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2 Foreigners Are Allocated to MetroStars

New York Times
July 7, 1999

The MetroStars have acquired two of the three foreign players due them from Major League Soccer.

Sasa Curcic of Yugoslavia, a playmaking midfielder who is familiar with Coach Bora Milutinovic, and Mohammad Khakpour, a defender who played for Iran in the 1998 World Cup, were signed by the league Tuesday and allocated to the MetroStars.

Both players have performed frequently for their respective national teams, but neither is the so-called marquee player the league and the MetroStars have been seeking to improve the team significantly and provide a boost to attendance at Giants Stadium.

Doug Logan, commissioner of the league, and Charlie Stillitano, general manager of the MetroStars, said yesterday after announcing the signing of Curcic and Khakpour that a big-name foreign player would be acquired soon.

They would not say when that player would arrive, but Logan said he was "a player known to all who cover the sport." Logan also disclosed that he is an attacker, something the MetroStars have needed desperately all season.

"Sasa could develop into a marquee player in the league," Stillitano said of the 27-year-old Curcic, who has played for three teams in England in the last four years after leaving Partizan Belgrade in 1995. "He's got great technical ability and Bora feels he can be the central figure in our attacking scheme."

Stillitano said he expected Khakpour, 30, to "bring the stability we need in our defense."

Ivan Gazidis, the M.L.S. executive vice president in charge of signing all players for the single-entity league, refused to say whether it paid any transfer fee for Curcic or Khakpour and did not disclose how much each would earn. He said they were signed to multiyear contracts.

Curcic started his English career in 1995 with Bolton and was transferred to Aston Villa in 1996 for about $5 million. But when he went to Crystal Palace in 1998, his transfer fee was $1.3 million. Curcic is a talented but temperamental player, having argued with Brian Little, his coach at Aston Villa.

Speaking by telephone from his home in Belgrade yesterday, Curcic denied that a dispute with Little had led to his transfer to Crystal Palace.

Khakpour was the central figure on defense when Iran defeated the United States in the World Cup in France and was one of five Iranian players to play every minute in the World Cup. He has appeared 43 times for his national team.

Stillitano said he expected the two new acquisitions to play in the team's next home game, July 24 against Miami, following completion of immigration procedures.


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