U.S. men's schedule, results
After scoring thrilling tying goal, Lewis could be finished for North End season by hernia surgery.
and Gary Davidson
(in Washington, D.C.)
(Sunday, March 14, 2004) -- United States midfielder Eddie Lewis' most dramatic moment with Preston North End could be his last of the season.
A day after Lewis buried a 25-yard free kick in the closing moments of stoppage time to give North End a 3-3 draw with host Sunderland in England's First Division, it was announced Thursday the American would undergo a hernia operation which would sideline him for six-to-eight weeks.
The hernia had been bothering Lewis for some time, increasingly so against Sunderland, and team physicians decided surgery was required to correct the situation. Lewis, affectionately referred to by the Preston web site as "North End's very own GI Joe," was voted the "Fans' Man of the Match" for his 90-minute effort in sub-zero temperatures at Sunderland's Stadium of Light.
"I have a hernia on the right side that I need to have repaired," Lewis, one of North End's most effective players this season, told BBC Sport. "That will take place on Tuesday and I'm suspended for Saturday, so this was my last match for awhile. Hopefully, I'll be back for the last few games of the season and in good form for the playoffs -- that's what I've been telling the guys."
North End manager Craig Brown considered taking Lewis out in the 79th minute against Sunderland, but instead sent Jeff Smith in to replace Alan McCormack for his only substitution of the match.
"We were thinking about taking him off," Brown admitted to the team's web site. "We decided to take off young McCormack and keep Eddie on and, as it turned out, he scored with a free kick. It would have been an unwise management decision to take him off.
"It was a toss-up because Eddie's hernia is bothering him and we left him on because he is suspended for Saturday. If he injured the hernia any more last night it wouldn't have had any effect on the selection for Saturday because we can't select him."
Injury or not, Lewis could not have played in yesterday's 0-0 draw with Gillingham because of a one-game suspension for accumulated yellow cards.
Preston immediately moved to replace Lewis, obtaining midfielder Scott Gemmill from the Premier League's Everton on a four-week loan.
Whether Lewis can play again this season is questionable. North End's regular season ends May 9 with a home game against Sheffield United. After playing three straight draws, Preston is 14-12-10 with 52 points, tied for 10th place and four points below the promotion playoff. Teams that finish third through sixth compete in a four-team playoff with the winner earning the third and final promotion spot to the Premiership.
As late as Wednesday night, Brown was still hoping to have Lewis in the lineup for the remainder of the season. "We left him on and he was sitting with an ice pack on his injury, but we might postpone the operation until the end of the season if we are in with a chance.," he said after the dramatic draw with Sunderland in which North End three times erased one-goal deficits.