Lapper and McBride team up

The U.S. duo of Mike Lapper and Brian McBride is contributing to VfL Wolfsburg's best season in history.

It was well below freezing, but Wolfsburg players didn't seem to mind. They took off their shirts and threw them into crowd and joined hands and took a bow.

Later they danced half naked through hallways singing, "Oh, wie ist das schoen" (Oh, how nice it is).

The German Second Division leader had won passage into the German Cup semifinals with a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich's reserve team on March 7. Former St. Louis star Brian McBride scored the equalizer, while Mike Lapper, the former UCLA standout and a member of the 1994 World Cup U.S. roster, helped the defense.

Wolfsburg -- which is eyeing its first-ever promotion to the First Division --
had never even reached the German Cup quarterfinals. ``Man it feels great,'' Lapper said. ``That's the opportunity that both Brian and I were looking for --
in fact, what the whole team was looking for."

McBride said, ``You can see the guys going crazy, 'Wir fahren nach Berlin!'" ['We're going to Berlin!']"

But Wolfsburg isn't sure of a trip to Berlin, site of the cup final, yet. First, it's off to FC Cologne for a semifinal clash with Cologne, currently in 13th place in the First Division.

Bayern Munich's amateur reserve team was trying to duplicate the 1993 feat of Hertha Berlin, whose amateur club reached the final. The Bayern amateurs' victims included First Division clubs VfB Stuttgart and Werder Bremen.

"It's such a big deal," McBride said. "I mean, there's been a lot of good experiences for me, a lot of big experiences, but this is huge.''

McBride, who scored a school record 72 goals at St. Louis and has made one U.S. national team appearance, does admit he was getting discouraged about a lack of playing time. Before the cup quarterfinal he received some words of wisdom in a telephone call with Joe Clarke, his coach at SLU.

"He said that some odd things were going to happen," McBride said, "and to keeping working hard so I can take advantage of opportunties when they present themselves."

After a scoreless first half, the Bayern team scored in the 60th minute through Tobias Hager after a goalmouth scramble.

Nine minutes later, McBride received his opportunity, hitting a beautifully angled bicycle kick into the side netting to tie the game.

"As we played the ball wide," McBride said, "three of us got in the middle of the box and he served it behind the defense instead of in front. I don't think the defense was ready for that.

"One of our players went up and I was praying that it was going to go over his head because I was trying to line it up. It went over his head and I just side-volleyed it.''

Lapper said, "Brian scored a great goal, and people are already talking about it being the goal of the month.''

In the 81st minute, midfielder Thomas Seeliger fired home the gamewinner.

While marking back Lapper has started almost every game, McBride has struggled to find his place in the lineup. He's played in 11 matches and only six as a starter. He had scored in his third appearance for Wolfsburg -- in September --
but failed to produce in his irregular appearances.

``I haven't played lately,'' McBride said. ``I came in the St. Pauli game at the return from the winter break, but haven't been able to play since. I didn't even get in this past weekend, so I was real surprised that I got in tonight. It's been a tough time."

Lapper has adjusted well to his new surroundings and tries to help McBride as much as he can.

"I feel real comfortable in my position right now,'' Lapper said. "I get a lot of encouragement from Eckhard Krautzun, the coach. I came in and started right away and proved myself. Brian came in a different situation. He scored and then went through a real long dry streak and now he's finding his way back in. This goal is going to help him a lot and his confidence a lot."

by Soccer America correspondent Jerry Hawkins

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