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Major changes await San Jose after disappointing 1998.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Monday, September 14, 1998) -- Alan Rothenberg leads a group that has purchased the San Jose Clash, and the founder of Major League Soccer and former United States Soccer Federation president is expected to push hard for changes -- especially after another difficult season in the northern California soccer hotbed.

The Clash still mathematically has a chance for the playoffs but it's a slim one. They have compiled the worst won-lost record in MLS cumulatively for three years, with a 38-55 mark including 11-18 this season. They will be the first team to miss the playoffs two straight years unless they can make up seven points on Dallas, and five on Kansas City, in their last three games.

Look for pressure on MLS to come up with more good international players for San Jose, which has not fared well in this area.

What's been wrong with the Clash?

* San Jose executed what may be the worst trade in MLS history, sending Paul Bravo to Colorado for midfielder Dominic Kinnear after the 1996 season.

Bravo, a forward/attacking midfielder, was the leading Clash scorer with 13 goals and five assists. He proceeded to lead the Rapids last year with eight goals and six assists, and has nine goals and eight assists this season.

Kinnear, meanwhile, had no goals in 11 starts for Colorado in an injury-riddled 1996, two goals and four assists in 24 starts for the Clash, and this year, with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, three goals, three assists in six starts.

* Lack of a big-time playmaker. Victor Mella occupies the role now. This was the genesis for the Bravo-Kinnear trade, and San Jose still is lacking in this area.

* The goalkeeping has been mediocre at best. It was shared by Tom Liner and Dave Salzwedel the first season, David Kramer and Salzwedel the second, and Kramer and rookie Andy Kirk this season.

* Eric Wynalda has 21 goals and 29 assists in 59 games including two playoff contests, decent figures but not those expected from the U.S. national team scoring leader with big-time experience in German professional soccer. He has had few if any dominant performances.

* Team speed is abysmal, especially on defense where John Doyle, Richard Gough, Tim Martin, Troy Dayak and Oscar Draguicevich have problems against quick forwards.

* Mexican offensive players haven't paid off. Missael Espinoza was effective in 1996, but he didn't return. Daniel Guzman lasted just three games in 1997 before leaving. Juan Pablo Rodriguez was heralded as a coming young superstar in 1998 but arrived as damaged goods and never played. Next was Francisco Uribe, a veteran with a solid track record, who has two goals in just six starts.

* San Jose from the get-go three years ago pressed to get striker Carlos Hermosillo, and there were a couple times the Clash thought they had him before last-minute glitches occurred. They passed on some other players in anticipation of eventually receiving the Mexican scorer. He finally decided this year to come to MLS -- but only to Los Angeles.

Uribe figures eventually to make a significant contribution, but he's not Hermosillo.

* In fact, the entire foreign player allocation has been modest. Ronald Cerritos has been outstanding with 12 goals, 12 assists (after 12 goals and 10 assists last year in 22 starts), and Gough this year helped shore up the injury-riddled defense. But one of the allocations, Brian Sebapole of South Africa, has three assists in 12 games, none of them starts.

* Three of the five internationals -- Cerritos, Uribe and Sebapole -- are listed as forwards on a team that also includes Wynalda and Jeff Baicher, who had 10 goals last year and four goals in 15 starts this season.

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

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