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Jerry's World

Make no mistake about it. Newman leaves Kansas City a winner.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Wednesday, April 14, 1999) -- Ron Newman has meant a lot to soccer in the United States. The fact that he stepped down Wednesday from the Kansas City Wizards after a horrible opening month -- followed by an equally disastrous closing month last season - shouldn't detract from his accomplishments.

He is the winningest head coach in U.S. professional soccer history.

Newman, 55, won in the old North American Soccer League (NASL) as well as dominating indoor soccer back when that was the main soccer emphasis in the United States. Prior to MLS, he was 215-159-27 in 16 seasons outdoors (all but one in NASL) before concentrating indoors, where he posted a 371-223 record. His overall record, including the 12-24 mark in Kansas City the past two years, was 753-296-27, which includes playoffs -- 13 championships in all.

He was an articulate spokesman for Major League Soccer when it was introduced in 1996, and no one called him out of touch the first two seasons, when the Wizards were the most exciting team in the league -- posting a 38-26 record in the regular season.

Kansas City had an explosive offense that handcuffed mighty D.C. United for two years, but the team got old and went downhill last year, failing to make the playoffs.

This year was supposed to be different, especially with the addition of prime goalkeeper Tony Meola, but his season-ending knee injury was as devastating a blow as ever suffered by an MLS team. Kansas City went from having the best in the nets -- or at least No. 2, with Walter Zenga of New England back in harness -- to near the bottom.

But that doesn't explain getting just one goal in four matches.

Newman was right to step down. The Wizards were not producing under his direction. He had been ripped in the media by Meola. Whether they will do any better under interim head coach Ken Fogarty will remain to be seen.

This leaves Dallas Burn coach Dave Dir as the only MLS survivor to stay with his original team. He brought a .500 record, 48-48, into the 1999 season. He was thought to be in trouble before the season started but so far the Burn has been the surprise team of MLS, allowing no goals in three matches despite key injuries that brought back memories of last year.

He's still not out of the woods, since many observers still believe Dallas is not going to finish in the top four in the Western Conference and make the playoffs.

Coaches in trouble?

How about Ivo Wortmann of the Miami Fusion? Or Octavio Zambrano of the Los Angeles Galaxy? Both are having problems.

Wortmann is upset at several of his international stars. The Fusion offense hasn't clicked as advertised, and the midfield and defense is not a team strength. Miami has just one point, a shootout win, in four starts, three at home.

The normally high-scoring Galaxy has scored just four goals in four matches, all ending in shootouts, two won by Los Angeles. Mauricio Cienfuegos is not getting satisfactory support in midfield. The offense is sporadic at best. Key tests are ahead for both teams.

Miami is host to Dallas tomorrow at 8 p.m. It is a must-win game for the Fusion. Los Angeles travels Saturday to Chicago to tackle the MLS champion Fire, who hope (1) not to lose two straight home games and (2) that Soldier Field be more playable than the chopped-up pitch it presented for last week's opener. Don't figure on a Galaxy victory.

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

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