Sometimes, people are wanted. And sometimes, you aren’t wanted back.
Part of Major League Soccer’s off season includes making personnel decisions, especially when it comes to players that have reached the end of their respective contracts. While MLS holds the contracts of all of its players, the league and its 12 teams must make decisions hand-in-hand on bringing back some players while letting others walk.
And each of those 12 teams have players to make decisions on: new teams Chivas and Real Salt Lake chose Joselito Vaca/Craig Ziadie and Rusty Pierce respectively knowing each could leave the clubs high and dry if they sign abroad. With Americans relatively cheap on the world market, some players are already searching for opportunities outside of MLS.
Kansas City has gotten Diego Gutierrez out of the way, with the midfielder re-signing a multi-year deal with MLS. But defender Nick Garcia, coming off a strong 2004 season and a veteran of five seasons with the Wizards, has already set up a trial with Norwegian side Brann Bergen. Garcia could potentially be the fourth American to play in Norway’s top flight, with former MLS players Wade Barrett and Brian West and former L.A. draft pick Robbie Russell.
Pierce and Ziadie have been also tied with options overseas, and U.S. international Kerry Zavagnin has also mentioned he would like to try his hand outside of the country. Even relatively smaller leagues in Europe can pay more than MLS; several times in fact on occasion. This causes MLS to walk a tightrope of trying to pay these out-of-contract players at perhaps a higher wage than previously while keeping the salary cap in mind, but being unable to match offers from Europe.
San Jose has Ramiro Corrales, Dwayne DeRosario, and Craig Waibel to bring back into the fold. Ryan Suarez has been tied with trials both in Mexico and Spain, while Peter Vagenas and Sasha Victorine are likely to return to the Galaxy. Kansas City not only has Garcia and Zavagnin to re-sign, but also veteran goalkeeper Tony Meola and rising left back Jose Burciaga Jr.
Some clubs have a lesser to-do list: Columbus only has the versatile Duncan Oughton out of contract, while Colorado Rapids midfielder Kyle Beckerman is the only doubt with John Spencer returning to England. The New England Revolution may have some holes to fill with Pierce’s draft by Salt Lake, while Richie Baker, Andy Dorman, and Steve Howey could depart by the time the 2005 season begins.
Reigning champions D.C. United are likely to miss out on the return of Ryan Nelsen, but Mike Petke is likely to remain. Chicago has four players that may leave the fold, as C.J. Brown, Ante Razov, Henry Ring, and Evan Whitfield are up for new deals. Brown and Whitfield may be the best bets to return, with Razov likely to ask for a relatively high amount and Ring surplus to requirements after the return of Zach Thornton.
Original Article written by Aris Ohanessian