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Lassiter's Once-Striking Game Has Gone to Dogs

November 18, 1998|GRAHAME L. JONES

It will not have failed to register with Bruce Arena that Roy "Dawg" Lassiter has failed him twice within the space of eight days and three times in as many games.

The first failure occurred a couple of Fridays ago in San Jose, where Arena was making his debut as U.S. national team coach in what was otherwise a relatively meaningless game against Australia.

Lassiter, whose 65 regular-season and playoff goals make him the top scorer in Major League Soccer's three-year existence, was given the starting nod by Arena and made, well, a "dawg's" breakfast of it.

He had a clear scoring opportunity as early as the third minute, going one on one against Australian goalkeeper Jason Petkovic. But he reacted slower than Petkovic, who rushed out and blocked his shot.

Lassiter, 29, had a chance to redeem himself in the 60th minute when he intercepted an errant back pass intended for Petkovic. But this time D.C. United's frustratingly inconsistent striker lifted the ball over the crossbar.

The game ended 0-0, with the moral victory going to the Australians, who fielded a young team, were playing on the road and yet performed better than the U.S. in many aspects of the game.

Lassiter made his second miscue Saturday night, in front of D.C. United's own fans at RFK Stadium.

This time the international opponent was Brazilian, specifically South American champion Vasco da Gama, and the game was the first leg of the InterAmerican Cup final. The second leg is on Dec. 5.

Lassiter had an uncontested shot in front of the net from only 10 yards in the first half but got no power on it and the effort was easily saved. D.C. United, with Arena in his next-to-last game in charge, ultimately paid the penalty.

In the 69th minute, Vasco da Gama's Felipe showed how it should be done. The 21-year-old rifled in a superb left-footed shot from 25 yards that gave the Brazilian club a 1-0 victory.

Consider, too, Lassiter's subpar performance at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 25, when he was shut out by goalkeeper Zach Thornton and the rest of the Chicago Fire in the MLS championship game, and it becomes easier to understand why Steve Sampson left him off his France '98 roster.

Lassiter has played 25 games for the national team but has scored only six goals for the U.S. If he is to be the team's main scoring threat, he will soon have to begin showing much more than he has in the his recent outings.

His speed and finishing skills are good enough to dominate MLS but they have fallen short, so far, at the international level.

His other nickname is "Lights Out" Lassiter, but it soon might become "Left Out."


The American squad that was called in by Arena for the Australia game was a mixed batch of veterans and newcomers, not so much a team as a gathering of hopefuls.

But if recent history holds any lessons, none of the players in the starting lineup should put too much faith in being around at the finish.

Bora Milutinovic's first game in charge of the U.S. resulted in a 1-0 victory over Uruguay in Denver on May 5, 1991. Of the starting 11 that afternoon, only four players were on Milutinovic's 1994 World Cup team--Tony Meola, Marcelo Balboa, Fernando Clavijo and Eric Wynalda.

Sampson's first game in charge resulted in a 1-0 loss to Belgium in Brussels on April 22, 1995. Of the starting 11 that day, only six were on his 1998 World Cup team--Brad Friedel, Jeff Agoos, Cobi Jones, Mike Burns, Ernie Stewart and Wynalda.

Had Wynalda not had such a poor MLS season for the San Jose Clash, he might have played in the game at Spartan Stadium and become the only player to have played in the debut game of all three coaches.

Only about 50% of the debut-game starters go on to make the World Cup team four years later. With that in mind, here was Arena's first staring lineup: Thornton, Agoos, Carlos Llamosa, Eddie Pope, Richie Williams, Eddie Lewis, Clint Mathis, Joe-Max Moore, Jones, Lassiter and Brian McBride.

It's anyone's guess which of them will be on Arena's squad in 2002, assuming, that is, that the U.S. qualifies for Japan-South Korea World Cup.


The San Jose Clash, augmented by four "guest stars," will play Mexican League champion Deportivo Toluca tonight at 7:30 at Spartan Stadium. Galaxy winger Jones and midfielder Clint Mathis are two of four players called in from other MLS clubs to strengthen the Clash for the game, joining Miami Fusion defender Leo Cullen and NY/NJ MetroStars defender Mike Petke. San Jose Coach Brian Quinn has only nine of his Clash players available for the game because of injuries, Project-40 commitments and the recent waiving of eight players. Coach Enrique Meza's Toluca team is 9-1-5 and was unbeaten in 14 consecutive games.

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