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By chance, Friedel, Victorine strengthen U.S. menís Olympic team.By Robert Wagman
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, August 30, 2000) -- It appears that Fate has stepped in and made a couple of hard choices that United States Olympic menís coach Clive Charles had been reluctant to make.
Goalkeeper Adin Brown's forced removal from the squad after he suffered strained quadriceps and torn hip flexor injuries last week is certainly a tragedy for the Colorado Rapids goalkeeper. But in Brad Friedel, Charles gains a experienced goalkeeper who showed in the full national-team World Cup qualifier against Barbados, and in training this week for the Sundayís qualifier against Guatemala, that he is at the top of his game.
Brown played well for the U.S. in Olympic qualifying in Hershey, Pa., in April. But he also missed one of the three qualifying matches with a pulled leg muscle. It was not a serious injury, but at the time I wrote that Charles would have to consider adding a top flight over-23 goalkeeper to the roster because he didnít want to tempt Mr. Fate. If Brown were injured in the Summer Games in Australia, his backup, Tim Howard of the MetroStars, while a fine young keeper, is completely untested at the international level.
I immediately heard from members of Brown's family and his former college coach, saying that I was wrong and that he had been virtually injury free during his college years and that he could absolutely be trusted to play every minute of the Olympic matches. My response was, "I hope you're right."
Charles' problem was his loyalty to Brown. If he had named a goalkeeper as one of his overage players, either Friedel or Kansas City's Tony Meola, Major League Soccerís best keeper this year -- assuming Kasey Keller would not be available because of club commitments -- then Charles would have been hard pressed not to have started either of them over Brown. He clearly did not want to put himself in that position.
However, Brown's unfortunate, injury-plagued season continued. About six weeks ago he had a damaged knee scoped. Everyone said he would be back at 100 percent well before the team left for Canberra and Melbourne. Again I said in this column, "I sure hope so." Again I heard from Brown's supporters who said I should not worry.
Now, because of subsequent injuries, Brown can't make the trip and it will be Friedel in goal. As I say, it's tragic for Brown, but being forced to bring in Friedel has in effect forced Charles to make the right choice. Friedel played in all the U.S. matches in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and his international experience, along with defender Jeff Agoos, should help settle the team.
It is just as disappointing for Chris Armas to be ruled out. Armas, probably the U.S.'s best defensive midfielder, went down in the Barbados match with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. This is his second severe MCL sprain to the same knee in the last two years, but the good news is that if Armas is the best, the U.S. loses little with Ajax of Amsterdam's John O'Brien, an under-23 player who replaces him.
The silver lining here is that with Armas out and Friedel taking his spot as one of the three overage players, it opened a roster spot for an age-eligible player and Charles finally did what he should have done a long time ago: add Los Angeles Galaxy rookie midfielder Sasha Victorine.
Now, what Charles should do is start Victorine in the center of midfield with O'Brien playing behind him. This will
likely mean sitting the Galaxy's Pete Vagenas on the bench. L.A. coach Sigi
Schmid does it; so should Charles.
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be
e-mailed at email@example.com..
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org..