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German Slight Irks Sampson
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 12, 1998; Page D1




SAINT-JEAN D'ARDIERES, France, June 11 — At this isolated, ivy-covered chateau at which the U.S. soccer team prepares for its World Cup opening match against Germany, the breezy tranquillity of the afternoon is interrupted only by chatty roosters and geese. Today, however, the silence was broken by bold statements from some U.S. players and Coach Steve Sampson.

Sampson chided Germany's coach, Berti Vogts, for failing to show respect to the U.S. team, shortly after team captain Thomas Dooley declared that the U.S. players are aiming for a victory over the three-time World Cup champion Germans — rather than a tie — in Monday's match in Paris.

Reclining at a garden table in a sun-drenched courtyard, Sampson revealed that Vogts had attended the United States' 2-0 loss to Belgium in Brussels on Feb. 25 — but left the stadium early.

Sampson took offense.

"When Berti Vogts walked out 20 minutes before the end of the Belgium match, that shows a lack of respect for the U.S. team," Sampson said. "When TV and radio commentators talk about how weak the [North/Central American and Caribbean] region is, that they don't expect the United States or Mexico or Jamaica to do anything in the World Cup, it's pretty clear they don't respect us."

Sampson might have included the head of his own national governing body in that group. U.S. Soccer Federation President Alan Rothenberg recently said it would be a surprise if the United States merely tied Germany or Yugoslavia, the team's opponent June 25.

Dooley thinks differently.

"We have a goal: We would like to beat Germany," said the German-born Dooley, 37. "We have respect, a lot of respect, for Germany, but they are not untouchable. We beat the best team in the world [Brazil, 1-0, on Feb. 10 in Los Angeles, although it was a watered-down version of the Brazilian team]. It's time to beat the second-best team in the world."

Dooley also noted that the Germans still rely largely upon aging stars Lothar Matthaeus, 37; Juergen Klinsmann, 33; Thomas Helmer, 33; and Andreas Moller and Olaf Thon, both 31.

"Germany is not better than four years ago, but our team is better than four years ago," Dooley said. "The difference between the teams is not that big."

Seven U.S. players possess strong ties to Germany. Chad Deering, Brian McBride, Joe-Max Moore, David Regis, Claudio Reyna, Eric Wynalda and Dooley have played there professionally. Wynalda speaks German fluently. Dooley, the son of a U.S. Army veteran who married in Germany, was born and raised in Bechhofen and didn't receive his U.S. passport until 1992.

Perhaps buoyed by their first-hand experiences in the German system, the U.S. players seem exceedingly loose and confident.

"A lot of these players who have played in Germany are very excited about this World Cup," Sampson said. "They want to prove something. Do you think Chad Deering would like to make a statement in this World Cup? I think so."

Deering, Reyna and Regis all played for German First Division teams this past year. But unlike Reyna and Regis, who were starters, Deering was benched during the second half of the season at VfL Wolfsburg.

Dooley said his emotional ties to Germany are thin. He never played for the German national team and doesn't know the words to the German national anthem. He visits Germany about once a year. He said he has no desire to move back — he just wants to win.

Dooley credited the German soccer system's emphasis on discipline more than the players' talent as the reason the team is ranked No. 2 in the world by FIFA, the soccer's world governing body. This week, a number of U.S. players have remarked upon the remarkable organization under which the German athletes operate.

"They are not the best team in the world," Dooley said. "They are a little bit better than all of the other ones, between six and 15. But what they have is concentration."

Said Reyna, who played with Deering at VfL Wolfsburg: "It's odd at first. I had a coach last year. . . . who, it seemed like, when anyone laughed, he got very upset.

"In general, when you train, there's not as much life to it. It's very mundane out there. Sometimes it gets boring. But it's normal for them. . . . They all admit it: In Germany, everything is stress. . . . If they say board a bus at two o'clock and you are not on it, you will miss it. They don't wait for anyone."

Here at the Chateau de Pizay, the U.S. players have had plenty of time to ponder their first World Cup opponent, which the U.S. team hasn't played since it lost twice to the Germans in 1993.

"Deep down, I don't think they respect us at all," Preki Radosalvjevic said. "They still think we have a long way to go. That could be our chance."

Said Dooley: "If we tie against Germany or win against Germany, they will have no excuses. They cannot say it was just a friendly game."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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