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Monday, June 7, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Annicchero Aiming To Prove Himself Again

Special To The Seattle Times

Sunshine and soccer for a month in Mexico? Or dry lectures about the law of diminishing marginal utility? Hmmmm.

It actually did turn out to be a tough choice for young Jason Annicchero, a senior at California's Santa Clara University in 1997.

Major League Soccer's San Jose Clash had invited its top draft pick to come on a month-long south-of-the-border swing. It went without him.

Instead, he got a college diploma and a bachelor's degree in business.

But on nights like tonight, when the Major League Soccer team visits Seattle for an exhibition match, Annicchero wonders about the wisdom of his decision.

When his Sounders meet the Clash in a 7:35 p.m. A-League/MLS challenge at Renton Memorial Stadium, the defender will, almost involuntarily, slip back into tryout mode. His one season with the California Jaguars and nearly one and a half with the Sounders only tell him he's eager to take the next step.

"I'm sure it'll feel like a tryout again. You know the coach is watching you. You want to show your best," Annicchero said.

"That's another reason we wanted to make the U.S. Open Cup," he said, referring to the prestigious tournament the Sounders qualified for with their May 29 victory over San Francisco. "We want to win the Cup, but we wanted to make it also because it's an opportunity for a lot of coaches to see what you can do."

Annicchero impressed the Clash before, but he became an unintended casualty when the team changed coaches.

Laurie Calloway, San Jose's coach at the time, had suggested if Annicchero looked promising on the Mexico trip, he could spend the season with the Jaguars, the team's A-League affiliate. That could be a springboard to Major League Soccer.

"I went to my professors and asked if I could keep up with my work if I took a month off of school. They were hesitant (to endorse the idea)," Annicchero recalled.

Going with the Clash would have meant dropping out of school and losing the scholarship that he said "was paying 99 percent of the bill" to attend a $24,000-a-year university.

"I don't waste too much energy thinking about it, but I sort of look back on that and want to kick myself," he said. "But I wanted to stay in school. Whatever is meant to be is meant to be."

He said the last time he played before current Clash Coach Brian Quinn was "for the Jaguars in a similar type of game."

Annicchero hopes they recognize what quality of athlete passes up sunny Mexico and a heady opportunity to finish his education and take his chances on making a big splash in the rainy Pacific Northwest.

Notes

-- Soccer fans hoping to see U.S. National team star Eric Wynalda tonight are out of luck on two counts. First, Wynalda is recovering from ACL surgery to his left knee and is sidelined until September. And second, he was sent to the NY/NJ Metro- Stars June 1 to complete San Jose's January deal that brought in Raul Diaz Arce. The MetroStars then traded Wynalda to the Miami Fusion.

-- Esmundo Rodriguez, who was on loan to the Sounders for a short time in 1997, is on the San Jose roster but has been playing as part of the Project 40 development program. However, he won't play tonight because he is recovering from knee surgery. ------------------------------- SOUNDERS VS. SAN JOSE

What: A-League/Major League Soccer exhibition match When: 7:35 tonight Where: Renton Memorial Stadium Radio: None San Jose players to watch: Forward Raul Diaz Arce, the all-time leading scorer in MLS history; Forward Ronald Cerritos, San Jose's all-time leading scorer and Diaz Arce's teammate on the El Salvadoran national team. Notes: The Sounders lost to the Colorado Rapids 4-1 last year at Marysville in their last exhibition match against an MLS team.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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