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Kirovski sparks Palace, assists winner over Stockport; club wants to talk new contract.

More inspired play by Friedel has Rovers one step from Worthington Cup title game.

Moore, Everton record uninspired victory, but advance in F.A. Cup.

Reynaís ankle injury is not as serious as feared; with bone bruise and stretched ligaments, heís 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 Hotspurís 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

Friedel, Blackburn are game against Manchester United, but come up short 2-1.

By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.),
Gary Davidson (in Washington, D.C.),
Joel Lange (in England)
and Mark Flannery (in France)

(Sunday, January 20, 2002) -- United States goalkeeper Brad Friedel and Blackburn Rovers played Manchester United tough, but it was legendary United, the English Premier League leader, that prevailed 2-1 Saturday on Roy Keaneís strike in the 81st minute.

Blackburn (6-10-7, 25 points) lost its chance to gain a surprise point in the standings when it was victimized by a superb passing combination. Ruud van Nistelrooy began the sequence when he found Paul Scholes free at the edge of Roversí box. Scholes used his first touch to find Ryan Giggs, who, standing on the penalty spot, drew two defenders before back-heeling a pass to his left for a wide open Keane.

Keane curled a wonderful right-footed shot toward the far corner with Friedel reacting quickly enough to get one hand on the shot, but not with enough force to keep the ball from rolling into the net.

Man. U. (14-6-3, 45) took a 1-0 lead in controversial fashion when Friedel was ruled to have pulled down Unitedís French defender Laurent Blanc in his box in first-half stoppage time. Van Nistelrooy slammed home the PK.

The play started when Blanc collected a ball from Juan Sebastian Veron inside the top of Roversí box. He stepped around one defender, and then another, before being clipped on a heel by Friedel who was trying to snare the ball. After going down, Blanc rolled around with the referee deliberating for some time before rendering his decision, one that was vociferously protested by the Roversí bench.

Craig Hignett pulled Rovers even at 1-1 in the 49th minute.

U.S. striker Joe-Max Moore played for only eight minutes, but at least he relieved a legend, taking over for Paul Gascoigne in Evertonís 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.

Les Ferdinand put Hotspur ahead 1-0 in the fifth minute and David Weir answered for Everton three minutes later. With Kasey Keller playing goal for the U.S. in a 2-1 triumph over South Korea in Pasadena, Calif., Gavin Kelly was the backup for Tottenham starter Neil Sullivan.

Midfielder Claudio Reyna's ankle injury is not healing as fast as U.S. coach Bruce Arena hoped. Reyna did not dress for Sunderland's 1-1 draw with Fulham.

American keeper Marcus Hahnemann has returned to part-time reserve duties at Fulham after the club suddenly ended his very successful loan to Reading of the Second Division. Fulham apparently gave Reading a "buy him or lose him" ultimatum and the cash-strapped lower-division club could not meet the asking price.

"You'll have to ask them why," Reading manager Alan Perdew told the Reading Evening Post. "We've tried various angles, but they don't want to know. It's a shame because he's been great for us, and we've been great for him, but like some good love affairs it's now at an end."

In the First Division, U.S. midfielder Jovan Kirovski is apparently paying a penalty for his petulance. Last Sunday, Kirovski threw a sideline tantrum after being yanked with two minutes remaining in regulation of Crystal Palaceís 1-0 victory over Stockport. Kirovski, who likely was upset he had not started, had been on the field for only 23 minutes and had set up the decisive tally with a perfect pass when he was replaced for a defender in a logical move to protect a slim lead,

On Wednesday, Kirivski spent 90 minutes on the bench during a 3-1 decision over Gillingham at home. Yesterday, he did get the start at home, but he was pulled at halftime with no score of an eventual 2-0 win over Rotherham. Probably not helping Kirovskiís psyche was the fact that his replacement Jamie Smith netted the Palaceís second gaol.

Just last week, Palace manager Trevor Francis was praising Kirovski and said he was anxious to sign him to a new contract for two or three years. Whether Sundayís incident has changed the mind of the no-nonsense Francis remains to be seen.

Palace's other American, defender Gregg Berhalter, appears headed for reserve team play only. Since the arrival of three new defenders, Berhalter was first consigned to the bench and now is not dressing for matches at all. Francis insists he wants depth on the club to protect against injuries, but Berhalter's days with the side may now be numbered.

In the Second Division, American midfielder John Thorrington continues to have hamstring problems and did not dress for Huddersfield Town which downed Bournemouth 3-2.

In France, the weather improved and Metz finally was back into action after four postponements. After a 2-0 setback to Troyes, snow might have seemed a favorable alternative.

American midfielder\defender David Regis earned a yellow card in the 14th minute for a hard foul in the physical match. After the match, Metz, which is in 17th place and balancing on the precipice of relegation, sacked coach Albert Cartier and replaced him on an interim basis by reserve team coach Francis De Taddeo.

The on-again, off-again flirtation between Metz and U.S. under-23 national-team and Clemson University defender Oguchi Onyewu, appears to be off again. Even as Metz was telling the French media it expected to sign Onyewu by the end of January, Clemson coach Trevor Adair announced that Onyewu would return to college for the second semester and would not sign a professional contract.

In Germany, American forward Conor Casey began training with Hannover 96's full side after having arthroscopic knee surgery last month. He likely will see playing time in exhibition matches at the club's Portugal training camp.

Former University of Maryland and U.S. under-20 defender Philip Salyer signed a 18-month contract for the remainder of this season and all of next with Werder Bremen. The contract is officially an "amateur" pact, meaning it does not have to be registered with the Bundesliga.

Salyer was assigned to Bremen's third division (Regionalligen Nord) "amateur" side that is currently languishing in 11th place.

Former U.S. national team and Major League Soccer defender Thomas Dooley was named to his first coaching position, hired by 1 FC Saarbrucken, the cellar dweller in the 2 Bundesliga.

Dooley has been instrumental with steering several young Americans to Germany, so it will be interesting to see who he might pursue.

Racing de Ferrol of the second division said U.S. under-20 national-team and UCLA defender Alex Yi is on his was to Spain to sign a contract with the club.

Racing employed U.S. striker Ante Razov last year and pursued Los Angeles Galaxy defender Greg Vanney before opting against MLS's transfer price.

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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