- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

D.C. United midfielder Earnie Stewart could join an elite group if he plays in the U.S. team’s World Cup qualifier at Grenada tomorrow.

Stewart is one game away from earning his 100th national team cap. Only seven players have competed in 100 or more games for the American team: midfielder Claudio Reyna, who joined the “century club” earlier this month; Marcelo Balboa; Paul Caliguiri; Cobi Jones; Eric Wynalda; Jeff Agoos; and Joe-Max Moore.

Stewart’s feat is even more remarkable because he spent 13 years playing in Holland and was not available for many U.S. games.

“I don’t mean any disrespect to the guys in residence here between 1990 and 1994, but they played a lot of games,” United president Kevin Payne said. “Most of the foreign guys [playing overseas] like John Harkes, Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda and Earnie didn’t get that chance.”

U.S. coach Bruce Arena showed class when he sent Stewart onto the field in the dying seconds of the 3-0 win over Grenada in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday, allowing the veteran to earn his 99th cap. The speedy midfielder had flown in after playing 90 minutes in United’s scoreless tie with Colorado the night before. Stewart is the U.S. team’s all-time leader in World Cup qualifying appearances (28) and goals (nine).

With a three-goal cushion going into the game at Grenada, the U.S. team should move through to the semifinal round, where it likely will meet Jamaica, El Salvador and Panama.

Arena has added Colorado’s Pablo Mastroeni and Kansas City’s Josh Wolff and Kerry Zavagnin to his team. They replace the injured Conor Casey as well as Eddie Lewis and Eddie Pope, who picked up yellow cards in Sunday’s win. A second yellow card would result in a one-game suspension in the next round.

Changes for United? — It is hard to believe, but D.C. United has not scored a goal off a corner kick in 288 attempts. In contrast, the Kansas City Wizards scored off two corners in their 2-2 tie at the Columbus Crew last week.

This is not United’s only problem or even its biggest. With the team lagging with a 3-4-5 record in MLS, changes appear more and more possible.

“We are trying to look at ways to improve the team, and it’s possible there will be some moves made,” club president Kevin Payne said this week.

While D.C. United struggles to score goals, former United players around the league are having no trouble. Defender Chris Albright scored Los Angeles’ game-winner last week in a 3-2 win over Chicago, and Jeff Agoos scored off a brilliant free kick to help San Jose down the MetroStars 3-1, his first goal for the Earthquakes. In his United days, Albright scored four goals in 56 games playing in an attacking role.

Unlike United, the Galaxy appear loaded with attacking talent, including Carlos Ruiz (six goals), Alejandro Moreno (six), Jovan Kirovski (five), Andreas Herzog (three) and Joseph Ngwenya (three). By contrast, no United player has scored more than two goals after 12 games.

United has 12 goals this season, the same as last season at this point. But there is some good news: Injured forward Santino Quaranta is four weeks away from returning from groin surgery in April.

The women are back — The revived Washington Freedom play the Boston Breakers today in the WUSA Soccer Festival at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn. This is the first game for the Freedom since they defeated Atlanta in the WUSA title game Aug.24. The WUSA suspended operations Sept.15.

Corner kicks — More than 150,000 Swedes signed a petition begging Henrik Larsson to come out of retirement and play for the national team. Larsson heard the call. The prolific scorer, who had 252 goals for Glasgow Celtic, notched two delightful goals — one a flying “Eddie the Eagle”-type header — in Sweden’s 5-0 destruction of Bulgaria this week at Euro 2004 in Portugal. … Italian star Francesco Totti has been banned for three games for spitting at Denmark’s Christian Poulsen in a scoreless tie Monday. …

English Premier League club Southampton’s “substantial offer” for Chicago Fire star DaMarcus Beasley has been rejected by MLS. Meanwhile, Dutch club PSV Eindhoven is monitoring the speedy midfielder.

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