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Azzizi set to join San Jose; Matthaeus is finally a MetroStar.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Friday, March 10, 2000) -- Iranian national team striker Khodadad Azzizi could arrive in San Jose as early as today after Major League Soccer signed him and "allocated" him to the Earthquakes.

"This is a tremendous coup for us," said Earthquakes general manager Lynne Meterparel, whose club missedthe playoffs in 1999. "It's been one of our priorities from the beginning to improve our team performance on the field and bringing Azizi to the Earthquakes will certainly be a positive step in that direction.

Azzizi, 28, who played last season for FC Cologne in the German Bundesliga, was in Dubai of the United Arab Emirates, with Iran's national team and will join the Earthquakes as soon as he receives his visa. He was the 1996 Asian player of the year and a finalist for that honor in 1997.

A veteran of 33 appearances for the Iranian national team, he is expected to be recalled to the Iranian national team for Asian Cup qualifying against Maldives in Syria on March 31, as well as others in the next month. The Asian Cup, the continental soccer championship and part of the qualifying process for the 2002 World Cup, is scheduled to be played October 12-29 in Lebanon. The Earthquakes' regular season ends September 9 and the MLS championship in October 15.

"We're obviously very excited to have a player of Khodadad's abilities signing with the league and San Jose is an excellent fit for him," said Ivan Gazidis, MLS executive vice president for operations and player relations. "I know that he will be welcomed there by the local area fans and I know that he is going to proved some exciting times for them. He is a very, very technically gifted player and we're delighted to have signed him."

The Earthquakes are on a two-week training swing through Mexico and Central America and open their season March 25 on the road against the Columbus Crew.

"Basically coming to the United States is exciting and interesting," Azzizi said. "Hopefully I can be a major change and one of the better players in Major League Soccer. I chose San Jose Earthquakes because of the Iranian fans. I'm so excited. I promise to be a good key on this team to bring them a lot of Iranian fans to have a better result.

Azzizi will take some of the pressure off forward Ronald Cerritos, a star with the El Salvadoran national-team star and the team's most valuable player the past three seasons.

"I wanted him desperately," said Earthquakes coach Lothar Osiander to the San Jose Mercury-News."He is one of the more fascinating players in the world of soccer. He has great ball control, he likes to go to the goal -- the good stuff.''

Azzizi came to the attention of United States fans in the 1998 World Cup during Iran's 2-1 victory over the United States. He played remarkable well in January when Iran tied the U.S. 1-1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif, setting up his side's one tally with a throw-in. A large majority of the fans for that match were of Iranian descent.

"After coming to the United States, and having those friendly games (against Mexico and the U.S.), after I saw all the Iranian fans I made up my mind to join the MLS," Azzizi said.


Matthaeus arrives

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- German defender Lothar Matthaeus, whose on-again, off-again relationship with the MetroStars has carried on since the end of the 1999 season, arrived today to begin his MLS career with New Jersey team.

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