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United's Big Catch Is Guppy

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page D10

The English midfielder is in, the Brazilian defender is out.

D.C. United officials confirmed yesterday that Steve Guppy, a veteran left-side player from England, will join the club this week and might make his debut in tomorrow's Champions' Cup match against Harbour View in Kingston, Jamaica.

Steve Guppy, left, shown here in 2000 with England's Leicester City, might make his United debut tomorrow. (Alastair Grant -- AP)

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United Section

The sides have agreed to a contract, and the team is awaiting international clearance for Guppy to be eligible to play tomorrow, United technical director Dave Kasper said.

Meantime, United has decided not to offer a contract to Odvan, a well-known central defender from Brazil who had been on a tryout for the past week. With less than three weeks before its MLS regular season opener, United still has not found a replacement for all-star Ryan Nelsen, who signed with an English team in January.

"We're looking at another prospect and we should know shortly," United President Kevin Payne said. Kasper said the player is from South America, but declined to be specific.

As for Odvan, who had played for the famed Brazilian national team as well as several top clubs in Brazil, United "concluded he's just not the right fit," Kasper said. "He's played his whole career in a four-back system, and we like to play with three. We don't think it would've worked."

The addition of Guppy, who will turn 36 this month, fills one of United's other pressing needs: an outside midfielder with European experience and leadership qualities to step in for Earnie Stewart, who departed after last season to finish his long career in his native Netherlands.

Guppy began his pro career in 1989 with Wycombe before going on to play for Newcastle, Port Vale, Leicester City, Glasgow Celtic, Leeds and Stoke. In November he returned to Wycombe, which is in a league three levels below the prestigious English Premier League, and scored one goal in 14 appearances. Guppy played for England's national team once -- a 2-1 victory over Belgium in October 1999.

"I have always been committed to the offer from the USA and now the chance has come," he said on Wycombe's Web site. "I just feel if I don't take it now it may never come again, especially at this stage in my career."

Guppy's arrival will boost United's depth and experience on the flanks. Throughout preseason, Coach Peter Nowak has turned primarily to second-year players Freddy Adu and Josh Gros and rookie Nick Van Sicklen. Veteran Dema Kovalenko, who started on the left side much of last season, has been sidelined with a broken foot and isn't expected to be available for at least another month.

Asked if the addition of Guppy might result in Kovalenko's departure, Kasper said: "When Dema gets healthy, I'm sure he'll be a starting player again."

United Notes: The team departed for Jamaica yesterday after spending four days in South Florida. Several players remained in Washington after Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Harbour View in the first leg of the quarterfinal series, most notably Salvadoran midfielder Eliseo Quintanilla, who has been trying to earn playing time after missing most of last season with a broken leg.

"Midfield is very competitive right now," Kasper said. "Eliseo is in the mix, but Peter has a lot of options."

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