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Jerry's World

Gansler finally is given the chance he deserves, taking over Kansas City.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

Wizards (Thursday, April 29, 1999) -- It's about time Bob Gansler was given a chance to coach in Major League Soccer.

He took the inexperienced U.S. national team to the 1990 World Cup, the first American qualification in 40 years -- without the benefit of the 18-month residency camp enjoyed by Bora Milutinovic before the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup, and without the presence of Major League Soccer that Steve Sampson had prior to the 1998 World Cup.

He was always "under consideration" when coaching vacancies developed in MLS, but always someone else got the nod -- despite a resume that included coaching the U.S. under-18 and under-19 teams, being director of player development and coaching education for U.S. Soccer Federation in 1991-95 and going 55-32 with the Milwaukee Rampage including winning the A-League championship in 1997.

The World Cup team was 0-3 in 1990 -- but had nowhere near the talent of recent U.S. teams, and still came within inches of tying Italy in a first-round game.

Gansler steps into a mess in Kansas City. The Wizards were a high-scoring and contending team the first two years under Ron Newman, then faltered last year, missing the playoffs. The slump continued this season, as they have lost all seven games, scoring just two goals.

The talent is thin. The nucleus is aging. There is no playmaker. The defense is mediocre.

Attacking midfielder Preki Radosavljevic is 35. He had 40 goals, 43 assists the first three seasons - nothing this year. Opponents are sitting on his trademark right turn and dangerous left foot shot. He also isn't getting the ball in position to set up others.

Mo Johnston, the main striker, is 36, and is coming off an 11-goal season -- but rarely has a chance to score. Vitalis Takawira slumped to seven goals last year after getting 21 in 1996-97, and the striker has started only twice this spring.

Who is the playmaker in midfield? On defense? Journeymen, journeymen, journeymen. Hard workers. No flair. The modestly endowed team has not quit, however. In fact, it has outshot five of the seven teams it played, with a cumulative 104-92 edge. It was blown out the first two games against Dallas (4-0) and Chicago (3-0), losing three matches by 1-0 and two others in 2-1 shootouts.

Summed up Johnston in the Kansas City Star: "We need a couple of midfielders, a target man, another defender . . . "

It's going to be an incredible task for Gansler to bring Kansas City back into respectability.

Elsewhere across Major League Soccer:

* When are the New York/New Jersey MetroStars going to solve their attacking midfield problems by moving Roy Myers there, and getting a true forward to pair with Eduardo Hurtado with their fourth international selection?

* Commissioner Doug Logan is taking brickbats from many in the media for his decision to put Carlos Valderrama with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, with no compensation to Miami, after the benched Colombian midfielder was at an impasse with Fusion coach Ivo Wortmann about his playing status. We agree the maneuver was unorthodox, but justified in this still-fragile league now in its fourth season and struggling to survive.

Valderrama's playmaking brilliance is needed in a league sorely missing gifted players, even though he is one-dimensional. And there was no way the Mutiny should give up either midfielder Mauricio Ramos or defender Jan Eriksson, players reportedly sought by the Fusion as compensation.

Miami needs a big-timer as a replacement, but that's going to take time. Maybe losing Valderrama isn't such a big deal for the Fusion. Miami is 2-0 the last two games without him.

* Mike Clark made a couple errors in Columbus' loss last week, and coach Tom Fitzgerald made him pay for it, replacing the defender in the win against Kansas City.

* Will Jason Kreis get another look with the U.S. national team after scoring six goals for the Dallas Burn this year? Coach Bruce Arena has promised to watch MLS closely. Kreis says he's been lucky, but he's got a nose for the goal -- and finally is assuming a leadership role.

* D.C. United is concerned about holes in its All-Star defense, and the lack of production from the offense. Richie Williams' absence due to a sprained ankle has visibly shown what the defensive midfielder means to the Washington franchise. Central defender Eddie Pope is out for a month with a broken foot. And Jaime Moreno continues to struggle on attack.

Los Angeles Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid's first comments after his 1-0 debut win against the San Jose Clash: "Our directness of play needs to improve. We play too much with the ball in front of the opponent's defense."

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

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