On the eve of the MLS All-Star Game, D.C. United acquired University of Virginia all-American Chris Albright from the Miami Fusion, United President and General Manager Kevin Payne said late last night.
United gave the Fusion a first-round pick in next year's college draft, which originally belonged to the New England Revolution. The teams also are expected to exchange future considerations, and although Payne wouldn't specify them, sources said D.C. probably would send midfielder Brian Kamler to Miami for former United midfielder John Maessner.
United will introduce Albright, 20, prior to today's All-Star Game in San Diego.
Albright, a forward who had two years of college eligibility remaining, signed with MLS this week and was allocated by the league to Miami yesterday.
Kamler, 27, is a versatile left-side midfielder, but is expendable because United also has left-footed rookie Jason Moore. Maessner, 30, played two seasons for United before going to Miami in the 1998 expansion draft. Like Albright, Maessner played at Virginia.
"One of the things that excites us about Chris is that each time we've seen him play, he's been better than before," Payne said. "We think he has a great future."
Meantime, MLS is preparing for today's All-Star Game. The league could have saved itself a lot of money and hassle by moving the match from Qualcomm Stadium to RFK Stadium. Half of the Eastern Conference's 20 players, including seven starters, are members of United. The Eastern Conference coach is from United. The assistant coach is from United. One other Eastern starter and a Western Conference starter used to play for United.
"We're all here, aren't we?" United Coach Thomas Rongen said. "It's going to be a lot of fun. A lot of familiar faces."
Even some minor misfortune has worked to United's advantage. The New York/New Jersey MetroStars' Tab Ramos, who has played in only four games because of a leg injury, backed out of a starting spot, so Rongen chose the next highest vote-getter in the fan balloting for midfielders: D.C.'s Richie Williams. United forward Roy Lassiter has a minor groin injury, and if he can't play, teammate Jaime Moreno is next on the list.
Despite his best intentions, Rongen hasn't been able to escape complaints about the Eastern squad's composition. When determining his nine reserves last week, Rongen said he simply turned to the final fan balloting and chose the top runners-up at each position.
"You can't please everybody," he said. "At least I was consistent."
United defender Eddie Pope's status was uncertain until a few days ago. He had to decline a recent invitation to U.S. national team training camp because of an injured knee, but surprised some observers by saying he was well enough to play in the All-Star Game.
As it turned out, Pope, Rongen and U.S. Coach Bruce Arena agreed that Pope wasn't nearly fit enough for the rigors of international soccer at the Confederations Cup in Mexico, which will start for the Americans next Saturday against New Zealand in Guadalajara. But a light-hearted all-star game? No problem.
"There's a big difference in an MLS all-star game and playing against Brazil or Germany," Arena said of the prospects of Pope playing against the U.S. team's other first-round opponents. "I could play in an all-star game. He's just not ready to play international soccer."
Rongen will be glad to see Pope playing today. "He needed some game action," Rongen said, "before he returns for us" next Saturday at New England.
Rongen will get a quick look at United captain Marco Etcheverry, MLS's top vote-getter who is taking a brief leave from Bolivian national team duty to appear in San Diego.
MLS All-Star Game
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego.
When: 3:45 p.m.
TV: WJLA-7, WMAR-2.
Eastern Conference Western Conference
Starters: GK Tom Presthus, United; Ds Thomas Dooley, Columbus, Eddie Pope and Jeff Agoos, United; MFs Richie Williams, Marco Etcheverry and Ben Olsen, United, John Harkes, New England, Carlos Valderrama, Tampa Bay; Fs Brian McBride, Columbus, Roy Lassiter, United.
Reserves: GK Walter Zenga, New England; Ds Carlos Llamosa and Diego Sonora, United, Leo Cullen, Miami; MFs Brian Maisonneuve and Robert Warzycha, Columbus, Mark Chung, New York/New Jersey; Fs Joe-Max Moore, New England, Jaime Moreno, United, Stern John, Columbus.
Injured: MF Tab Ramos, New York/New Jersey (leg).
Coach: Thomas Rongen, United
Starters: GK Zach Thornton, Chicago; Ds Alexi Lalas, Kansas City, Lubos Kubik, Chicago, Marcelo Balboa, Colorado; MFs Chris Armas and Peter Nowak, Chicago, Eddie Lewis, San Jose, Preki Radosavljevic, Kansas City, Cobi Jones, Los Angeles; Fs Roman Kosecki, Chicago, Raul Diaz Arce, San Jose.
Reserves: GK Matt Jordan, Dallas; Ds Mauricio Wright, San Jose, Robin Fraser, Los Angeles; MFs Ross Paule and Paul Bravo, Colorado, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Los Angeles, Jason Kreis, Dallas; Fs Ronald Cerritos, San Jose, Carlos Hermosillo, Los Angeles.
Coach: Glenn Myernick, Colorado.