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Reyna’s ankle injury is not as serious as feared; with bone bruise and stretched ligaments, he’s out 3-6 weeks.

Keller is one better than Friedel in head-to-head meeting, Tottenham Hotspur edges Blackburn Rovers 1-0.

Keller is outstanding in Hotspur’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa; Berhalter, Kirovski key Crystal Palace 2-1 victory over Bradford City.

Reyna pressure helps Sunderland dismiss Rovers, Friedel, in 3-0 triumph; Thorrington returns with pair to lead Huddersfield Town over Peterborough.

Reyna lifts Sunderland to 1-0 win over Everton, capturing his historic meeting with Moore.

Moore scores again off bench, but this time Everton loses; O'Brien finds net in Ajax rout.

Americans Abroad

Kirovski sparks Palace, assists winner in brief relief appearance for Crystal Palace; club wants to extend his contract.

Jovan Kirovski
Jovan Kirovski only played for 23 minutes, but he gave a spark to his team and assisted the only goal with a pretty pass in Crystal Palace's 1-0 triumph over Stockport County.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.),
Gary Davidson (in Washington, D.C.),
Joel Lange (in England)
and Mark Flannery (in France)

(Sunday, January 13, 2002) -- U.S. attacking midfielder Jovan Kirovski didn’t play for long -- 23 minutes in all -- but he was in action long enough to provide his side a spark and assist the game’s only goal, giving Crystal Palace a 1-0 victory over Stockport County in England’s First Division today.

In sending cellar-dwelling Stockport (2-21-6, 12 points) to its 10th straight loss, Palace (14-12-2, 44 points) remained in eight place, but within clear striking distance of the race for promotion to the Premier League.

Kirovski’s reserve effort came on a weekend when The South London Press reported that Palace chairman Simon Jordan and manager Trevor Francis were anxious to open talks with Kirovski, hoping to work out a deal for the 25-year-old who American.

Kirovski joined Palace just before the beginning of this season after completing his contract with Sporting Lisbon of Portugal.

"I'm concerned about the fact that Jovan is approaching the end of his contract," Francis told The Press. "The chairman asked me what my views were on Kirovski and I told him that I'd like us to come to an agreement that enables him to stay for a few years. He's one that I recommended that we keep, so that's an indication that I rate him, and the chairman spoke to his agent last week."

Kirovski has scored five goals for Palace and been impressive in his attacking capacity though he has not been able to secure a permanent job in the Eagles’ starting 11. Without a new deal, he is free to negotiate with anyone when his contract expires at season’s end.

"When players reach the end of their contracts, the odds are heavily stacked in their favor," Francis said. "If the player and his agent are reasonable and he falls into line with other players at Crystal Palace, then we can tie Jovan Kirovski down for two or three years. But I'm also aware that the player might want to exercise his rights and go on (as a free agent) at the end of the season."

Today, Kirovski entered in the 64th minute for Simon Rodger and gave the Eagles an immediate lift. Within three minutes, Kirovski made a fine run down the right flank before triggering a low cross that Dougie Freedman fired home for the winning margin.

Kirovski came off in the 87th minute in favor of defender Jamie Smith.

It was Freedman’s return from a hamstring injury which was largely responsible for Kirovski’s return to the bench.

It was last Monday that Francis called U.S. coach Bruce Arena and argued that defender Gregg Berhalter was too valuable to release for an American training camp in California and the U.S. participation in the Gold Cup starting next Saturday against South Korea.

Francis won his battle with Berhalter saying, "I don't want to do anything to harm Crystal Palace and I stand by their decision."

Berhalter spent all of today’s victory on the bench. With Smith’s return from a groin injury and several new acquisitions, the local press has speculated that Berhalter is being phased out by Francis.

Blackburn, which has been in recent free fall in the English Premier League, won its first home match since October, easily handling Charlton 4-1 yesterday. Andy Cole, Rovers’s recent $11.6 million acquisition scored once and had a hand in all of his side’s goals, but, not surprisingly, American goalkeeper Brad Friedel also did his part in the victory.

In just the second minute, slack defending by Blackburn allowed Charlton’s Jason Euell to go in alone on goal only to be stopped by Friedel.

Blackburn, which had dropped six of its last seven Premiership matches and suddenly found relegation a real concern, needed only three more minutes to take the lead for good. Turkish international Kerimoglu Tugay played give-and-go with Cole, then curled a beautiful shot from the side perimeter of the penalty area into the far corner for a 1-0 advantage.

Cole netted his first home goal for his new side to make it 2-0 moments before intermission.

In the 56th minute, Rovers defender Stig Inge Bjornebye mishit a clearance directly to Euell who quickly beat a startled Friedel to make it 2-1. However, Charlton’s Scott Parker was ejected with a red card for a foul tackle eight minutes later, derailing any further comeback and setting the stage for goals by Craig Hignett in the 85th minute and Matt Jansen in the 89th.

Rovers (6-9-7, 25) are four points above the relegation zone, tied for 14th place.

American keeper Kasey Keller was back riding the pines for Tottenham Hotspur (9-9-4, 31 points) which fell 2-1 on the road to Ipswich Town. Neil Sullivan did well in net for Spurs, but was beaten twice by headers from close range, including John McGreal’s flick to win the match with nine minutes remaining.

A couple weeks ago, yesterday’s matchup between Everton and Sunderland looked to include a subplot of top Americans facing off. However, when Everton registered a 1-0 home decision, its U.S. striker Joe-Max Moore never left the bench while Sunderland's recent acquisition, American midfielder and captain Claudio Reyna was unavailable, rehabilitating a severe ankle sprain.

American keeper Marcus Hahnemann came up big, time after time, especially in the first half, to help lift Reading (16-7-4, 52 points) back to the top of the Second Division by ending Huddersfield Town’s 10-match unbeaten streak 1-0.

Huddersfield (10-7-8, 38) came out firing in the first half and Hahnemann was called on to make stops against Kevin Gray, Andy Booth and Leon Knight. Moments before the halftime whistle, he denied Danny Schofield who tried to volley home a well-placed cross from Booth.

The second half was less eventful with Reading winning on Nicky Forster’s goal in the 56th minute. Huddersfield’s American midfielder John Thorrington continues to recover from a hamstring injury.

St. Pauli of the German Bundesliga announced it has secured the services of the forward Dema Kovalenko for the rest of the current season. According to the team, it will pay Major League Soccer $26,700 for the loan of the Chicago Fire striker until May.

St. Pauli also says it has an option until April 30 for a full transfer for Kovalenko at $535,000. Kovalenko, a Ukrainian who grew up near Rochester, N.Y., and played his college ball at Indiana, made two appearances for St. Pauli in training matches in Spain during the winter break and did especially well in a 90-minute appearance against PSV of the Netherlands.

Metz had its fourth straight match postponed as bad weather continues to plague France, but the team is near signing Clemson University defender Oguchi Onyewu, a veteran of U.S. youth national teams.

Onyewu, who is currently training with the U.S. under-20 men, a team with which he played last year in the world championships, trained with Metz before the French season and has been offered a contract. His signing, apparently, will come as soon as the U-20 camp ends.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Joe Cannon of MLS’s San Jose Earthquakes, began a three-week training stint with Metz.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman compiled this column and can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com. Gary Davidson is managing editor of SoccerTimes and can be e-mailed at editor@soccertimes.com.

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