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Americans Abroad

Donovan reportedly is headed for Kaiserslautern while McBride is
cleared for return to Preston North End.

By Christopher Courtney
Special to SoccerTimes

KAISERLAUTERN, Germany (Friday, December 22, 2000) -- 1FC Kaiserslautern of the German Bundesliga is reporting an agreement to acquire the contract of a young American player, believed to be 18-year-old striker Landon Donovan.

An official announcement will be made after a contract has been signed. Donovan, a Redlands, Calif., native who was named the best player at last yearís world under-17 championship tournament, is currently under contract to the Bundesligaís Bayer Leverkusen.

Kaiserslautern issued a statement today saying the deal will bring it "the services of one of the USA's best young players." The club referred to the unnamed player as a "hot prospect" and an "investment in the future" who will begin training with its first team in January.

"He's young and he's considered to be the most hopeful and most talented player in U.S. soccer", club boss Juergen Friedrich said. "For us he's an investment into our future."

The club also said it made the move based in part on the recommendation of recently retired Major League Soccer and Bundesliga veteran Thomas Dooley. Dooley, who played for Kaiserslautern in its 1991 championship season, still maintains contacts with the team and with Donovanís agent, Michael Becker.

Donovan has been unhappy with his lack of playing time at Leverkusen, where he has failed to crack the first teamís lineup, playing instead for the reserve side. United States national team coach Bruce Arena has made it clear to Donovan if he hopes to win a spot on the national team, he needs to be playing at a higher level.

Donovanís position with Leverkusen will worsen after the winter break when three newly-signed non-European Union players will join the team.

In a recent SoccerTimes interview, Donovan said there is a buyout clause in his contract in which another club may purchase him for a set price. He also said he expected developments in January, thus, it appears, Donovan likely is linked to the Kaiserslautern announcement and soon could be wearing the club's red jersey.

Kaiserslautern currently lists one non-EU player on its roster, so Donovan would not be constrained by the three "foreign" player limit.

The greater Kaiserslautern area actually has among the largest concentration of Americans, living outside of the United States, thus the team enjoys a sizable following of expatriates from the U.S., many of whom would follow Donovan should he be acquired.

In England, U.S. and Columbus Crew striker Brian McBride has been cleared by doctors to resume full-contact training and is now preparing to return to the first divisionís Preston North End, to which he was loaned for the MLS offseason.

It was while he was with Preston -- in his debut match against Stockport County on September 16 -- that McBride suffered a blow to his right arm. While he played with the injury for two more games, the bruised area eventually developed a blood clot which needed to be surgically removed.

McBride could not return to action until he stopped taking the anti-coagulant medication required for the healing process, a move recommended December 14 by Dr. Pete Edwards and the Crewís medical team.

McBride, who will report to Preston next Wednesday after spending Christmas with his family in the Chicago area, hopes to return to match action on January 1 when the Lilywhites, currently seventh in the league with an 11-6-5 record and 38 points, host Bolton.

"I am itching to play right now," McBride said. "I have been training for two-and-a-half months on fitness and touch. And it's like any preseason, you are ready for some games."

A starting forward for the U.S., when healthy, McBride is expected to be back with the national team when it opens CONCACAF final World Cup qualifying round against Mexico February 28 in Columbus

"To be honest with you, it was no fun sitting in the stands for the Costa Rica match," he said, referring to the U.S.'s 0-0 tie on October 11 at Crew Stadium in the semifinal round of qualifying for North America, Central America and the Caribbean. "This (Mexico match) would more than make up for it."

Said Crew general manager Jim Smith, "This is good news for Brian and for all parties involved. We were not sure how long it would be before he would be cleared to return and this is on the early side of all projections. We can now look forward to seeing Brian in red, white and blue against Mexico . . . and to a healthy and productive 2001 MLS season."

The blood clot continued a string of bad luck for the 28-year-old with regard to injuries. He missed eight games over six weeks in the middle of the 2000 MLS season after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured right cheekbone suffered in a June 17 match at Colorado. Still, he still finished fourth on the team in scoring with 17 points on six goals and five assists in 18 games.

During the 1999 MLS campaign, he was sidelined for five games over a five-week period after he fractured his left cheekbone in a collision with San Jose's Jamie Clark that May 9.

Compounding McBride's frustration was that he had gotten off to an auspicious start in England, winning over Preston North End's coaching staff and fans, alike. He started three games, notching an assist and earning "Man of the Match" honors in his debut. The rave reviews continued following games on September 19 and 26.

McBride is playing professionally overseas for the first time since his 1994-95 season with VfL Wolfsburg of the German second division. The Saint Louis University product and five-time MLS All-Star has been with The Crew since its inaugural 1996 season, having been the No. 1 overall pick in the first MLS draft.

Christopher Courtney is an American living in Wuerzburg, Germany where he follows the fortunes of American players in Europe. He can be contacted at yanksgermany@yahoo.com.

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