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  • Friday, June 2, 2000

    McKenna makes most of opportunity

    By NEIL DAVIDSON -- Canadian Press

     Calgary defender Kevin McKenna has wasted little time making his mark since catching national team coach Holger Osieck's eye at the Olympic qualifying tournament in April at Hershey, Pa.

     With Mark Watson out with an ankle injury and sweeper Tony Menezes suffering from a hamstring injury, McKenna was given starts in exhibition games against Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras.

     McKenna demonstrated he is a confident defender who isn't afraid to move up. He headed in the winning goal against Honduras and roamed up the field throughout the match against Trinidad and Tobago.

     If Menezes doesn't respond to treatment, McKenna could see action Sunday (CTV Sportsnet, 8 p.m. EDT on tape delay) against Cuba in Havana in the opening match of a home-and-away World Cup playoff. The return leg is June 11 in Winnipeg.

     Captain Jason deVos will definitely start in the three-man backline Sunday with Osieck's other options including Paul Fenwick, McKenna and Carl Fletcher if Menezes is unavailable.

     It's been an eventful season for McKenna, who plays for FC Energie Cottbus in Germany, a second division side that has just won promotion to the top flight of the Bundesliga.

     McKenna, who turned 20 in January, was out for most of the season but joined the first team squad upon his return from injury. He was on the bench for some four games as the campaign wound to a close, seeing action once.

     The six-foot-four, 175-pound defender had been hampered by a nerve problem in his back, which caused pain in his back, knee and hamstring.

     "It's doing all right," he said. "I still get pains but it was to the point where I couldn't train any more back then."

     Fellow Canadian Olympic team member Lars Hirschfeld also played at Cottbus this season, although the goalie is leaving the club.

     McKenna seems of two minds about the team that has been home to him for the last 31/2 years.

     Located southeast of Berlin and just 25 kilometres from the Polish border, Cottbus is "an all-right town."

     "It's small," McKenna said. "There's some really bad people there, but it's good enough for me. I want to play pro soccer and if I have no option, then I'll go there."

     Cottbus gave him a chance to play, but McKenna says the team all but ignored him when he was hurt.

     "When you're injured, they don't want anything to do with you. And then when you're fit, they'll talk to you all the time."

     His contract expired after last season but a new deal is on the table. McKenna will explore his options and return to Cottbus if necessary.



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