u.s. soccer  soccerClaudio ReynaReyna



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Reyna finally ready for Rangers.

By Robert Wagman

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Thursday, April 15, 1999) -- For Claudio Reyna the road from Wolfsburg to Glasgow proved a little more winding than he might have anticipated. But the good news is that Reyna, a new father, is finally cleared to play for his new team, and might come on as a substitute as early as this Sunday.

Reyna, 25, was in the second year of a loan from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen to fellow German First Division team VfL Wolfsburg. He was unhappy at Wolfsburg, and probably did not fit into Leverkusenís long range plans. So when Glasgow Rangers came calling, Leverkusen made a quick deal which sent Reyna to Scotland for a transfer fee of about $3.6 million.

Two weeks after the deal was announced in Germany, somewhat strangely Rangers had not commented much on it beyond saying "until a transfer becomes final we make no comment." Actually, there was quite a bit behind that statement.

The deal was made unusually complicated because of the terms of the loan agreement between Leverkusen and Wolfsburg. The transfer fee was paid to Leverkusen who then paid some portion of it to Wolfsburg. First Wolfsburg had to send through the papers to the Bundisliga returning Reyna to Leverkusen, then Leverkusen had to send transfer papers to the Bundisliga, who had to forward the transfer to FIFA, the world governing body which had to notify the Scottish Association who then notified the Scottish League that Reyna was cleared to play.

Then came the sticky question of a UK work permit. The United States Soccer Federation had to certify that Reyna had played in the requisite number of national team matches over the past two years. A hearing was held, and finally the work permit was issued.

Then Mother Nature was heard from. Danielle Reyna gave birth to the coupleís first child, Jack, last weekend. Rangers let Claudio return to Germany for the event.

"The past week has been pretty crazy with so many things going through my mind," Reyna told reporters after working out with Rangers on Monday. "But I'm glad it's all worked out well. The baby was a great moment which I was worried I was going to miss, but Rangers were very understanding. Sleep has got in the way of my life in the last five days, so I had no option but to sit out the game against Dunfermline."

Reyna will be dressed for the match on Sunday at Dundee. But he will likely be on the bench. Rangers have ex-Hamburg captain and German international Jorg Albertz and Dutch international Giovanni Van Bronkhorst in the midfield, and both are playing well. It may take awhile for Reyna to break into the lineup.

Longer term, Rangers manager Dick Advocaat has probably slotted Reyna in the creative midfielder role, which he will have to share with young Barry Ferguson. Ferguson, now out for the season with a pelvic injury, is a major up and coming Scottish star who has just broken into the Scottish national side. Advocatt is the kind of manager who likes to have two players for every slot. So Reyna will probably share duties with Ferguson next season.

Before I get into what I want to say next, let me make a couple of things clear.

First, I understand that the main function of the announcer-analyst teams that broadcast Major League Soccer matches on the various Fox Sports outlets is to shill for the teams that hire them. I know that their function is not objective reporting on what is transpiring in the match, but to put the best spin possible on the efforts of the team paying their salaries. This is true of the broadcast teams in many sports. I also know they have to assume that their listeners are soccer neophytes, so everything has to be explained and re-explained. All this I accept.

Secondly, as readers of this column know, I am not the biggest fan of the level of officiating in MLS. I believe that too many of the refereeís assistants donít have a clue how to apply the offside rule (itís when the ball is played, not received) and I fault a number of the men and women in the middle for inconsistency (what is a foul with 10 minutes played should be a foul with 10 minutes remaining and vice-versa). Moreover, I believe fans and journalists should be free to criticize officials for a lack of knowledge, for inconsistency, or for laziness in not being in position to make a call. I exercise this right with a certain frequency.

But I think a line should be drawn at criticizing a refereeís ethics unless the journalist has some knowledge based on specific reporting. I especially think such criticism is highly questionable when done on broadcast TV with an audience perhaps new to soccer and to MLS.

Which brings me to last Saturdayís Chicago Fire-Dallas Burn match in Chicago. The Fireís usually highly competent broadcast duo of Brian Davis and Kenny Stern were doing the match which was being carried nationally by DirecTV and some of the other satellite services.

The Fireís Roman Kosecki tried to dribble into the box and went shoulder to shoulder with a Burn defender. Suddenly Kosecki stumbled to the turf and despite howls of protest from Fire fans in the stands, referee Noel Kenny signaled play on.

Immediately Davis and Stern were all over Kenny. Kosecki was coming off a three-match suspension for abusive behavior towards a referee after being sent off for a second yellow in a preseason match in Florida. The announcers opined that Kosecki was not going to get a favorable call because Kenny was obviously biased against him, and that referees all season would probably make Kosecki a marked man because of his pre-season dust up with the official who sent him off.

It might have been most illuminating to those watching the broadcast if the broadcasters had alluded to Koseckiís reputation around the league as a diver. If they had watched their own replay they would have seen there had been, at best, light incidental contact between Kosecki and the defender. If anything, Kenny gave Kosecki the benefit of the doubt by not carding him for taking a dive.

So guys, if you will, think a moment before you question an officialís honesty. If you say he or she is biased, you are questioning that officialís integrity. That is a serious charge without proof.

Robert Wagman wrote a nationally syndicated political column for Scripps-Howard for many years. At the same time he has covered soccer in North America for British and South African newspapers since the days of the North American Soccer League. His "Football In America" column now appears regularly in British newspapers. He can be e-mailed at soccerwag1@aol.com.

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