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Combine Features Prospects

Times Staff Writer

Major League Soccer, gearing up for its ninth season, will hold a three-day player combine Sunday through Tuesday in Carson to give coaches a look at 61 players, many of whom probably will be selected in the 2004 MLS Draft next Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

The 61 players have been divided into four teams that will play a series of round-robin doubleheaders at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at the Home Depot Center.

College coaches Mark Berson of South Carolina, Sasho Cirovski of Maryland, Tom Fitzgerald of the University of Tampa and Ray Reid of Connecticut will be in charge of the teams for the six matches, all of which are open to the public.

Seven players from local universities are among the 61 prospects. They are: goalkeeper Zach Wells (UCLA); defenders Leonard Griffin (UCLA) and Edwin Miranda (Cal State Northridge); midfielders Victor Guerrero (Cal State Dominguez Hills), Ty Maurin (UCLA) and Adolfo Gregorio (UCLA); and forward Matt Taylor (UCLA).

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Project 40

Eight young players, including the 16-year-old son of New York/New Jersey MetroStars Coach Bob Bradley, have been selected as MLS Project 40 signings for the 2004 season.

The eight include five players from the United States under-20 national team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates last month.

They are goalkeeper Steve Cronin and defender Ryan Cochrane, both of whom are leaving Santa Clara after their junior season to join MLS; midfielder Ned Grabavoy of NCAA champion Indiana, who is forgoing his senior season; defender Chad Marshall of Riverside, who will leave Stanford after his sophomore season to join the league; and forward Clint Dempsey, who leaves Furman University after his sophomore year.

Also new to Project 40 and giving up their senior seasons are Maryland defender Clarence Goodson and Cincinnati midfielder Josh Gardner. Bradley’s son, Michael, a forward, is a member of the U.S. under-17 national team and has been in its residency program in Bradenton, Fla.

All eight players will be in the MLS draft on Friday.

Bocanegra’s Move

Fulham Coach Chris Coleman explained why he chose to pursue former UCLA and current U.S. national team defender Carlos Bocanegra, who will undergo a physical in London on Sunday before signing with the English Premier League team.

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“It should be done and dusted on Monday,” Coleman said. “He’s a left-footed center-back who can also play at left-back.

“His contract [with the Chicago Fire] was up, so there was no fee. We were lucky to get him first because quite a few clubs were interested in him. He joined us in December for training for one week and we decided we liked him.”

Quick Passes

First-half goals by Uzziel Lozano and Miguel Angel Zepeda earned Toluca (2-0) a 2-1 victory over Guadalajara (0-2) as the eight-team Interliga tournament continued at Reliant Stadium in Houston Friday night. Adolfo Bautista scored late in the match for the Chivas.

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In an earlier game, Morelia (1-0-1) edged Santos Laguna (1-1), 3-2, with Omar Trujillo, Damian Alvarez and Carlos Pavon scoring for the winners, and Matias Vuoso and Jared Borgetti getting Santos Laguna’s goals.

Guatemala’s club and national teams have been banned from international competition by FIFA, which extended a CONCACAF ban imposed after Guatemala’s government ousted Jose Mauricio Caballeros as soccer federation president during a corruption investigation involving missing funds.

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Times wire services contributed to this report.

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