Van Eron wants to defend U.S. goal

Sandra McKee

March 11, 1992|By Sandra McKee

MSL notebook:

When the World Indoor Soccer Tournament rolls around Nov. 15-29 in Hong Kong, former Blast goalkeeper Keith Van Eron hopes he will be there.

"I never had a chance my whole career to play with our national [outdoor] soccer team," Van Eron said. "I'd love to be able to do this."

John Kulwalski, whom longtime MSL fans will remember from his days as coach of the defunct Pittsburgh Spirit, is the coach of the U.S. team, and he has asked Van Eron to try out.

Kulwalski plans to have a team of 15 to 20 players assembled by June, so the team can get some international competition.

Van Eron already has experienced a little of the international flavor of the game, when he took part in an 18-team tournament in Mexico last Christmas.

He was named the goalkeeper of the tournament, although his Post 38 team, coached by Kevin Healey, lost in the quarterfinals.

"The old man can still do it," said Van Eron, 36, laughing. "It really did feel great, playing in front of 6,000 fans, all of them yelling and spitting at you."

Obviously, goalkeeper heaven.

Van Eron retired from the Blast and the indoor game after the 1987-88 season. Since then, he has operated his own soccer business, coached youth teams in Cockeysville and continued to play regularly with several area adult teams.

Kulwalski will put his team together with the help of the MSL, which has agreed to provide the U.S. indoor team with one player per team, "the best player on each team," Kulwalski said.

"They said I could have them for the tournament in November and that I could have them at other times as well, as long as there was no conflict with the playoffs."

The rest of the squad will be made up of players from the National Professional Soccer League and free agents, such as Van Eron and Doc Lawson, formerly of the Dallas Sidekicks.

"I think we could have a good team by the time the tournament comes," said Van Eron. "I think a lot of, well, Americans always feel like we've been looked down upon in soccer."

But, now, with the women winning the world championship last year, and with the Blast and other MSL teams doing well in European tournaments, Van Eron says U.S. players are starting to open some eyes.

"I think this is a chance to stick it in some people's faces," he said. "I think it's important to go to this tournament with the idea of winning it."

* CLAVIJO'S BIG JOB: Defender Fernando Clavijo, who became the head coach of the St. Louis Storm on Monday, is taking a

realistic approach.

His team is 12-20 with eight games to play.

"So far, so good," he said yesterday. "We're not looking for anything dramatic. There was some tension here, and now I think there is less tension."

He said he wants to make practices and games enjoyable again, but he also wants to help his team play better.

"On paper, we are a talented team," Clavijo said. "But we are also a team of big-time egos. I'm very easygoing. I can deal with them. But what they have to think about and prove is that they are good enough to play here next year."

Clavijo has accepted this job for the rest of the season.

"They asked me to take it full time next season, too," he said. "But I couldn't commit to that, because of my involvement with the U.S. national team."

Clavijo was on his way to Spain with the U.S. team, when he received a call in the New York airport, demanding he return to St. Louis.

"To say I was surprised when I got back to learn I was the coach is an understatement," he said. "I have to think about next year. I have to talk to Bora [Milutinovic, U.S. national outdoor coach] as a friend, for advice. I enjoy the national team very much and I am very proud of it. I will make any sacrifice to be on the national team in 1994.

"But I must think about this and come up with an answer in the next month or two."

* SOCKERS' BLARNEY: Irish eyes must be smiling in San Diego. When the Sockers face St. Louis on Tuesday on St. Patrick's Day, the Sockers will be in green uniforms, not the usual blue and gold. A silent auction will be held that night for the uniforms to benefit the Ronald McDonald Children's Charity.

All fans also will get a poster of resident Irishman Brian Quinn, and if that's not enough good fortune, the team also is guaranteeing a victory. If they don't deliver, everyone in attendance will get a free ticket to the March 24 game against the Cleveland Crunch.

* ALL THE BEST: San Diego's Victor Nogueira, who went 8-2 with a 3.85 goals-against average in February, was named MSL Defensive Player of the Month. . . . St. Louis' Preki, who had 10 goals, 13 assists in nine February games, is the offensive winner.

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