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Americans Heading Abroad : Soccer: U.S. World Cup players are having mixed luck finding jobs with foreign club teams.

August 16, 1994|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

His case illustrates the importance of the U.S. players who had gone before. If American players do well, they often put in a good word for their countrymen. The other teams courting Lalas had American connections. Coventry City in the English Premier League already had American forward Roy Wegerle, and VfL Bochum in the German Bundesliga signed Wynalda before the World Cup.

Although neither team got Lalas, Coventry did sign his teammate, Jones. Moore went to Wynalda's former Bundesliga team, Saarbrucken. Reyna was signed by Bayer Leverkusen, Thomas Dooley's new German team. Friedel was signed by Newcastle United, which has no other American players but was no doubt encouraged by the success of two other American goalkeepers in England--Kasey Keller at Millwall and Jurgen Sommer at Luton Town.

Thanks to the success of these Americans abroad, American soccer officials and players are no longer traveling hat in hand, Nuttall said, especially after this World Cup.

"We had more people soliciting us than us soliciting them," he said. "You can thank Harkes, Ramos and Wynalda for the efforts they put in as pioneers to give credibility for American players. They stuck it out and showed that Americans can play."

Even so, an American on a European soccer team is still a rarity. And, if American players are seen as inexpensive raw talent, so are Africans, who are flocking to European teams.

"Before, there were three or four (Americans at top-level clubs abroad) and now there are six or eight," Sorber said. "Slowly but surely we are chiseling our way in. The more successful these guys are, the easier it will be for the younger guys. There are so many players in the world and so few jobs."

The Next Step

What members of the U.S. World Cup soccer team are doing. Player: Marcelo Balboa

Team/Affiliation: USSF

Comment: Interest from teams in Mexican League and Europe

*

Player: Mike Burns

Team/Affiliation: USSF

Comment: Recovering at home from arthroscopic surgery

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Player: Paul Caligiuri

Team/Affiliation: USSF

Comment: Entertaining offers. Appearing in shampoo commercials. Interested in proposed Major League Soccer.

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Player: Fernando Clavijo

Team/Affiliation: Retired

Comment: Oldest member of team will have no trouble finding a coaching job

*

Player: Thomas Dooley

Team/Affiliation: Bayer Leverkusen, German Second Division

Comment: New club but looking to end career in the U.S.

*

Player: Brad Friedel

Team/Affiliation: Newcastle United, English Premier League

Comment: Work permit problems not sorted out

*

Player: John Harkes

Team/Affiliation: Derby County, English First Division

Comment: Returns to steady career

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Player: Cobi Jones

Team/Affiliation: Coventry City, English Premier League

Comment: Just signed, thanks to strong recommendation from Roy Wegerle

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Player: Frank Klopas

Team/Affiliation: Free agent

Comment: At home in Chicago, entertaining offers from Europe. Would like to play in MLS

*

Player: Cle Kooiman

Team/Affiliation: Morelia, Mexican First Division

Comment: With new team after playing one game in Cup

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Player: Alexi Lalas

Team/Affiliation: Padova, Italian first division

Comment: On loan. Will be tested in the world's most competitive league

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Player: Mike Lapper

Team/Affiliation: USSF

Comment: Had no World Cup playing time. Expected to sign with the L.A. Salsa

*

Player: Tony Meola

Team/Affiliation: New York Jets, NFL

Comment: Traded the pressure of soccer for the pressure of the NFL

*

Player: Joe-Max Moore

Team/Affiliation: FC Saarbrucken, German Second Division

Comment: Wynalda's recommendation landed Moore a job. On loan

*

Player: Hugo Perez

Team/Affiliation: USSF

Comment: Considering offers from Japan and Mexico as well as APSL

*

Player: Tab Ramos

Team/Affiliation: Real Betis, Spanish First Division

Comment: Recovering from skull fracture suffered in World Cup play. Team newly promoted

*

Player: Claudio Reyna

Team/Affiliation: Bayer Leverkusen, German Bundesliga

Comment: Embarks on a much-awaited professional career

*

Player: Jurgen Sommer

Team/Affiliation: Luton Town, English First Division

Comment: Gained experience on World Cup bench

*

Player: Mike Sorber

Team/Affiliation: USSF

Comment: Stock fell after early interest from Germany. Going back to school in St. Louis

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Player: Ernie Stewart

Team/Affiliation: Willem II, Dutch First Division

Comment: Returns to longtime club after a frustrating World Cup

*

Player: Roy Wegerle

Team/Affiliation: Coventry City, English Premier League

Comment: Three knee operations might have taken their toll

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Player: Eric Wynalda

Team/Affiliation: VfL Bochum, German Bundesliga

Comment: Hopes excellent club season will continue with a new team

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