000-seat stadium in Frisco, Texas. In Denver, entrepreneur Stan Kroenke is set to build a stadium by 2006 for the Colorado Rapids. Kroenke’s facility will be modeled after the Home Depot Center, which AEG built for the Los Angeles Galaxy in Carson, Calif., last July.

So what is happening with D.C. United?

“We continue to have conversations in Maryland and with the [D.C.] Sports Commission,” United general manager Kevin Payne said. “We think we have a good concept in D.C. The possibility ties in very well with the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative — we would have training facilities and recreational fields on both sides of the Anacostia.”

For years the Sports Commission and United have discussed building a soccer-specific stadium on Parking Lot 8 at RFK Stadium. A site in Maryland also is an option.

“Whichever one makes sense is where we will go,” Payne said.

The San Jose Earthquakes also are seeking to build a stadium in that area. AEG, which runs the team, may relocate the club to Santa Clara, Calif., if a stadium deal cannot be arranged.

The Columbus Crew became the first MLS team to build a soccer-specific stadium when they opened the $28.5million, 22,000-seat Crew Stadium in 1999.

United notes — D.C. United traded Annapolis native Devin Barclay to the Columbus Crew yesterday for future considerations. Barclay, 20, came off the bench in three MLS games for United last year. The move will free up around $80,000 toward the club’s $1.7million salary cap.

United, which begins its season against San Jose on April3, will play 13 home games on Saturdays and two on Wednesdays. The club will train at RFK Stadium on Monday and a week later head to Bradenton, Fla., to practice at the IMG Soccer Academy. United will visit Charleston, S.C., to play the Charleston Battery on March20, the Wilmington Hammerheads on March24 and the Crew on March27 in the round-robin inaugural Carolina Challenge Cup.

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