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  •   Tuesday, Oct. 26, 1999
    Steven Goff on Sports Online D.C. United Logo

    Steven Goff, The Post's beat writer for the D.C. United, discussing Major League Soccer's playoffs, said the United must tighten up their defense if they are to advance past the Columbus Crew.

    D.C. United eliminated the Miami Fusion on Sunday and will face the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference finals.


    Arlington, Va.: Steve,
    Do you expect to see Roy Lassiter, Cary Talley or Diego Sonora in a D.C. uniform next season?

    Steven Goff: Lassiter doubtful, Talley probably, Sonora doubtful


    Alexandria, Va.: Thank god for Kevin Payne. I am ecstatic that he's shooting for a Saturday match. My question is, Steven, was this anonymous quote: "It's typical D.C. shenanigans...we're not surprised this is happening," from a Crew official? Or did these sour grapes come from elsewhere?

    Steven Goff: The anonymous quote was one of several from other MLS folks who obviously are either bitter/jealous/upset at DCU and Payne.


    Columbia, Md.: Have they announced the date-time of the home game against Columbus this weekend? I can't find any updates on the Post, DC United, MLS, or TicketMaster websites, and the phone at the DC United offices has been busy for two days!

    Steven Goff: Today's story in the Post (Page D2 and on the Web site) says that no date and time have been announced yet because DCU would prefer to stay on Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon. They PROMISED they would announce something today!


    Gaithersburg, MD: On paper, and in preseason predictions, we have the best defense in the league. However, they've only played like they were the best on a small number of occasions. What's the issue? Is is a personality or playing style issue? Coaching? Or are some or all of the defensemen just not as good -or not playing as good- as their reputations?

    Steven Goff: Good question!
    On paper, United has the best defensive lineup in the league. However, the unit has not played well together, as a team, for most of the season, causing many problems against good and not-so-good attacks. In defense of the defense, the injuries and national team commitments also have played a significant role in building chemistry.


    Fredericksburg, Va.: Any ideas on which player will be sent to Miami after the season to complete the Chris Albright deal?

    Steven Goff: When the trade was made in July, I wrote that, according to well-placed sources, Lassiter was being considered. At the moment, nothing else to report. Considering Lassiter's form the last few months, I don't know if Miami would want him.


    Washington, D.C.: Mr. Goff,

    From a current Eagle soccer writer to an ex-one -- fantastic job covering the United.

    How much longer do you see the single-entity system of Major League Soccer surviving - especially with the current antitrust allegations from the MLS Players Association?

    Steven Goff: I think we'll see a slow, gradual move away from single entity, but the foundation of that system will remain in place (unless the lawsuit changes everything). Perhaps teams will gain more control of their players and whom they would like to sign, etc.


    Adephi, Md: What is the current status of Diego Sonora and Roy Lassiter? Will they be in a D.C. United uniform next year? Also, there is some talks that Miami Fusion want Carey Talley in order to complete the Albright acquisition deal.

    Steven Goff: Talley is having a superb season and would seem to fit in nicely in Miami's back four instead of Kamler, who is better in an attacking midfield role.


    Washington: Steve, have there been any further noises regarding a new stadium for United? Is there a consensus of where such a stadium might be built, i.e., near RFK or closer to downtown?

    Steven Goff: Nothing but speculation at the moment, but once the new ownership group is in place, I'm sure we will hear more. Ideally, the city would like to build a medium-sized stadium next to RFK but that's a long, long way from occurring.


    Annapolis, Md.: Is it just me or is it a bit odd that - as currently scheduled - three of the first four DCU playoff matches are broadcast on Univision?

    What about the "more accessable" ESPN network?

    Steven Goff: One of the problems is Univision's MLS slot---1 p.m., which makes it impossible for a West Coast team to play a home game at that early time. ESPN would love to have DCU games---they have by far the biggest following in non-MLS cities---but the matchups haven't worked out yet.


    Washington, D.C.: I have grave concerns regarding the health of the league. The playoff attendance has been woeful, at best. In your opinion, will there be an MLS in five years?

    Steven Goff: It's all up to the major investors: Anschutz, Hunt, Kraft, Kluge/Subotnik, etc. Obviously, the league needs more deep-pocketed investors to grow and prosper.


    Laurel, Md.: Who represents a bigger threat from the Crew, John, McBride, or Cunningham? And why?

    Steven Goff: I think DCU is most concerned with John because he is a big-time scorer who doesn't miss many opportunities. United has been fortunate that teams have not taken full advantage of their defensive letdowns; Miami missed every clear scoring chance it had. If those chances arise again, John will make them pay.


    Fairfax, Va.: Refresh my memory -- have D.C. and Columbus met in EVERY Eastern Conference Finals in MLS history? Or does it just seem that way? And what chance does the Crew have for it next year with the probable loss of Stern John and is that possibly a motivating factor for them THIS year?

    Steven Goff: DC and Tampa Bay met in the conference finals in 1996, with United winning in two straight. Since then, it's been United-Crew every year. Could this be the year that Columbus finally breaks through?
    John will probably leave after this season, and I'm sure he'd like to beat United before his MLS career ends!


    Falls Church, VA: FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been making noise about a unified global schedule. How would MLS fit into this picture? As it is we conflict will all major summer tournaments. Could MLS survive with a fall-winter-spring schedule?

    Steven Goff: MLS will always have conflicts with the rest of the world because of its spring-summer-fall (winter??) schedule. I don't think we'll ever see MLS switch to a September-May schedule; too much else going on, and the weather would prevent NE, NY, Chi, Columbus (?) and Colorado from playing home games.


    Fairfax, Va.: What changes can Columbus make to better handle the DC Unted attack? DCU owned Columbus during the season -- will that change in the playoffs?

    Steven Goff: I'm not sure Columbus will do much differently. But DeBrito must have a strong presence in the middle of the field and slow United's attack.


    Arlington, Va.: First, let me say that you do a great job covering United. I follow the European leagues closely and I also enjoy watching United because they often play beautiful football.
    My questions are these:
    How are the negotions going between United and the city over the new lease? It seems to me that they are getting the short end of the stick and could conceivably be profitable if they made more money from parking-concessions.

    Do you think that the Miami, Dallas, KC franchises should be moved?

    Steven Goff: When the new ownership is in place, talks about a new lease will continue. I don't think it will be a major problem, and I'm sure DCU will get a better deal than the current one.
    As far as teams moving, Garber has said there are no plans for that to happen in the immediate future. Dallas should be okay, especially if the league finds an investor-operator for the Burn. The Wizards will remain in Kansas City until the Hunts pull the plug; it appears, however, there is little hope of things improving there. Miami has a nice little stadium, but needs a better team and improved marketing. By the way, I think the team will be renamed the FLORIDA FUSION during the offseason.


    Washington, D.C.: Big fan of your reporting here! I have a background question on the CONCACAF tournament in which United was playing in Vegas: how does it work? I know a Mexican team won the CONCACAF run-up, supposedly to play the likes of Manchester United & Juventus. However, I can't find anything more on how the rest of the tournament is shaking out. With a view to United's mastery in it next year, what's the status of the tournament now?
    Also: is there any chance that we could get washingtonpost.com to provide English translations of the newsprint Post's Spanish articles?

    Steven Goff: Necaxa won the CONCACAF tournament and earned a berth in the eight-team world championships in January. The draw for that event was held about two weeks ago...and Necaxa was placed in the same first-round group as Manchester United. Every team except the African representative has been determined. For complete pairings, I believe your best bet is by checking www.fifa.com Next year, the Champions Cup is expected to return to Vegas, but probably will take place in December rather than Sept-Oct.
    As for translation of the Post's Spanish stories into English, I haven't heard of any plans. Most of those stories are about the local ethnic leagues, and I haven't received many requests for translation.


    Calvert, Md.: What will DCU do to stop Stern John? Should they man-mark him with Pope -and man-mark McBride with Talley-or will they rely on their group defense? And what bout Aunger? Is he up to the task on Sunday?

    Steven Goff: John will be a handful, but United has done well against him in the past. I'm guessing, but you'll probably see Pope taking him on.
    Aunger has become a decent role player and is much more effective at defensive midfield than in the back. The pressure is on, but fortunately for Aunger, he won't have to confront a big-time playmaker such as Cienfuegos or Valderrama.


    Arlington, Va.: Thank god Lassiter's leaving. I know, I know, he's scored some goals, but when faced with a quality defense, he is a liability. I also was disappointed in United's performance in Las Vegas. Do you think it's a wake-up call for the MLS -- that it has become complacent? Can you tell me who was responsible for choosing that horrendous field in Vegas that didn't meet international size standards? What an embarassment!

    Steven Goff: Lassiter's departure is not assured, but it's looking that way. He has scored a lot of goals as usual, but has really struggled in the second half of the season.
    I don't believe MLS teams were complacent; just not good enough, and in United's case, unable to adapt to the narrow field dimensions. CONCACAF chose Vegas as the site; DC was a nice place, but the Mexican teams weren't happy about playing on someone else's home field with so much at stake. Get used to it: It seems Vegas is the place for the next few years.


    Fredericksburg, Va.: Can you explain the deal with Miami that brought Chris Albright to D.C. United? Do they get to choose who they get next year or does D.C. United decide who goes? I can part with Lassiter but I sure would hate to lose Talley.

    Steven Goff: The player to be named later was determined at the time of the trade. No one is saying who it is, although there is a lot of speculation. Also, when the trade was made, I wrote that Lassiter was being considered. Since then, I don't believe anything has changed. Both teams say an announcement will be made within days of either United's or MLS's season coming to an end. Stay tuned...


    Arlington, Va.: What effect do you think the MLS's failure to qualify for the World Club Championships have on the league? On the plus side, at least we won't have to see our boys ripped apart by Manchester United or Barcelona. On the negative, it would have been invaluable experience for the players, and if we at least played competently, we would have garnered some respect from the big clubs and leagues.

    Steven Goff: An MLS team in the world championships would have been invaluable, even if United or the Fire was thumped by one of the world powers. Just to get there, just to take the field alongside Beckham and Giggs and all the rest would have given MLS a huge boost in international exposure---not to mention the $1.5 million just for showing up.


    Waldorf, Md.: If the Redskins, Wizards, or Capitals even win, much less make the playoffs, they get more ink then DC United. I want to see more soccer. Not just D.C. but the rest of the league.

    Steven Goff: I wish I could do more. Those decisions are made by the sports editor, George Solomon, who reads and responds to all reader inquiries. The best way to contact him is via old-fashioned means---the mail.
    George Solomon
    Washington Post sports
    1150 15th Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20071
    P.S. Be nice!


    Falls Church, Va.: It seems apparent that United has really missed John Harkes and Tony Sanneh. The left side of midfield seems to be a weak link right now. Rongen has tried to mitigate this by occasionally switching Olsen and Maessner, but is this the solution?

    Steven Goff: United misses Harkes's work rate and experience, and Sanneh's defensive skills and presence on the attack. Olsen is a terrier, but Moore hasn't developed as quickly as the club had hoped. Maessner is an exciting player, but disappears at times. Albright needs time, and perhaps is best on the forward line. Perhaps Sonora's possible departure will allow United to pursue a foreign flank player.


    Annapolis, Md.: Who is D.C. United interested in filling the international player spot vacated by Diego Sonora? Would an El Salvadoran be a possibility in attempts to win back the fans who left when Raul Diaz Arce did?

    Steven Goff: Kevin Payne says that, at this time, the club does not have any interest in a Salvadoran player. That could change, though. He did say that, if Sonora leaves, the club would like to acquire another Latin American.


    Columbus, Ohio: There's a bunch of us from Ohio who are thinking about coming out for the first playoff game - when is the final decision going to be made about when the game takes place?

    Steven Goff: You should definitely make the trip!! Not a long drive, and flights from Columbus to Washington Dulles are not expensive. At the moment, I have not seen the official date and time for Game 1, but it's supposed to be announced shortly. Keep an eye on the MLS Web site www.mlsnet.com for updates, or call United at 703-478-6600. I'm guessing it's going to be some time on Sunday, maybe late in the day.


    Colesville, Md.: Re: your quote "other MLS folks who obviously are either bitter-jealous-upset at DCU and Payne."

    Why would this be? I'd argue that DCU has been one of the best things for MLS - as a DCU fan, I might even say as good as that other team that wears red and black was to the NBA. Why shouldn't we want a Saturday game? Isn't it better for everyone all the way around - attendence, etc.

    Steven Goff: I think people in MLS are upset because there is a perception that United always gets its way with the league. I'm not saying they do or don't, but that seems to be the perception.
    Yes, Saturday night makes sense in terms of attendance. But the league has this contract with Univision. Perhaps there will be a compromise of some sort. We'll find out soon.


    Tysons Corner, Va.: I loved Commissioner Garber's idea yesterday to end the season earlier. I love the NFL and the late MLS season is interfering with my enjoyment of both. Can you see the MLS running the season from February to Labor Day to avoid conflicts?

    Steven Goff: The problem with starting in February is that NE, Colo, Chicago and others wouldn't be able to play a home game for the first month or two. I think what will happen is the regular season will be cut back by a few games and end in early September. The playoffs might include a tighter schedule (weeknight games, perhaps) and the final would be much sooner than this year's silly November date.


    Alexandria, Va.: With D.C. United's lapses on defense, do you think they can still win the MLS championship? And do you think think it would be better for MLS, as a whole, if Los Angeles -- or someone else -- won?

    Steven Goff: After Chicago won last year, I don't think the league is as concerned about a DC dynasty. Certainly, LA is overdue to win the championship. If United is to win it again, its defense must tighen up and its attack must finish its scoring opportunities.


    Columbia, Md.: How long do you expect Ben Olsen to remain at D.C.? Why have we not heard about interest in him from foreign clubs?

    Steven Goff: There was some preliminary interest in Olsen during the summer, namely a couple of Mexican clubs. I think we'll see Olsen's value increase after the Olympic qualifying tournament next April (which, by the way, likely will take place in Miami or LA). If the US makes it to Sydney, I'm sure the scouts will be watching. At the moment, however, I haven't heard of any serious offers.

    That's it for this time. Thank you for all of your questions. Feel free to contact me directly at goffs@washpost.com :-)


    washingtonpost.com: Thanks to Steven Goff for taking time to be with us. The D.C. United begin the Eastern Conference finals this weekend.


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