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  • Friday, May 12, 2000

    Onstad ready to step up for Canada

    By NEIL DAVIDSON -- Canadian Press

     The soccer season is almost over in Scotland but it is just starting for Pat Onstad.
     
     The Canadian goalkeeper is finally ready to play after a campaign that has included everything but pestilence and a plague of locusts.
     
     First Onstad had to wait out an appeal for a work permit to play in Scotland. Then his conditioning from the North American game was found wanting by Dundee United manager Paul Sturrock. When he was finally ready, first-string keeper Alan Combe went on a tear.
     
     Then came knee surgery.
     
     The end result is that Onstad, now back training with the team, has yet to make his debut for the Scottish Premier League side.
     
     "It hasn't gone the way I planned, that's for sure," Onstad said Friday from Dundee.
     
     With the Scottish season ending later this month, Onstad has his eyes on a comeback with the Canadian national team. That's welcome news for coach Holger Osieck with Craig Forrest sidelined after a hernia operation.
     
     Osieck is facing the biggest matches of his tenure at the Canadian helm, a home-and-away series against either Barbados or Cuba that will determine whether Canada advances to the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region.
     
     Canada will open away from home on June 4 with the away leg scheduled for either June 11 or 18 in Winnipeg.
     
     Onstad, 33, made his mark last year with the national team, playing nine of 10 games for a 5-3-1 record. In 23 international appearances, he has nine shutouts and has proved to be a good shot-stopper and more than capable cover for Forrest.
     
     The six-foot-four, 220-pounder from Vancouver underwent surgery on his patella tendon of his left knee in late March. He has yet to play a game since coming back but expects to see action with his club under-21 side, which is allowed to start four overage players a game, possibly as early as Monday.
     
     While Osieck has also summoned Olympic team 'keepers Mike Franks and Lars Hirschfeld, Onstad says he will be ready to play in the World Cup qualifying games, plus friendlies on May 27 against Trinidad and Tobago in Toronto and May 30 against Honduras in Winnipeg.
     
     "I believe I'll be ready. I wouldn't come in (to camp) if I didn't think I would be ready," Onstad said. "If I didn't think I was 100 per cent or even close to that, there's no way I would have even bothered to come in and I would have told Holger that.
     
     "I'm confident it's going to be fine and so is my physio."
     
     If he is healthy, there is little doubt that Osieck will play Onstad. The Canadian coach is loyal to players who perform for him and Onstad hasn't failed him yet.
     
     Onstad takes some solace over his lack of playing time in Scotland from the fact that Combe, the incumbent who has kept him from playing, was named the club's player of the year.
     
     "For myself that made it a little easier to swallow but at the same time I'm a player that has a lot of pride and I want to play football."
     
     He should get that chance with Canada and given the season he's just experienced, he's more than motivated.
     
     Future for Pesch at Fulham?: Canadian forward Paul Peschisolido has been told he does not feature in the plans of new manager Jean Tigana at English First Division club Fulham, the London Evening Standard reported Friday.
     
     Tigana, former French international, has been given a blank cheque by millionaire owner Mohamed Fayed to lift the London team into the Premier League.
     
     A Fulham spokesman refused comment Friday on the report.
     
     Peschisolido, a small, speedy forward from Pickering, Ont., cost Fulham 1.2 million pounds ($3 million Cdn) when he was bought from West Bromwich Albion in October 1997. He previously played for Stoke City and Birmingham.
     
     The Canadian international had seven goals in 36 games this season to rank third in Fulham scoring. An earlier report linked him to Nottingham Forrest of the First Division.
     
     Notes: Defender-midfielder Jeff Clarke, the Canadian Olympic team captain, has signed on with the A-League Hampton Roads Mariners. He joins fellow Canadians Grant Needham, Carl Fletcher and Randy Samuel in Virginia Beach, Va. ... Colorado Rapids midfielder Seth Trembly will miss today's MLS game against the Miami Fusion so he can attend his high school prom. Trembly is 18. "He'll play a lifetime of soccer games, but there's only one senior prom," said an understanding Colorado coach Glenn (Mooch) Myernick. "But with all our injuries of late, I just hope when his date pins on his boutonniere, she doesn't stick him."



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