Albright replaces injured Hejduk on U.S. roster

When news broke Tuesday that Chris Albright had been left off the United States' World Cup roster, Galaxy teammate Alan Gordon tried to console Albright by saying he'd let him win their golf game that afternoon.

The text message was originally intended for Ned Grabavoy but instead made
it to Albright's cell phone.

Now, however, perhaps some champagne would be in order.

Albright was named to the World Cup roster Wednesday after replacing Frankie
Hejduk, who was ruled out because of injury.

"I deeply regret having to replace Frankie Hejduk on the roster. Frankie has been a great member of the national team program for many years. Unfortunately this last minute injury has forced us to make a change," said U.S. manager Bruce Arena. "I'm delighted to be able to offer Chris Albright an opportunity to be a member of our team. As the case with all of our alternates, they need to be prepared in case a situation like this occurs."

After learning of the news, Albright
said he was happy about making the team but would have preferred not to have
made it this way.

"To be honest, I would have rather originally been on the roster because
that would have meant that Frankie wouldn't have done his ACL. My heart goes
out to Frankie, being an experienced guy that I'm sure Bruce would have
wanted in the mix," Albright said. "Frankie is a good buddy of mine and he's
been doing it for a lot of years so obviously I feel for him and if that could
have been avoided for me to get there, then that would have been the way to
go."

Nevertheless, Albright joins the U.S. team likely as second on the depth
chart behind right back Steve Cherundolo. Albright's play has been superb of
late. Saturday, he struck a well-placed cross from the right side of the
field into the front of the goal mouth which Cobi Jones knocked into the
goal in the Galaxy's 3-2 win over Real Salt Lake. On April 8, Albright
scored on a well-struck header and helped the Galaxy to a 1-1 draw with the
Chicago Fire.

A former striker, Albright switched to right back prior to the 2004 season.
Since then, he has done well to make an impact both with the Galaxy as well
as the United States national team. Albright was a key factor in the
Galaxy's MLS Cup 2005 championship team and has been a regular on the U.S.
as well.

Albright said he felt honored at not only his own achievement but the work
others did to help him develop as a soccer player.

"It's an honor really to kind of pursue a childhood dream like the World
Cup," Albright said. "It's an honor to be part of a team with such talented
guys and experienced guys. It's a lot of years of hard work, starting when
my dad used to drive me to practice when I was a kid. There are a lot of
people that put into me being able to be successful at this point."

Wednesday morning, teammates and coaches tried to put a positive spin on
Albright's World Cup roster omission. Galaxy coach Steve Sampson said in
front of the entire team that he was proud of not only Albright, but left
back Todd Dunivant, who like Albright was named as a World Cup alternate.

Several teammates talked about how important it was to Albright and how
disappointed the team felt over Albright's plight. Before learning of
Albright's inclusion, Donovan said he felt Albright would have been a
sure-fire roster pick had he not picked up an injury prior to the United
States national team's January camp.

"This is everything he's worked for. You can't say he doesn't deserve to be
on the team," Donovan said. "I see him every day in training. I've seen how
much he's grown in six months. He unfortunately injured himself in January
and I think without that injury, he's a slam dunk shoo-in for the World
Cup."

Just hours later, though, Albright learned that he would accompany Donovan
to Germany. The entire situation, however, had not sunk in as of Wednesday
afternoon, Albright said.

"I still don't believe it, to be honest," Albright said. "It's been a 24-hour
whirlwind. I'm sure it will (sink in) at some point. Maybe it will be on the
flight to Cary, North Carolina. Maybe it will be on the flight to Germany."

Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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