Forward Houser on a roll

Friday, May 18, 2001 at 1:00am

Jeff Houser is a hard man to keep down when it comes to playing soccer.

He was in camp with Major League Soccer's (MLS) Kansas City Wizards last year when he tore the ACL in his left knee. A year later, that knee has healed but his right knee now gives him a great deal of pain when he's off the pitch.

However, the Nashville Metros forward doesn't let that pain detract him from his goal-scoring mission during matches. Just ask the Charlotte Eagles, who watched last Friday as the Florida native spun through their defense for three goals in a 4-2 road win. That hat trick was the first of its kind in franchise history and earned A-League Player of the Week honors for the 23-year-old striker.

"I felt really good about it. We went into Charlotte as a team knowing we had to win, and we did the job," Houser said. "I got two great assists from Jakob [Fenger] and one from Jaymi [Bailey]. We all worked together, and I was able to finish my chances.

"I think it really comes from knowing your teammates. It took us a while to gel. But once you come together, you get to know each others' habits and you start playing even better," Houser said.

Metros coach Brett Mosen said of Houser, "He's a game day player. You get some fellas who look good in training but not so good when you get them into a game. He's not one of those.

"He's doing things right out there. He's got the attitude of a striker. He wants to get in front of goal, he wants the ball, he's aggressive, he wants to win.

"He's a quality player. You don't go up to the MLS for nothing," Mosen said.

Houser knew early on what sport he liked best. "I started as a little kid playing soccer and baseball, but baseball was too slow for me. So I stopped doing that and just played soccer. I guess I was just too hyper for baseball," Houser said with a laugh.

He played collegiate soccer for two years at the University of Southern Florida before deciding to turn pro. But Houser's shot with the Wizards ended all too soon. However, Houser has worked hard over the past year in therapy on his left knee.

"It's stronger now than before I injured it," the forward noted. Houser is now working to complete this season without losing more playing time to injury.

He had an MRI done Wednesday on his sore right knee and hopes that those test results will look positive. "This is the year I want to come back and play after being out all of last year, so I hope everything's OK," he said.

Coach Mosen noted, "Most of [Houser

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