Vaudreuil, United prospering together From Spirit to D.C., he's part of resurgence

July 03, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

HERNDON, Va. -- He was a little late, but David Vaudreuil finally is caught up in a good thing.

Vaudreuil was signed by Major League Soccer last fall and was on loan to the Spirit for the National Professional Soccer League winter indoor season. By the time the Spirit was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, Vaudreuil had missed the entire preseason of the MLS team that drafted him, the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"The L.A. roster was set, so they put me on waivers," Vaudreuil said.

At last the call came, in mid-May from D.C. United. D.C. United is prospering not only on the field, having risen to second place in the Eastern Conference with a 6-9 record, good for 16 points, behind the Tampa Bay Mutiny after an 0-4 start, but at the gate as well.

After six home games, D.C. United is averaging 17,272 at RFK Stadium, when its budget, like those of all MLS teams, was based on average attendance of 12,000. It ranks seventh in the 10-team league.

"We're doing pretty well, despite having four weekday games," said coach Bruce Arena. "Now that school is over and we have more weekend dates, we should draw even better."

Leaguewide average attendance is over 20,000, and Los Angeles is the leader with 40,576. The millionth fan went through the turnstile in the league's 49th game, 35 games sooner than expected.

With its maiden season half over, MLS is exceeding its expectations in other categories, too. TV ratings are up and major sponsors keep signing up.

Vaudreuil is delighted to be in the middle of all this. He got precious little time to make the transition from indoor to outdoor soccer, after being called on a Wednesday, flying the next day to Dallas to join the team and dressing for the Friday game.

"Going from indoor to outdoor is the hardest, but I've done it four or five times and I'm used to it," Vaudreuil said. "Getting those first two games under your belt is the key, playing 80, 90 minutes. One of my first two was in the thin air of Mile High Stadium in Denver."

A defender, Vaudreuil has started the past four games. As he points out, he has "made the most" of his opportunity.

"He's getting better every week," Arena said.

The team is, too, despite a lack of stability at times. Three so-called stars were released, replaced by workmanlike players such as Vaudreuil. Now Clint Peay (Oakland Mills) and Eddie Pope are gone until they complete their term with the U.S. Olympic team. Their absence, Arena concedes, "will hurt us."

Vaudreuil brings something to D.C. United that no one else on the team can -- a fluency in Spanish. Without Vaudreuil to translate, Arena wouldn't be able to communicate with Marco Etcheverry and Juan Berthy Suarez of Bolivia, Mario Gori of Argentina and Raul Diaz Arce of El Salvador, who speak little English.

"I have Mexican relatives and played one year in Mexico," Vaudreuil said. "That's not why the team signed me, to translate, but it is a need I fulfill."

Vaudreuil isn't sure if he'll play for the Spirit next season. The MLS season runs into October, after which teams will make two or three long trips abroad. That will leave little time for indoor play.

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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