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Americans Abroad

Olsen loan is extended, could be absent for first month of MLS; season; Razov debuts in Spain.

By Robert Wagman

(Wednesday, December 20, 2000) -- Midfielder Ben Olsen could miss as much as the first month of D.C. Unitedís 2001 season after a complicated agreement was reached between Major League Soccer and Nottingham Forest of the English first division.

Olsen, one of the rising young stars with the United States national team, will remain on loan with Forest for as long as the club is in contention for promotion to the Premier League. Nottingham currently is tied for sixth place in the first division. The top two finishers are promoted to the Premiership, while winners of playoffs between the third- and sixth-place teams, and the fourth- and fifth-place sides also earn promotion.

Reportedly, under the agreement, Olsen will join United for the CONCACAF Champions Cup in California, January 16-21, then return to England for the rest of Forestís season, which will run through early to mid-May.

Fulham currently is the runaway leader of the first division with 55 points, followed by Bolton with 45. If Forest can somehow climb over Bolton, Birmingham (43), West Bromwich (41), Watford (40) and Blackburn (39) to earn the second automatic spot, or should the team fade out of contention, Olsen could be back in early May. If Forest enters the promotion playoff tournament, Olsen might not join United until mid-May after six or seven matches of the shortened 28-schedule have been completed.

Forest will reportedly pay MLS about $350,000 for Olsenís services, plus directly pay Olsen a salary said to be well in excess of what he makes in the American league.

Forest has been trying to talk MLS into a season-long loan for the past month, but the cash-strapped British club has shied away from the requested $2 million transfer fee.

One insider said the new agreement called for Forest to buy Olsen from MLS for an amount well in excess of the $2 million if the club does earn promotion and if Olsen remains a regular. So, MLS is positioned to profit greatly should Forest move up to the lucrative Premiership.

In Spain, American striker Ante Razov made an impressive debut for struggling Racing Ferrol of the Spanish second division by scoring in the 18th minute of a 1-1 draw with Gijon.

Racing is 21st among 22 teams in the league with 14 points. Gijon sits in eighth place with 25 points.

Things were not quite as rosy for United States goalkeeper Kasey Keller who started Rayo Vallecanoís most important match of the season, but could do little to prevent crosstown rival Real Madrid from romping to a 3-1 victory.

Playing in front of nearly 50,000 Real fans at the Bernabeu, Rayo fell quickly behind. Just 10 minutes into the match, Portuguese international Luis Figo was sent in alone on Keller and Figo stepped around the American to slot in the first goal.

Six minutes later, Keller was helpless to stop a powerful point-blank header from Ivan Helguera off a perfect Figo cross.

Rayo pulled to within 2-1 when Michel one-timed a perfect cross from Elvir Bolic in the 64th minute. But Real made it 3-1 in the 73rd minute when Raul beat the entire Rayo defense, chipped over Keller and then knocked his shot home from a sharp angle.

This was only Kellerís second league start of the season and first since losing 4-1 to Oviedo November 1. He has been playing well in Rayo's UEFA Cup and Copa del Rey matches, while Spanish international Julen Lopetegui has been in net for league matches.

The triumph moved Real to the top of the Spanish League table heading into the holiday break, while Rayo is tied for fourth place.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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