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Rapids restore respect to U.S. game with CONCACAF win.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Wednesday, July 1, 1998) -- The Colorado Rapids restored a measure of respect for United States soccer, with fortunes now floundering with the national teamís failure in the World Cup, benched veteran players complaining, and coach Steve Sampsonís resignation under fire.

Little publicized was the Major League Soccer team's significant 1-0 victory Sunday against Leon (Mexico). The game, held in Denver, was the first in a home-and-home series, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals of the prestigious CONCACAF Champions Cup tournament next month in Washington. The return match is July 15 in Leon.

"Colorado play a very fast-paced style and look to attack and get forward very often," Leon coach Alberto Guerra said. "They are also not afraid to be physical all over the field. They wore us down. They were probably unlucky not to score one or two more goals than they did."

It was ironic that the goal was scored by former Leon regular Marcelo Balboa, just back from U.S. national team service in France. "We showed that we can play on the international level," Rapids coach Glenn Myernick said. "We are defending as a team very well, and that is creating chances on the other end. We are getting goals from many different positions."

Added Leon forward Hernan Medford: "Their speed is very good down the sides, and they have quick forwards as well . . . It will be a different game in Leon . . . with the game in our stadium, with our crowd."

Kudos to Major League Soccer players who quickly returned after a disappointing World Cup, and immediately participated.
* Eric Wynalda, San Jose Clash: He went 90 minutes, assisted on a goal, and played spectacularly before tiring the final 20 minutes in a 2-1 loss to arch-rival Los Angeles Galaxy. "I'm as tired as I've ever been in my life, but it was important for me to play here tonight . . . I want to prove something to myself."
* Joe-Max Moore and Mike Burns, New England Revolution: They played 90 minutes apiece in a 4-3 shootout loss to Dallas Burn. Moore had two assists. Burns made a shootout shot, Moore missed. "Most players (after a World Cup) take for our five days off," Coach Thomas Rongen said. "Not those two. They wanted in immediately."
* Marcelo Balboa, Colorado Rapids: He came in as a substitute in the 71st minute and scored the only goal 12 minutes later in 1-0 CONCACAF Champions Cup qualifier against Leon (Mexico). "I am still exhausted," he said. "The guys have done so well as of late without me, I just want to come back and see if I can help us keep going."

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.