- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 27, 2004

Thank goodness for Freddy Adu and Landon Donovan. These two youngsters give Major League Soccer some needed glitter when it is sorely lacking in star power and almost void of any big-name foreign imports.

We can only hope the league doesn’t put too much weight on the shoulders of these two players.

“I’m not coming out here to be the savior of American soccer,” Adu said this week in a conference call.

Adu, 14 and Donovan, 22, will face each other in D.C. United’s opening game against the MLS champion San Jose Earthquakes, April3 at RFK Stadium, in a game to be televised nationally by ABC.

Love them or hate them, aging big-name stars like Marco Etcheverry, Hristo Stoitchkov, Carlos Valderrama, Mamadou Diallo, Lothar Matthaus and Luis Hernandez who once played in MLS certainly made you take notice. Yes, some were overrated, overpaid and over the hill, but they had a star quality that helped sell tickets. But MLS now is banking on a crop of youngsters to draw fans.

“I hope people learn from Korea-Japan 2002 that players from this league can compete with the world’s best,” said Donovan. “It’s great to have the Lothar Matthauses and Luis Hernandezes come in and create a spark but we need American players that fans can identify with and respect and idolize and want to grow up to be.”

Donovan is right but many of those marquee Americans from the World Cup, including Brian McBride, Clint Mathis and Carlos Bocanegra, are now playing overseas. Cobi Jones and Joe-Max Moore are still with us, but they are in their twilight.

“I would say that it’s a different time right now and we have plenty of young Americans with great potential,” said D.C. United coach Peter Nowak, himself an import from Poland when he joined the league as a player in 1998. “I’m not concerned about bringing over everyone who’s supposed to be very special maybe like Rivaldo. Yeah you need star players but we have Landon, Freddy, Bobby Convey, Kyle Martino and Chris Armas. You have your stars already.”

The league has recruited a few foreign players this season but none who will light up switchboards. The Los Angeles Galaxy signed Austrian star Andreas Herzog, 35, and the Dallas Burn brought in Finnish national team player Simo Valakari, 30. And this week Mexican defender Antonio de la Torre, 26, joined the Colorado Rapids and Costa Rican forward Erick Scott, 22, checked in with the Columbus Crew. Forgive me, but apart from Herzog, I’ve never heard of any of them.

The MetroStars, who play in Giants Stadium, desperately need star power to attract the tens of thousands of soccer fans living in the New York region. Sports Illustrated cover boy Mathis is now in Germany, and with all due respect, Mike Magee and John Wolyniec are not going to have fans flooding to buy MetroStars tickets.

Early this week, former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke was linked with the MetroStars, but the team signed a lesser-known player Thursday: Argentine striker Sergio Galvan Rey, 30 , from Colombian club Once Caldes. All I can say is, good luck, Sergio.

Protect Freddy — So is Freddy Adu worried that veteran players barely making $40,000 in MLS will take out their frustration on a 14-year-old earning $500,000?

“I’ll use my quickness,” Adu said. “I’m not here to try to body up with anyone. If I’m not there, they can’t hit me. So why not use my quickness to my advantage?”

Said Donovan jokingly: “There’s a bet going around the locker room on who will kick him first next Saturday.”

Keller suit — Former U.S. women’s team star Debbie Keller has settled her six-year, $12million sexual harassment suit against legendary University of North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance. Keller received $70,000 from the school, and Dorrance was ordered to attend a yearly sensitivity program for the next eight years.

Keller, now a hair stylist in Raleigh, led the U.S. team in goal-scoring in 1998 as a reserve forward, a year before the World Cup.

Dorrance, who took the Tar Heels to their 18th national title last year with a 27-0 record, faces a trial date Oct.4 over sexual harassment charges brought by Melissa Jennings, a former reserve goalie at the school.

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