U.S. soccer  U.S. soccerU.S. Soccersoccer

feedback

ESPN

Complete archive of Jerry's World.

Sampson excited about anticipated arrival of Regis.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Tuesday, May 5, 1998) -- United States coach Steve Sampson could hardly conceal his excitement today about the anticipated arrival of defender David Regis for the national team in the World Cup.

He cautioned that citizenship papers still need to be approved, hopefully by next week. He also wants to see how he jells in training and in international matches this month and how he fits in with the rest of the team. "Nothing is guaranteed," he said.

But he expressed confidence there would be no problems.

And then Sampson practically gushed about the 29-year-old native of Martinique, who is married to an American woman, and is a star with the Karlsruhe (Germany) team in the Bundesliga.

He said he was first tipped off about him last fall. "I've watched him in about 10 videotapes, and I've seen him play first-hand three times," he said. "Everything I see has been very impressive. He'll be readily accepted on the team."

Said fellow Bundesliga player and U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna of Wolfsburg: "He'd be a strong candidate to start (in the World Cup), but that's Steve's decision. He's a very good player. He's be valuable to this team, definitely."

Regis mainly plays left marking back, but also has seen action as a sweeper -- and Sampson broached the possibility of him playing defensive midfield, too.

He is fast -- "fluid," the U.S. coach said -- on attack, and can score during the run of play or from headers off set pieces. He has five goals this year.

The arrival of Regis would greatly bolster the defense, providing speed, which has been missing in the back with the exception of Eddie Pope. He could join with Pope at an outside marking back slot, with Thomas Dooley in the middle.

He could move to the middle -- ahead or behind Dooley -- with defensive midfield a possibility.

Sampson expressed happiness with his 3-6-1 alignment used last month in the 3-0 rout of Austria, where the relatively inexperienced duo of Brian Maisonneuve and Chad Deering effectively occupied the two slots behind attacking midfielders Reyna and Ernie Stewart.

Marcelo Balboa, long a central defender but a midfielder with Colorado Rapids, is a possibility there. So in a pinch is Mike Burns, currently the starting right defensive back.

Carlos Llamosa, also awaiting citizenship papers (Colombia), is also under consideration at central defense. He is one of the best pure markers in Major League Soccer. Sampson, however, is concerned about him not having international experience.

Regis doesn't, either, but the Bundesliga is rated as one of the top four leagues in the world, on a par with Serie A (Italy), England Premier League, and Spain First Division. "I have no questions on his experience," the U.S. coach said.

Sampson expressed confidence that forward Eric Wynalda (knee) will be fit in two weeks for national team action, possibly May 24 against Kuwait in Portland (Ore.).

He said the toughest competition for roster spots was at forward, with Brian McBride winning out against Roy Lassiter and David Wagner. He pointed to the Columbus Crew forward's offensive production in the latter part of World Cup qualifying and with the Crew this year as decisive factors.

He said Lassiter had slumped, but acknowledged he has scored goals the last two games since being traded from last-place Tampa Bay Mutiny to defending champion (Washington) D.C. United. "Maybe that trade should have happened earlier," he said.

Sampson praised the development of some of the young talent, particularly citing wing midfielder Frankie Hejduk. "He has a tireless work rate," he said. "Yes, he could use more sophistication. But he has improved. ... Yes, he could be a better defender. But he has improved."

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