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Americans Abroad

Reyna, Keller clubs suffer through dismal Sunday.

(Monday, November 29, 1999) -- It was a sad Sunday for Americans Claudio Reyna and Kasey Keller.

Reyna's Glasgow Rangers, looking very tired and somewhat disinterested, lost their first league match of the season. In Spain, Keller's Rayo Vallecano lost its third match in a row, with their American keeper faulted for giving up a key penalty kick.

At Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, Rangers were defeated by Dundee 2-1. It was obvious that the team was tired following its 2-0 UEFA Cup victory over Borussia Dortmund on Thursday, and the players appeared more focused on the return match in Germany next week, than on the job at hand.

Rangers did have several good chances early. But after losing Darius Adamczuk and Craig Moore to injuries, seemed to lose most of their interest in the match. Reyna, who had run himself into exhaustion in the Dortmund match, was clearly tired and was substituted out in the 62d minute. Rangers made a late run with Wallace scoring in the 70th minute, but Jorg Albertz failed to convert a penalty kick and then Dundee's Gavin Rae, who was celebrating his 22d birthday, scored deep into injury time.

It was the first time Rangers has lost to Dundee in 13 years, and their first league defeat since April. But they did not lose any ground because rival Celtic also lost on Sunday.

Reyna played very well in Rangers' stirring 2-0 home victory over Dortmund. Rangers dominated the match with Reyna contributing the key linking passes. He was replaced late in the match when he simply ran out of gas.

With the two-goal victory, the Rangers appear headed to the UEFA Cup's fourth round because it is hard imagining Dortmund will be able to score three times in the return leg.

In Spain, Rayo Vallecano made a late run, but fell short in a 2-1 setback to Athletic Bilbao, 2-1. It was Rayo's third consecutive defeat, and the early-season Primera Division leaders have now dropped to a third-place tie with Real Zaragoza, though Rayo holds two games in hand.

Kasey Keller had a five minute interval in the first half where the U.S. goalkeeper was a central figure in the plays that decided the match. In the 34th minute, Athletic captain Julen Guerrero pounced on a loose ball some 30 yards from goal and got off a drive that Keller did not see until it was stretching the net. Five minutes later, Keller brought down Joseba Etxeberria inside the Rayo penalty area with a hard tackle. He received a yellow card, and Athletic's Spanish international left-back Aitor Larrazabal converted the resultant penalty to make it 2-0.

Rayo managed a late goal but could not get closer. Except for that five-minute stretch Keller played well. He made a key save on Guerrero in the match's opening minutes and several good stops late when Rayo made its run.

In the Netherlands, American forward John O'Brien played the full 90 minutes and his Ajax Amsterdam held on to first place in the Dutch Premier division by beating AZ Alkmaar 2-1. It was an extremely physical match and O'Brien was brought down on several occasions. But he withstood the pounding without apparent effect, which is always good news for the oft-injured player.

Earlier in the week, O'Brien did not play when Ajax lost to Real Club de Mallorca 1-0 in its opening UEFA Cup third round match, leaving Ajax facing the possibility of early elimination.

In Germany, U.S. midfielder Frankie Hedjuk did not play in Bayer Leverkusen's 2-1 victory over Arminia Bielfeld, and another American midfielder Tony Sanneh remained sidelined with a leg injury and did not dress in Hertha Berlin's 3-2 comeback win over VfL Wolfsburg.

Sanneh also did not appear earlier in the week in Hertha's 1-1 home draw with Barcelona in the Champions league second round.

In England, U.S. keeper Brad Friedel continues to sit on Liverpool's bench as the Netherlands' Sander Westerveld continues to play well in net. But it's interesting to note that the American is clearly Liverpool's number two keeper, as the team's other Dutch goalkeeper signing in the off-season, Jorgen Nielsen, has been playing reserve team matches.

Also in England, Everton is waiting anxiously for American attacking presence Joe-Max Moore to receive his work permit. This week, Everton allowed Tommy Johnson to return to Glasgow Celtic which left Everton two forwards on its roster. Blues manager Walter Smith has penciled Moore in as the team's primary backup striker.

Moore has agreed to a three-and-a-half year contract, and is now awaiting the outcome of his application for a work permit. "An application for a work permit has been placed with the Department of Employment and we just have to wait until that happens before we can go and register him," Smith told reporters.

Smith has said he will play Moore in Everton's December 11 F.A. Cup match against Exeter City if the work permit comes through in time.

In another match of interest to MLS fans, Stern John again played well for Nottingham Forest., but could not prevent the hapless side from going down to Crystal Palace 2-0 in England's First Division. Actually, the former Columbus Crew striker was the only bright spot for Forest. On his first touch he had a strong shot clatter off the Palace crossbar. He was responsible for the only two Forest shots on target during the first half, and was double-marked during the second half.

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