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Decision to skip Copa questioned; Ramos hopes to curb temper.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Sunday, July 26, 1998) -- The United States national team isn't expected to participate in the 1999 Copa America Tournament in Paraguay. Some in the soccer community question this, saying the Americans need all the tough competition they can get -- and that going against the likes of Brazil and Argentina whenever possible fits that criteria.

The United States finished fourth in 1995, a performance that was key in Steve Sampson being named head coach. But the Americans skipped the 1997 tournament because of Major League Soccer, in its second season.

That's apparently the primary reason for not going in 1999, either, despite the fact that MLS attendance actually increased when the U.S. players were away at the World Cup earlier this summer.

(Washington) D.C. United and the New York/New Jersey MetroStars would appear to be the teams most affected by loss of South American players. The Bolivia duo of Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno are key offensive cogs for D.C. United. The MetroStars have Eduardo Hurtado (Ecuador), Giovanni Savarese (Venezuela) and Marcelo Vega (Chile).

The two candidates to succeed Alan Rothenberg this summer as U.S. Soccer president have differing views. "The U.S. probably will not participate in the Copa America, which is expensive and interferes with the MLS season," Bob Contiguglia said in the question-and-answer interview found here at SoccerTimes.

"I would hope that we could make arrangements so that the U.S. could participate since this competition provides . . . experience of play that we need to compete at the international level," Larry Monaco said.

Tab Ramos now has been ejected for verbal dissent three straight years in Major League Soccer. The latest occurred last week against Columbus, when he was ejected in the 60th minute after a confrontation with a Crew player -- followed by harsh words directed at referee Kevin Stott.

"I know I have to be more careful in curbing my temper," he told the Newark Star-Ledger. "I have always been a pretty temperamental player, and I just have to try to cool off. It's my fault. Hopefully, I will get better, and I won't do these kind of things."

Ramos appeared bitter in criticism of national team coach Steve Sampson at the World Cup, then backtracked considerably in a recent Soccer America interview.

"You know me, I speak my mind when someone asks me something," he said. "Obviously some things may have been said in the heat of the moment . . . I disagreed with the amount of (lineup) changes . . . I've screwed up, and I've been criticized for it . . . When we speak up, the fans can decide whether we're idiots with sour grapes because we didn't play, or they can decide who they think should have played."

Ramos, who totalled 78 minutes in his third World Cup, also said he was misquoted when he said the coaches were responsible for what happened. "I feel that everyone was responsible . . . Everyone is a professional, and we've all been criticized. It's a small soccer world in the United States, and we all have to move on . . . There's really nothing else to do."

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

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