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Americans Abroad

Keller shines for Vallecano in frozen UEFA Cup match in Moscow; Reyna is solid for Rangers in 'Old Firm" match.

By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
Willy Calderon (in Bristol, England)
Christopher Courtney (in Wuerzburg, Germany)
and Mark Flannery (in Montpellier, France)

(Monday, November 27, 2000) -- Rayo Vallecano took a big step forward in the UEFA Cup competition when it held Lokomotov Moscow to a scoreless draw on a frozen night in the Russian capital thanks to some stellar goalkeeping by American Kasey Keller, and a little bit of luck.

With the grounds frozen by five degree temperatures, neither team was able to generate much offense. Though the Madrdid side dominated possession throughout the 90 minutes, it managed only had two decent shots on the night, once in the first-half when Pablo Sanz headed wide, and early in the second half when Bosnian striker Elvir Bolic had a goal controversially negated by an offside ruling.

At the top of his game, Kellerís best save came 15 minutes from the end when he brilliantly blocked a wicked shot from Evgueni Kharlatchev. In the first half, Keller was fortunate when he was beaten from 20 yards by Kharlatchev, only to have the ball ricochet off the right post.

Keller was back on the bench when Rayo met Athletico Bilbao on Sunday.

In Scotland, the chase is on again for the league title as Rangers emphatically ended Celticís season-opening 16-match unbeaten streak (14-0-2) with a 5-1 victory at home in Ibrox in the second "Old Firm" match-up of the season. Celtic won the first 6-2 in August.

American Claudio Reyna return to the line-up after missing the last five weeks with a groin injury and played a solid 90 minutes at right midfield. Together with $16 million newcomer Tore Andre Flo, they provided Rangers with a spark that has been lacking in recent weeks.

Reyna was into the match from the opening moment, combining nicely in the second minute with Flo who beat Celtic keeper Rab Douglas, but had his shot go just wide. Then in the ninth minute, Reyna received a rare yellow card by flattening Bobby Petta. In the 35th minute, Reyna sent Barry Ferguson through with a brilliant pass, and Rangers captain converted well.

The second half became a match of corner kicks. Henrik Laarson leveled the match for Celtic off a corner in the 57th minute. Three minutes later Flo regained the lead for Rangers off another corner. Then at the 69h minute Ronald de Boer added an insurance goal on a header off still another corner, an effort matched nine minutes later by Lorenzo Amoruso.

In the final minutes Michael Mols added a fifth goal. Celtic played the final half hour a man down after Alan Thompson was sent off for a second yellow card.

The Rangers stand third, 12 points behind Celtic, but with a match in hand, and trailing Hibernian by five points.

Rangers return to action on Thursday when they host Bundesliga power Kaiserslautern in the first leg of a third-round UEFA Cup series.

In England, United States midfielder Ben Olsen played all 90 minutes for Nottingham Forest which notched its fifth win in six games 3-1 over Tranmere Rovers. In a rugged match played on a rain-soaked pitch, Olsen resorted to his physical game in helping the Forest midfield control the match. On several occasions, Olsen set up strikers in dangerous positions only to see them miss with their shots.

U.S. keeper Brad Friedel had a trying day as his Blackburn Rovers suffered a surprising 2-1 loss to Gillingham. An own goal shortly before the half cost Blackburn when defender John Curtis and Friedel became involved in an appalling mix-up. Curtis never looked back at Friedel when he tried a sharp back pass and instead put the ball into an unguarded net.

Blackburn got off to a fast start when Mark Hughes scored at the 12th minute and was in control until Friedel had a nightmare final five minutes before intermission. First, Andy Hessenthaler brought Gillingham level when he was put through alone on Friedel and right-footed one past the American keeper. Then came the Curtis-Friedel mix-up which ended the scoring for the day.

Earlier in the week, Blackburn manager Graeme Souness went out of his way to praise Friedel in the British press. "Liverpool were too quick to write him off, and he didn't get a fair chance in my opinion," Souness said. "He is a top quality goalkeeper, though, and he will prove Liverpool wrong. He has the ability to do that and he also knows that he will be given every opportunity to prove a point. He made a terrific debut for a start. He is very good with the new rules which allow goalkeepers to catch the ball and run to the edge of the penalty area. He has adapted to that extremely well and hopefully our other goalkeepers will learn from him."

Miami Fusion forward and star midfielder for the past several years for U.S. youth teams, Kyle Beckerman is getting a tryout at Fulham. A number of European teams, including Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin, have expressed interest in the youngster.

He is at Craven Cottage on the recommendation of Eddie Lewis. He will train for several weeks with Fulhamís first team, and will likely play in one or more reserve matches.

In Germany, Frankie Hejduk made a surprise start for Bayer Leverkusen in a 4-2 victory in a key match against Kaiserslautern. The American midfielder Hedjuk has spent much of this season either on the bench, or not dressing at all, as Leverkusen moved up through the Bundesliga standings to take over the league lead. On Sunday, Hedjuk made his second start of the season and played a strong 82 minutes at right back, pushing up into the midfield to get involved in the offense.

It appears American striker Landon Donovan is not the only young hopeful who does not see a prosperous future at Leverkusen. German under-21 star Christian Rahn, of FC Saint Pauli, has turned down a lucrative offer from the club. He cited a lack of opportunity for young players at the club as the reason he decided not to move. He'll likely sign on with 1FC Nurnburg where coach Klaus Augenthaler starts and plays several under-23 players each week.

Returning from a seven-month layoff which included two surgeries to repair a knee problem, U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo is back in the mix at Hannover 96. Cherundolo saw 10 minutes of playing time as a substitute as his team trounced Allemania Aachen 4-0.

Aachen, by the way, struggling and in need of help, has invited the Columbus Crew's defender Mike Clark and striker Jeff Cunningham in for a trial this week. The two were invited based on the strong recommendation of former Crew teammate Thomas Dooley who is currently in Germany working on his coaching license.

Despite continued strong efforts from American defensive midfielder Joe Enochs, VFL Osnabruck still hovers in the relegation zone of the Second Bundesliga after a 2-0 road loss to Waldhof Mannheim.

Carl Zeiss Jena midfielder Michael Mason paced his team to a 5-0 decision over lversberg by contributing two goals. The former U.S. international was named to the Kicker Division 3 "Team of the Week" for the first time this season. Americans Grover Gibson and Tim Lawson started for Eleversberg with Lawson being red carded in the ninth minute.

Metrostars defender Mike Petke reported to Bayern Munich this week for a trial with the German champion. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is unhappy with the performance of his back line and is looking to inject new blood into the lineup.

Hitzfeld told the German media that if he signs the young defender, it will only be for Bayernís full side, and he will not sign him for the amateur (reserve) team. Petke, however, will have a tough time cracking Bayernís lineup, which includes an international-level player at nearly every starting and reserve position.

In the Netherlands, U.S. attacker Earnie Stewart played a solid 90 minutes at forward to NAC Breda, but it was not enough because as NAC lost to on the road to PSV Eindhoven 2-1. Defender Rob Penders found net twice for NAC, the problem being the first goal was into his own net.

Riding the Pine:

Forward Joe-Max Moore (Everton, England) - Is ill with the flu and did not dress in a 2-1 defeat of Chelsea. Of the Americans playing in Barbados, Moore seemed to have the most difficulty acclimating to the weather change. "It was 25 degrees when I got on the plane to come here and I got off and it was 90 degrees," he said after the U.S. qualifier. "I had a lot of trouble with the heat." Then it was back into the cold and the result has been a bad case of flu, an ailment that has struck several Everton players.

Midfielder Tony Sanneh (Hertha Berlin, Germany) - Pulled a thigh muscle last week and watched from the sidelines during a 4-0 shutout of Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0.

Midfielder John O'Brien (Ajax, Amersterdam) Watched in street clothes during a 2-1 setback to Utrecht 2-1. Is having trouble regaining fitness because of a lingering Achilles heel problem.

Defender David Regis (Metz, France) - Did not dress for a 1-1 draw with Toulouse.

Midfielder Eddie Lewis (Fulham, England) Did not dress for a 2-1 triumph over Grimsby.

Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann (Fulham, England) - Again on the bench as backup to Maik Taylor in the victory over Grimsby.

Forward Stefani Miglioranzi (Portsmouth, England) - Did not play in a 1-0 victory over Barnsley 1-0.

Midfielder Jovan Kirovski (Sporting Lisbon, Portugal) - Did not dress for a scoreless draw with Boavista.

Goalkeeper Ian Feuer (Wimbledon, England) - Was dressed as the substitute during Wimbledonís 2-1 defeat of Norwich.

Midfielder John Thorrington (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany) - Still recovering from a hamstring injury.

Midfielder\defender Brent Goulet (Elversberg, Germany) - Might be lost for some time due to impending surgery.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com. 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. Willy Calderon, an American living in Bristol, England, writes about soccer for various publications and netzines and can be contacted at willy@netcity.co.uk. Mark Flannery is an American teaching English in France and can be e-mailed at flan.overseas@wanadoo.fr.

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