- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2005

Major League Soccer finally has spiced up the league with a little star power. The long-suffering MetroStars have added French striker Youri Djorkaeff in hopes of winning their first title after nine barren seasons. Djorkaeff becomes the biggest name to join the league since Lothar Matthaus played 16 games for the MetroStars in 2000.

The Frenchman will be 37 when the season kicks off, but the well-traveled veteran could have an impact if he can stay injury-free. Djorkaeff was scoring some delightful goals in the English Premier League last year, but a hamstring injury limited him to just three games for Blackburn, his last team.

“I like this new challenge,” Djorkaeff said. “I’m here to win the league.”

Djorkaeff, who helped France to the 1998 World Cup title, scored 20 goals in 72 games with Bolton (2002-2004) in the EPL, 14 goals in 47 games for Kaiserslautern (1999-2000) in the German Bundesliga, 30 goals for Inter Milan (1996-1999) in Serie A and 121 goals in 295 games with several French clubs (1984-1996). Not a bad record.

“This club, this city was my last dream,” Djorkaeff told the New York media.

His MLS base salary is reported to be a paltry $180,000, but that likely will be padded with other incentives.

Djorkaeff will be the first French player to play in MLS, and he will have to get used to America’s hot summers and playing on the artificial turf at Giants Stadium.

The last Frenchman MLS signed — former Arsenal midfielder Gilles Grimandi — fled back to France before kicking a ball for Colorado in 2003. On his Web site, Grimandi noted three reasons why he left — illness, homesickness and anti-French feeling over the war in Iraq.

Djorkaeff already seems at home in the U.S., providing a little color commentary for ESPN2’s coverage of the Champions League this week.

Mad United fans — Manchester United fans seem to forget that while United may be “their club,” in the rough and tumble tough world of capitalism the club actually belongs to the shareholders. When United became the second publicly traded soccer team in 1991, many had their doubts with the gamble. However, it became the world’s richest sports franchise and has enjoyed its most successful days. But when you put yourself in the shop window, you have to expect buyers to come along, and you can’t discriminate against the customers even if they’re named Malcolm Glazer and have an American accent.

It seems some fans don’t want to play by the rules of the market any more. Tactics are being used — some legal, some questionable — to stop Glazer. One anti-Glazer Web site is revealing home addresses and phone numbers of anyone linked to the American.

Most fans are passionate but peaceful. Thousands paraded in a anti-Glazer march this week waving banners ranging from “Not Xenophobic But Glazerphobic” to “You Buy, You Die.”

Does it really matter who owns the majority of shares in the club as long as the team is successful? If United does well on the field, the fans will still turn up, the jerseys will keep selling like hotcakes and all this fuss over a bearded American will be forgotten. The only ones enjoying this fiasco must be United’s overlooked crosstown rivals, Manchester City.

Blues clues? — Is Chelsea suddenly unraveling? The Premiership leaders will not win an unprecedented quadruple. The Blues were knocked out of the FA Cup by Newcastle 1-0 Sunday on Patrick Kluivert’s brilliant header. Chelsea begins its quest for the more moderate treble against Liverpool in the League Cup final tomorrow under the closed roof of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

England or Spain? — The first question the media asked Real Madrid star David Beckham after his wife gave birth to their third son, Cruz, in Madrid this week was “Who will he play for: Spain or England?”

If the boy turns out as good as his dad, he can choose between playing for the national team of Spain, the place of his birth, or England, the home of his parents.

World Cup 2006 — The U.S. men’s team begins training tomorrow in Carson, Calif., for World Cup qualifying games at Mexico (March 27) and against Guatemala (March 30) in Birmingham, Ala. D.C. United’s Ben Olsen is on the 22-man training roster that will play tuneups against Colombia (March 9) and Guatemala (March 19).

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