- The Washington Times - Friday, December 23, 2005

It’s that time of year to hang my annual wish list. It seems many of my hopes from last year’s list came true. Former D.C. United midfielder Bobby Convey broke through at Reading in England, Chelsea won the Premier League for the first time in 50 years, Maryland finally won the NCAA title and baseball and soccer seemed to peacefully coexist at RFK Stadium.

Alas, some wishes went unfulfilled. Former U.S. striker Clint Mathis is still in a rut and recently was traded from Real Salt Lake to the Colorado Rapids. The MetroStars again came up empty, and the media still are not allowed to interview United’s players on RFK Stadium’s auxiliary field after practice. First of all, I wish all the soccer fans out there a Merry Christmas and wish:

• That England or the United States would win the World Cup. Heaven forbid they meet in a World Cup game other than the final, or it will be a war zone. But why bother dreaming, we all know Brazil is going to win the big one for the sixth time.

• That I get a cameo appearance in the planned sequel of “Bend it Like Beckham”.

• That Alecko Eskandarian returns to top form. D.C. United’s top striker in 2004 played in just 12 games (seven starts) before suffering a serious concussion in June, leaving him sidelined and scoreless for the year.

• That I never again have to sit through the soccer movie “The Game of Their Lives.” This great story could have been done so much better. As for John Harkes’ hair in the film, well, I just won’t comment.

• That we don’t have to suffer a “woe is me” Freddy Adu moment this season at D.C. United. Let’s hope this talented kid has a breakout year.

• That some team other than Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal wins the English Premier League in 2006. Come on Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle.

• That injury-prone American captain Claudio Reyna, currently having a stellar season at Manchester City, remains fit to lead the U.S. team at the World Cup.

• That Diego Maradona gives up on his nutty political tirades and quietly retires in Cuba.

• That former English ace Paul Gascoigne gets his life together and gives up the booze. Gascoigne, who once got a tryout with D.C. United, was fired recently from the coaching job at non-league Kettering after only 39 days for being drunk on the job.

• That just-retired Jeff Agoos, a 10-year MLS veteran with five championship rings, returns to the league in a coaching capacity.

• That tiny non-league Burton Albion pulls off a stunner when it meets mighty Manchester United in the third round of the F.A. Cup on Jan.8. Burton’s 6,000 capacity stadium will play host to the Red Devils, who draw 67,000 a week at home.

• That Jonathan Woodgate, who cost Spanish club Real Madrid a whooping $23.9million in August 2004 finally earns his pay. The English defender missed the entire 2004-05 season with an injury. When he finally made his debut for Real in September, he picked up a red card.

• That the MLS will spice up the league with some added star power. There are a number of players in their twilight days who might come cheap — like Paolo Maldini, Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Carlos and Alan Shearer. Just joking.

• That high-profile coaches Jose Mourinho (Chelsea) and Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) end their silly spat. The two refused to shake hands after Sunday’s game, and Wenger never responded to Mourinho’s Christmas card. Please guys!

Player to watch in 2006 part I — Brazilian right-sided defender and team captain Cafu, who is the only man to have played in three consecutive World Cup finals. But will he at age 36 lead Brazil to the World Cup final in July?

Player to watch in 2006 part II — Brazilian striker Robinho, who is supposedly the heir to Pele. The Real Madrid star, who won two titles with Pele’s old club Santos, still may be a little skinny, but when he does seven step-overs in an attacking run, it’s hard to take your eyes off him.

Others to watch in 2006 — England’s Wayne Rooney, U.S. striker Landon Donovan, Atletico Madrid striker Fernando “El Nino” Torres and Spain’s team. Also, keep an eye on Convey, who looks set to play in the Premier League with Reading in August.

My team of the year — Goalie: Kasey Keller (USA/Borussia M’Gladbach). Defenders: Cafu (Brazil/AC Milan), Alessandro Nesta (Italy/AC Milan), John Terry (England/Chelsea), Ashley Cole (England/Arsenal). Midfielders: Ronaldinho (Brazil/Barcelona), Frank Lampard (England/Chelsea), Claude Makelele (France/Chelsea), Kaka (Brazil/AC Milan). Forwards: Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon/Barcelona), and Wayne Rooney (England/Manchester United).

Big money man — English star David Beckham is worth $133million, according to FourFourTwo Magazine.

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