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Americans Abroad

Olsen's broken ankle is headache for teams on both sides of the Atlantic.

By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
Christopher Courtney (in Germany)
Willy Calderon (in England)
Keith Richardson (in Germany)
Mark Flannery (in France)
and Robert B. Lane, Jr. (in Spain)

(Monday, March 12, 2001) -- United States midfielder Ben Olsen fractured his ankle late in the first half Wednesday of Nottingham Forest’s match with Barnsley and is expected to undergo surgery this week.

Olsen will not return to England this season, but more importantly to American fans, he will be sidelined for at least the next two U.S. World Cup qualifiers and at least the first 10 of D.C. United’s Major League Soccer games.

Talk about Olsen’s possible transfer to Nottingham or another team in England is tabled indefinitely.

Olsen has had problems with both ankles over the last six weeks, as well as a sore hamstring. He returned from England to play for the U.S. qualifier against Mexico in Columbus February 28, but could not train. He went back to Forest, but received the devastating injury in his first outing back.

Just before halftime, Olsen grabbed his ankle, fell to the ground, and rolled off the field in obvious pain. He was carried off on a stretcher and sent to the hospital, where X-rays revealed the broken bone. He is back in the U.S. where a pin will be inserted into the ankle, putting him in a cast for at least six weeks.

"It's unlikely that we will see him again this season, even if we make the promotion playoffs," Forest manager David Platt said. "It will take several weeks to get fit after being in the plaster. It's a big blow to us because he has provided us with a spark and it has come at a time when many of our other injury problems have cleared up to give us a near full-strength squad."

Olsen is on loan to Forest through the end of the English season in May. A fan favorite, Forest has offered to buy him outright, but reportedly is several hundred thousand dollars short of MLS’s asking price, said to be over $2 million.

By the time Olsen is again able, Forest will know if it has earned promotion into the Premier League, an event which would allow the team to allocate more funds for player acquisition. Olsen’s injury and absence could jeopardize Forest’s chances of promotion and thus the money it needs to acquire the University of Virginia product.

In the meantime, Olsen is still carried on D.C. United’s books and general manager Kevin Payne said he wants Olsen’s long-term situation resolved. If he is sold, United would have an allocation coming and room under the salary cap to acquire a player.

In Spain, through a scheduling fluke, Rayo Vallecano met Spanish league rival Alaves twice in three days and the result was not pretty. On Thursday, the two met in a UEFA Cup quarterfinal and Alaves cruised to a surprisingly easy 3-0 victory.

Americam Kasey Keller was on the bench while Spanish goalkeeper Julen Lopetegui was subpar.

On Sunday, Rayo played better in the first half of a Spanish league match and was leading 1-0 until late in the first half of an eventual 4-2 setback. Just before intermission, on a sequence which saw referee Carmona Mendez ignore a clear foul by Alaves’ Cosmin Contra on Rayo’s Michel, Javi Moreno was put in alone and beat Keller for his league leading 18th goal of the season to level the score at 1-1.

In the ensuing pandemonium, Rayo’s key midfielder Mami Quevedo was ejected for arguing the non-call and things fell apart. The next 45 minutes saw eight yellow cards and a Alaves’s player ejected in the 54th minute, something that didn’t prevent Alaves from pounding in three more goals.

The two teams meet yet again Thursday in Madrid in the second game of their UEFA Cup quarterfinal series.

Elsewhere in Spain, Racing de Ferrol striker Ante Razov played well in a 1-0 victory over Córdova. In the 12th minute, Razov nearly gave Racing a 1-0 lead, but saw his shot swept off the goal line by Códova defender Roberto. Seven minutes after Ferrol went ahead on a goal in the 21st minute, Razov again was left alone in front of goalkeeper Leiva who managed to steal the ball from Razov´s foot.

In the 47th minute, Razov again was robbed when Leiva barely defected his rebound header. Razov left the match in the 62nd minute.

Ferrol earned a little breathing room in 17th place with 31 points, six points clear of relegation.

In England, Blackburn Rovers, with U.S. keeper Brad Friedel, saw their FA Cup hopes end with a 3-0 quarterfinal loss to Arsenal.

Rovers entered the match with optimism, especially since Arsenal was resting two key starters, Frenchmen Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, in anticipation of its midweek Champions League clash with Bayern Munich. From the opening whistle, however, Arsenal besieged the Blackburn goal.

Just two minutes in, another of Arsenal’s French stars, Robert Pires, carried the ball deep into Rovers end. Unchallenged, he picked out Sylvain Wiltord at the far post whose point-blank shot eluded Friedel’s dive.

Blameless on the first goal, Friedel made the play of the match two minutes later with an incredible save on a Dennis Bergkamp chip, tipping it over the bar with a full-length dive. But on the resultant corner kick, an unmarked English international Tony Adams slammed a header past a Friedel to make it 2-0. Rovers tried vainly, but failed to ever get into the match.

Rovers must regroup quickly for this week’s key first division meeting with league-leading Fulham. They are now in fourth place, but have three matches in hand against Bolton and Birmingham, the two clubs that stand three points ahead of them.

It would appear that American defender Gregg Berhalter is not part of Crystal Palace’s long-term plans. After signing the American to a contract to run through the rest of this season, Palace obtained two young English defenders on loan and for the second straight match, Berhalter watched from the bench as Palace was defeated by Wimbledon, 1-0. It was Palace’s fourth league loss in a row.

Fulham increased its league lead with a 2-0 decision over Queens Park Rangers with American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann in uniform and midfielder Eddie Lewis in street clothes.

In Scotland, Glasgow Rangers have seen things go from bad to worse. Missing seven injured starters, including U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna, then playing a man down for most of the second half, Rangers dropped their quarter final Scottish Cup match to Dundee United 1-0. Reyna has not played since straining his groin in the February 28 qualifier against Mexico and there is no indication when he might return.

In Germany, U.S. midfielder\defender Tony Sanneh, who just finalized a multi-year deal with 1FC Nuernburg, started at right midfield for Hertha Berlin in a 2-1 midweek Bundesliga win over Unterhaching. On the weekend, he dressed, but did not play in a 1-0 victory over upstart Hansa Rostock.

American midfielder\defender Frankie Hejduk dressed, but did not play in Bayer Leverkusen's 3-0 triumph over Werder Bremen.

VFL Osnabruck continues to move slowly toward leaving the Second Bundesliga's relegation zone with a 0-0 tie at home against Oberhausen, helped by a strong performance by American defensive midfielder Joe Enochs. The VFLers remained in 16th place, two points shy of moving out of the relegation slum.

A win at Mainz this week will see the VFLers leapfrog Mainz, temporarily, at least, out of danger.

Hannover 96 ended a slump with a 2-0 victory over SSV Ulm. After having a poor match last week, American Steve Cherundolo started on the bench, but played the final 26 minutes at left midfield. After languishing in eight place for weeks, Hannover is now in seventh place but still seven points out of the promotion zone with a home match against the weak Stuttgart Kickers next.

In the German third division, Jacob Thomas scored in Eintract Braunschweig's 3-1 win over TeBe Berlin. Braunschweig, in third place, is one point shy of the promotion zone.

American striker Conor Casey returned from suspension to play 90 minutes for Borussia Dortmund reserves in a 1-0 loss to Dresden.

Former U.S. midfielder Michael Mason went the distance for Carl Zeiss Jena in a 1-1 draw with Erfurt.

American Taylor Twellman started for 1860 Munich’s reserves who played a 1-1 draw with Jahn Regensberg.

In a faceoff of Americans, David Wagner and Darmstadt 98 defeated Grover Gibson and Elversberg 2-0.

A new rule which goes into effect next season will affect many American players in the German Regionalliga (D3). Starting next season, rosters will be trimmed to 22 players and 16 of them must be German. Virtually every team in D3 will be forced to cut non-German players and will lead to some interesting developments as these same teams must find quality young German players from the fourth division and youth teams to fill their ranks.

In the Netherlands, U.S. attacker Earnie Stewart again went the full 90, but his struggling NAC Breda, scoreless now for three consecutive matches, fell 1-0 to Roda JC.

U.S. midfielder John O’Brien continues to play in reserve-team matches, but again did not dress for Ajax which drew 3-3 at Groningen.

During a week off in France, Metz played a friendly draw against Sedan with both sides replacing most of the starters at the half. U.S. defender David Regis played a strong 45 minutes before coming out.

In Portgual, American midfielder Jovan Kirovski did not dress, but Sporting Lisbon inched closer to first place by defeating Desportivo Aves 2-0. Sporting is in second place, four points behind first-place Boavista.

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. Keith Richardson is an American living in Vilseck, Germany where he follows Americans playing in Germany. He can be e-mailed at footyfan1@yahoo.com. Mark Flannery is an American teaching English in France and can be e-mailed at flan.overseas@wanadoo.fr. Robert B. Lane, Jr., is an American residing in Barcelona from where he follows Spanish soccer. He can be e-mailed at lanedogg@excite.com.

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