- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 13, 2007

The new owners of D.C. United, who forked out a record $33 million for the team, may not be hardcore soccer fans, but they have dipped their toes in the game.

Victor MacFarlane, who heads the new ownership group that includes former Duke basketball teammates Brian Davis and Christian Laettner, attended the World Cup in Germany last summer and says he saw “the quarters, the semis and the final.”

MacFarlane attended the World Cup with his soccer-crazed son Paul, who spent two years at the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where Freddy Adu once was enrolled.

Said MacFarlane of his son: “Unfortunately he doesn’t quite have the talent he needs to play professionally, but he loves the sports and he is excited about us buying the team.”

So who did MacFarlane root for at the World Cup?

“Whoever my son wanted to win,” he said.

Laettner and Davis, co-captains of Duke’s NCAA basketball championship teams in 1991 and 1992, both say they played soccer in high school and continue watch soccer games.

“I played at school,” Davis said. “I lived in France and was exposed to it there and I love it.”

Laettner was a goalie for his high school’s team.

“I played for one year and after that my mother wouldn’t let me play anymore so I had to manage the team when I was a senior,” Laettner said.

His mother stopped him from playing because his older brother, who also was a goalie, injured his thigh.

“She knew that I had a lot of potential [in basketball] so she didn’t want me to get injured,” Laettner said. ” … She didn’t want me to hurt my potential.”

In terms of day-to-day operations nothing will change for United with the new ownership.

“Dave Kasper still has great responsibility along with the coaching staff,” United president Kevin Payne said. “I’ll be more involved in the business related issues trying to get the stadium off the ground. They are not going to be trying to tell us how to run a soccer team, that’s not what they do.”

One onlooker who attended Monday’s press conference announcing the new ownership was John Koskinen. Koskinen once owned the American Professional Soccer League’s Washington Stars in 1988-89 and was a vice chairman of the short-lived league.

“It’s a strong signal to the country about the stability of Major League Soccer,” said Koskinen.

Koskinen, a Duke graduate (1961) and past chairman of the Duke Board of Trustees, said he had no influence in getting Davis and Laettner involved in the deal.

“I’m just a proud Duke supporter to see these guys involved,” he said.

United will not be traveling overseas to train in the offseason but will be based in Florida. According to a team official, the club’s CONCACAF Champions’ Cup game against Honduran team CD Olimpia will be played at RFK Stadium late next month.

U.S. team begins anew — Newly installed U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley and his assistant, former D.C. United coach Peter Nowak, have the potential to be a powerful combination as the team rebuilds following a disappointing World Cup.

The Americans’ first game since losing to Ghana at the World Cup in July comes against Denmark in Carson, Calif., on Saturday.

“Peter and I know each other so well,” said Bradley concerning Nowak on the U.S. Soccer Web site. “As a player, he was a great leader. He has such fire and such determination, and he has a way to push the guys, push the right buttons. His years coaching, now, have taught him how to take his qualities as a player and use them as a coach. I think the fact that we have a bond, we know each other, we trust each other, means we work well off of each other.”

Nowak will have no specific role.

“No. We’re partners in this whole thing: blood brothers, I say a lot,” Bradley said.

The U.S. plays Mexico in a friendly on Feb. 7 in Glendale, Ariz., and Guatemala on March 28 in Frisco, Texas in a game that involves the team’s overseas-based players.

Women’s update — The U.S. national women’s team began training on Thursday in Carson, Calif., for the annual Four Nations Tournament in China later this month. The second-ranked Americans will play top-ranked Germany, as well as ninth ranked China and 12th ranked England. All four teams will return to China from Sept. 10 to Sept. 30 for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

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