- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 12, 2006

MLS players earn a pittance compared to their overseas contemporaries. But they often play against the same elite competition.

Take D.C. United goalie Troy Perkins, who earns $29,400 from MLS and works at a mortgage company in the offseason to supplement his income. In the past month, Perkins helped United beat Scottish champion Celtic 4-0, started for the MLS All-Star team in a 1-0 win over English Premier League champion Chelsea and helped United earn a 1-1 tie against Real Madrid before 66,830 in Seattle.

Many high-salaried players competing overseas would envy such an experience, says New York Red Bulls midfielder Amado Guevara.

“This is a blessing for us. Not a lot of people have the opportunity to play that kind of game,” Guevara told the New York Post as his team prepared to face European champion Barcelona at Giants Stadium today.

Last year, after a dismal and sluggish match between Chelsea and AC Milan in front of just 34,000 at Giants Stadium, it seemed that these type of exhibition games were losing their appeal.

But now it looks like the best way for these prominent teams to prepare for their upcoming seasons is to play MLS and Mexican teams that are already sharp and in mid-season play, rather than take on other out-of-shape European clubs.

“We wanted to prove American soccer is not a joke,” United midfielder Freddy Adu said after the tie against Real Madrid.

This summer, American players are proving just that.

The Arena era — Former national team coach Bruce Arena, who took over the New York Red Bulls from interim coach Richie Williams on Monday, will coach his first game for them today — an exhibition against Barcelona at Giants Stadium.

Arena may be building the Red Bulls in the image of D.C. United, another one of Arena’s former teams. He has hired former United captain John Harkes as an assistant. Williams, another former United star, will stay on as an assistant. The Bulls also acquired former United players Dema Kovalenko and Shawn Kuykendall this week.

Arena’s first MLS game is Wednesday against United at Giants Stadium. It will be United’s first league game since July 29, when Real Salt Lake ended the team’s 14-game unbeaten streak.

Beckham’s successor — Chelsea defender John Terry was named the new captain of the English national team this week, replacing David Beckham, who stepped down after the World Cup. He will captain his first game, under new coach Steve McClaren, when England plays Greece on Wednesday in a friendly.

New MLS arrival — Former Howard University goalie Shaka Hislop, who played a great game for Trinidad and Tobago against Sweden in a tie at the World Cup, has been named to FC Dallas’ 18-man roster for today’s game at Houston. Hislop joined Dallas last month after leaving West Ham United.

Women’s finals — Former U.S. women’s star Tiffeny Milbrett led the Vancouver Whitecaps to win their second W-League title in three years with a 3-0 win over Ottawa on Sunday. … The Washington Freedom beat Parsippany 3-1 to win the USL Super-20 women’s final on Sunday.

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