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MLS SEASON PREVIEW

WESTERN CONFERENCE

GALAXY

Coach: Sigi Schmid (second year).

1999 league rank: Second.

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Regular-season record: 20-12.

Flown the coop: Carlos Hermosillo, DaMarcus Beasley.

Arrivals lounge: Sasha Victorine, Danny Califf, Peter Vagenas.

Prospects: Without the promised but not-yet delivered top-class striker, the Galaxy will find it difficult to improve on last season’s record. Schmid has added depth with three Southern Californians, but the forward line lacks bite. Still, the team is widely picked to be league champion.

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COLORADO RAPIDS

Coach: Glenn Myernick (fourth year).

1999 league rank: Sixth.

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Regular-season record: 20-12.

Flown the coop: Paul Bravo, Ian Feuer, Wolde Harris, Peter Vermes.

Arrivals lounge: Adin Brown, Jason Moore, Henry Zambrano.

Prospects: With nine of 20 players already injured, the Rapids come into their season-opener at the Rose Bowl on Saturday riding an astonishing 679-minute scoreless streak. The acquisition of Zambrano is supposed to help, but this could be a trying year for Myernick.

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KANSAS CITY WIZARDS

Coach: Bob Gansler (second year).

1999 league rank: 11th.

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Regular-season record: 8-24.

Flown the coop: No player of note.

Arrivals lounge: Miklos Molnar, Peter Vermes, Nick Garcia.

Prospects: Potentially much improved with the addition of Danish striker Molnar and defender Garcia from NCAA champion Indiana. For a change, Gansler has some depth, but the question, as always in Kansas City, is will the fans turn out?

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SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

Coach: Lothar Osiander (first year).

1999 league rank: Ninth.

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Regular-season record: 19-13.

Flown the coop: Alejandro Sequeira, Eddie Lewis.

Arrivals lounge: Khodadad Azizi, Abdul Thompson Conteh.

Prospects: A new name (remember the Clash?), a new coach and a sparkling addition in Iranian forward Azizi add up to better days for San Jose, which missed the playoffs the last three seasons. Azizi and Ronald Cerritos can change that, but the loss of Lewis is a big blow.

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CENTRAL CONFERENCE

CHICAGO FIRE

Coach: Bob Bradley (third year).

1999 league rank: Fifth.

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Regular-season record: 18-14.

Flown the coop: Roman Kosecki, Jerzy Podbrozny, Francis Okaroh.

Arrivals lounge: DaMarcus Beasley, Junior Agogo, Carlos Bocanegra, Hristo Stoichkov.

Prospects: Stoichkov’s signing will have a major impact on and off the field. If Beasley gets a chance, he will shine. Agogo, newly arrived from England, is a promising striker. The Fire should win the conference title, just ahead of the Dallas Burn.

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COLUMBUS CREW

Coach: Tom Fitzgerald (fifth year).

1999 league rank: Fourth.

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Regular-season record: 19-13.

Flown the coop: Stern John, Thomas Dooley, Andy Williams, Juergen Sommer.

Arrivals lounge: John Wilmar Perez, Dante Washington.

Prospects: Led the league in attendance (averaging 17,696) at its own stadium, but the loss of John, in particular, will hurt. More will be expected of U.S. national team forward Brian McBride. Two good acquisitions in Perez and Washington will help. Jeff Cunningham could blossom.

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DALLAS BURN

Coach: Dave Dir (fifth year).

1999 league rank: Third.

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Regular-season record: 19-13.

Flown the coop: Dante Washington, Jorge Rodriguez.

Arrivals lounge: Aleksey Korol.

Prospects: The Burn took the Galaxy to a third game in the conference finals last year but hasn’t strengthened its hand appreciably. Standout forward Ariel Graziani returns, as does league MVP and top scorer Jason Kreis, but defender Jorge Rodriguez might be lost for the season because of a contract holdout.

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TAMPA BAY MUTINY

Coach: Tim Hankinson (third year).

1999 league rank: Seventh.

Regular-season record: 14-18.

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Flown the coop: Mauricio Ramos, Jan Eriksson, Musa Shannon.

Arrivals lounge: Mamadou Diallo.

Prospects: The Mutiny still has Carlos Valderrama in midfield and Raul Diaz Arce up front, but unless it can pry Roy Lassiter, the league’s all-time scoring leader, away from Miami, it is going to struggle again. Right now, last place looms large because Hankinson has not upgraded his squad.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

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MIAMI FUSION

Coach: Ivo Wortmann (third year).

1999 league rank: Eighth.

Regular-season record: 13-19.

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Flown the coop: Edwin Gorter, Arley Palacios.

Arrivals lounge: Roy Lassiter, Andy Williams, Martin Machon, Francis Okaroh.

Prospects: Lassiter’s protracted holdout for a fatter contract has undermined the preseason. The arrival of Williams, Machon and Okaroh are significant pluses, but how Wortmann combines forwards Eric Wynalda, Welton, Diego Serna and, if he sticks around, Lassiter, will determine the Fusion’s fate.

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

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Coach: Fernando Clavijo (first year).

1999 league rank: 10th.

Regular-season record: 12-20.

Flown the coop: Joe-Max Moore, Walter Zenga, Giovanni Savarese.

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Arrivals lounge: Eduardo Hurtado, Mauricio Ramos, Wolde Harris, William Sunsing, Juergen Sommer.

Prospects: The Revolution has a new coach and five newcomers who could make the starting lineup. Whether that’s enough for the team to keep pace with league champion D.C. United is unlikely, but the three-way battle for second will be interesting.

N.Y./N.J. METROSTARS

Coach: Octavio Zambrano (first year).

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1999 league rank: 12th.

Regular-season record: 7-25.

Flown the coop: Eduardo Hurtado, Sasa Curcic, Mike Sorber, Mohammad Khakpour.

Arrivals lounge: Lothar Matthaeus, Adolfo Valencia, Thomas Dooley, Alex Comas, Steve Shak.

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Prospects: Former Galaxy coach Zambrano steps into the snake pit knowing that anything less than a winning season will send him through the revolving door. The focus will be on Matthaeus and Valencia, but unless Tab Ramos can provide the passes, the MetroStars will wilt.

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WASHINGTON D.C. UNITED

Coach: Thomas Rongen (second year).

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1999 league rank: First.

Regular-season record: 23-9.

Flown the coop: Roy Lassiter, Diego Sonora.

Arrivals lounge: Bobby Convey.

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Prospects: The consensus choice to win it all again, but the loss of virtually the entire starting 11 to either World Cup qualifying or Olympic duty could alter that rosy outlook. Still, Marco Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno and company are the team to beat and, as usual, it will not be easy. Just ask the Galaxy.


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