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Harkesí late bid for France í98 falls short.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Tuesday, May 5, 1998) -- John Harkesí late bid to make his third World Cup team has been rejected.

Coach Steve Sampson announced 20 members of the United States national team roster, mentioned two more likely to fill out the squad, said a third was possible and named eight alternates today. Harkes, dismissed from the team last month for leadership, performance and other unspecified reasons, was not on any of the lists.

Sampson refused to nail the door shut, but said it is unlikely he will change his mind and reinstate the 31-year-old former captain who was a starter in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup teams.

Harkes flew to Los Angeles for a private meeting last night with the coach, it was revealed. "We had a very good conversation," Sampson said. "I informed him it was very unlikely I would change my mind. It is not an impossibility, however. I told him I was pleased with his professionalism and with his performance with (Washington) D.C. United (of Major League Soccer)."

Injuries to present squad members or "significant reduction in playing form" during training camp, which begins Monday in San Diego or problems with citizenship papers for two players could change the picture, he said. But Sampson said he would be apt to go to the eight alternates for replacements first.

"If I donít go to the World Cup, it will be a travesty because of everything Iíve been a part of with U.S. Soccer," Harkes told the Chicago Tribune before his meeting with Sampson. "Iíve worked too hard to come this long and have this abruptly stop . . . I donít know if this is how he repays his loyal supporters or his players who have gotten him there in the first place."

He said he would accept a demotion to the bench.

Sampson said two "very strong candidates" to fill out the 22-player roster were midfielder Tab Ramos and defender David Regis. He said he wants to wait a couple of weeks on Ramos, but praised his play the last two games for MLSí New York\New Jersey MetroStars, his first action in seven months after undergoing his second anterior cruciate ligament surgery in a year.

"He is will on his way to being named," he said., but added that Ramos wants to be 100 percent fit and a strong contender for a starting role in France. "Tab and I will sit down soon and review the situation," Sampson added.

Of Regis, the 29-year-old star for Karlsruhe in the German Bundesliga, Sampson said, "We hope to have citizenship papers confirmed by May 11," the start of training camp. A native of Martinique, Regis is married to an American woman.

Another possibility is D.C. United defender Carlos Llamosa, a native of Colombia also awaiting citizenship papers.

"We will need an extraordinary effort to get results, but I think we can do something special," said Sampson about the World Cup despite a first-round bracket that includes powers Germany and Yugoslavia along with Iran.

"We need to continue to be a blue-collar team. More than just effort is required. We have to have a single-minded passion and togetherness. We have a very good possibility of getting to the second round . . . Getting a point from Germany, possibly . . . Going into the Yugoslavia game with three or four points . . . In fact, I wouldnít put it beyond this team to get to the third round."

Not included in the list or alternates was Jovan Kirovski, a 21-year-old reserve on defending Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund. Long thought to be the next star offensive player for the U.S., he was switched this season from striker to midfield, a loaded position on the American team.

His best role is as an attacking midfielder and we have Claudio (Reyna), Joe-Max (Moore), Tab (Ramos) and Preki (Radosavljevic)," Sampson said, adding that his limited play for the national team was inconsistent.

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