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Eastern Conference Championship

MVP Guevara shines in All-Star show

MetroStars midfielder Amado Guevara played a part in all three Eastern Conference goals Saturday, earning Honda MVP honors as he scored twice and set up the other to lead the Eastern Conference to a 3-2 victory in the 2004 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game.

The Honduran playmaker opened his All-Star debut with a well-taken goal 20 minutes in, receiving a pass from Chicago's Damani Ralph at the top of the 18-yard box before turning and rifling a low shot past West goalkeeper Pat Onstad.

"It was good, it gave us the advantage at 1-0," said Guevara after the game, speaking through a translator. "That's the reason they brought us."

Just two minutes later, D.C. United midfielder Dema Kovalenko, playing hard on his home field, was fouled by Dallas' Ronnie O'Brien in the box. Guevara stepped up and stroked the penalty into the right corner of Onstad's goal.

"All my teammates had the confidence in me, letting me take it," said Guevara, "and we got it."

Guevara, who is five-for-five in penalty kicks in league play this season, revealed that he always prefers the right side when taking penalties.

"Yes, that's the way I feel comfortable, and it is working for me," he said.

Played before a vocal crowd at RFK Stadium, the ninth edition of the All-Star Game featured an end-to-end first half before stifling heat took its toll. With field-level temperatures approaching 90 degrees in high humidity, the game settled into a slower rhythm that did not lend itself to the typical offensive fireworks.

"It was beautiful, as always it was a party in which all the players want to participate and we are only a few lucky ones who are able to make it," said Guevara. "It was our day today, I think we did well and enjoyed ourselves in spite of the climate, which was hot, but I think we're all happy with the result."

After netting the two goals in a three-minute span in the first half, Guevara helped cap off the East's scoring in the second half when his final pass after a nifty combination in close quarters outside the area sent in Alecko Eskandarian, who hit for their third goal.

"It felt great, awesome," said Eskandarian. "Playing with a guy like Guevara is fun for a forward because he gives you such pretty passes."

Guevara's award marked the third successive year the All-Star Game MVP award went to a Latin American international. Last year, Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz (Los Angeles Galaxy) was given the honor; two years ago it went to then-D.C. United midfielder Marco Etcheverry (Bolivia).

"I'm really happy we took advantage of the opportunity we had," Guevara said. "We came to have fun but also taking our job seriously."

"I think he's a great player, and I think [MetroStars coach] Bob's [Bradley] done a great job with him in New York. When he first came I think he was a little lax defensively and he kind of just hung out but now he works and he's always in the game and he's linking up and he's connecting and he almost always makes the right decision," San Jose Earthquakes and U.S. international Landon Donovan said. "I'm glad we're not playing against him in qualifying, I can tell you that."

Eastern Conference coach Peter Nowak saw his All-Star MVP as the kind of player who could bring the piece that he's been searching for in putting D.C. United among the league's elite.

"I would love to have this kind of player on my team. Maybe we're going to talk after the game. I don't know about that. I really enjoy to work with him and to watch him," Nowak said. "You know, every single pass makes sense. I love this kind of player."

For MetroStars teammate Eddie Pope, Guevara's performance was almost nothing new.

"Amado played really well today," Pope said. "He's a great player, great on the ball. His vision is incredible. I think more than anything he's very calm on the ball, so he can kind of calm down a game that's going too fast or speed up one that's going too slow if he needs to. And that's what a team needs, sort of a quarterback on the field.

"You can see that he's always a step ahead of other defenders, so he always has time to make wise decisions, and that's part of being a great player."

Charles Boehm 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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