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Mutiny trades Lassiter to D.C.

Desperate to turn around its 1-5 season, the Mutiny traded forward Roy Lassiter to D.C. United Monday for veteran forward Roy Wegerle. Wegerle is expected to join the Mutiny on Wednesday and start Thursday night against Columbus at Houlihan's Stadium.

The Mutiny replaces a struggling but dangerous player in Lassiter with an experienced and steady player in Wegerle. Lassiter, Major League Soccer's leading scorer in 1996 with 27 goals, had 10 goals in 1997. He has not scored in six games this year.

Lassiter recently was left off the U.S. national team, and his slow start may have cost him a spot on the final roster.

Wegerle, 32, is a 10-year veteran of the English League First Division and was allocated to the Colorado Rapids in MLS' inaugural season. He was traded to D.C. last season and helped the United win its second straight MLS Cup.

Wegerle, who played at South Florida in 1982-83 and with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1984, has eight goals and 11 assists in MLS play. He also is a member of the U.S. national team.

"At this point and time we have to make a change," Mutiny president and general Nick Sakiewicz said. "The bottom line is, Roy (Lassiter) has played six games and has no goals. Giving up on him is not an accurate way to put it, but how long do you wait? We need someone like Wegerle, who is a playmaker."

Lassiter signed a three-year contract prior to last season. He missed six games in 1997 with groin and hamstring problems. He has been healthy this year, but with midfielder Carlos Valderrama gone, Lassiter has struggled as the Mutiny's marquee player.

Lassiter said he wasn't surprised by the trade. The Mutiny has only five goals in six games.

"I know the Mutiny has been dying to get someone in here to help me," Lassiter said. "But the league is dragging its feet on getting a foreign player, so Nick had to do something right away. I understand that. I have the utmost respect for Nick and John (Kowalski, coach). I leave here knowing I gave 100 percent."

The Mutiny has tried for a month to sign a forward from Brazil but is awaiting league approval.

Wegerle, who lives in Tampa during the off-season, is no stranger to trades. He has played for 11 teams in 15 years. But he thought things were going well with the United.

"I didn't see this coming," Wegerle said. "I came back from Austria after playing for the U.S. national team, and (D.C. coach Bruce) Arena called me into his office and said it was probable that I'd be traded. When I heard it was Tampa Bay, it was something that I was interested in.

"This couldn't have worked out any better for me. I've always planned on ending my career back home."

Wegerle said he is not "an out-and-out goal scorer" like Lassiter.

"I think I have a few more dimensions in my game, which is not to take anything away from Roy. That's the kind of player he is," Wegerle said.

"I know the Mutiny are expecting me to score but also to show some leadership and experience. We need some results pretty desperately, and I'm going to do everything I can before I leave for World Cup to make sure we get some results."

Sakiewicz said he expects Wegerle to miss nine games due to World Cup commitments. That will increase if the United States reaches the second round.

But that doesn't bother Sakiewicz. If the Mutiny can't pull out a win in the next two games, it could be looking at a long season.

"I'm not going to sit around and watch the grass grow," Sakiewicz said. "If things continue like this, then we'll continue to make moves. We have to think about the fans. That's one of the main reasons for making this move. The fans deserve to see a better team."

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