Originally created 05/28/98

McBride can use his head again



FAIRFAX, Va. -- Brian McBride, one of three players fighting for the lone forward spot in the U.S. starting lineup, was cleared by doctors Wednesday to use his head in practice.

McBride, known for his ability to score goals with headers, sustained a concussion May 16 against Macedonia. He was kept out of Sunday's 2-0 victory over Kuwait because of headaches while attempting headers in practice the previous day.

"I had an MRI exam Tuesday, and they said everything is fine," McBride said. "I just have a little bruise in the back of my head. Besides that, there are no lingering effects."

The first time McBride touched the ball in Wednesday's practice came in a drill where the players were allowed to use only their heads. McBride had no problems then or throughout the two-hour workout at George Mason University.

Competing against Roy Wegerle and Eric Wynalda for the forward position in the team's 3-6-1 alignment, McBride said the "no-header" restriction prior to Wednesday wasn't helping his World Cup preparation.

"One of the hard things is getting your timing down, and a cross comes toward your head and you are supposed to duck," McBride said.

McBride and his teammates are preparing for Saturday's game against Scotland at RFK Stadium, the Americans' final game before leaving for France on June 4. U.S. coach Steve Sampson said his staff isn't pushing McBride.

"He can't have too much repetition of heading the ball," Sampson said. " We want to make sure he's ready for this weekend and most importantly for France,. We are training conservatively. We don't want to take any risks."

While most of the U.S. injuries are minor, the health of midfielder Frankie Hejduk remains questionable. Hejduk, out with a hamstring strain, did exercises Wednesday as the team trained. Sampson hasn't ruled out replacing him by the June 2 roster deadline if he doesn't heal

"It's disappointing, of course, that I haven't been able to take a look at Frankie," Sampson said. "If his injury doesn't progress between now and June 2, I might have to make a very difficult decision, and that's to bring in someone else in his place."

The U.S. team has struggled to put the ball in the net the last two games, and Sampson stressed finishing scoring opportunities. He worked a lot with the forwards, especially Wynalda, recovering from April 16 arthroscopic knee surgery.

"The last two days we were pushing him hard," Sampson said. "His effort the last two days has been better than what we saw in the game against Kuwait. The effort has to be better, and he has to become much more match fit. I'd say he's maybe 75 percent there."