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Jerry's World

Kansas City, D.C. look to be big winners of recent flurry of trades.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Monday, February 1, 1999) -- Some observations on recent Major League Soccer trades:

* The Kansas City Wizards are a big winner. Tony Meola is the best goalkeeper in MLS. Alexi Lalas has slipped as a national team defender, but he is still among the top 10 in the league. Chris Henderson should bounce back from a poor season in Colorado and help lead the offense from midfield, taking the pressure off an aging attack. Will Lalas and Meola finally spark attendance in a dormant market?

* D.C. United has been complaining about the team breaking up due to salary cap problems brought on by the Washington franchise's extraordinary success. That's simply not true with the stunning addition of All-Star right back Diego Sonora. The MLS's best defense is even stronger, with fellow All-Stars Eddie Pope and Jeff Agoos as well as talented Carlos Llamosa.

The losses of John Harkes and Tony Sanneh stretch the midfield, but the biggest defection is that of Coach Bruce Arena. Can Thomas Rongen fill his shoes?

Another question: What happens if Harkes is not acquired by Nottingham Forest (England), especially if the team is relegated out of the Premier League? Evidently there is at least one MLS team (New England Revolution) with $250,000 (prorated depending on when he's available) in salary cap room for him, and possible another, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.

* What is Eric Wynalda's future? He is on loan until May to Leon (Mexico). It is presumed he is through with San Jose, with the MLS team having added high-scoring Raul Diaz Arce to pair with Ronald Cerritos in an explosive El Salvadoran combination for the Clash.

Speculation is that the MetroStars are interested in the maximum-salary U.S. national team scoring leader. But they also have the possibility for getting two high-priced (by MLS standards) foreign players after purging three foreign players from their roster.

There is plenty of pressure on this under-achieving team, not only for getting rid of Meola, Sonora, and Lalas, but for an earlier trade of fan favorite striker Giovanni Savarese.

* Will the addition of Marcelo Vega finally resolve the Clash's midfield playmaking void? He arrived from Chile last year expected to dominate, but he never clicked with the MetroStars. San Jose hasn't fared well on the international player front.

* Is colorful Mexican national team goalkeeper Jorge Campos, the biggest gate attraction in MLS but a second-stringer in Chicago last year, going to play in MLS this season? He's now in Mexico. San Jose remains a possibility.

* The Tampa Bay Mutiny has been trying to rebuild its attack ever since the most one-sided trade in MLS history, last year's exchange of Roy Lassiter for now-retired Roy Wegerle. It may have achieved the goal with signings of a pair of 23-year-old national team forwards, Jefferson Gottardi (Bolivia) and Alejandro Sequeira (Costa Rica). They should combine well with attacking midfielder Mauricio Ramos (Bolivia).

* The Colorado Rapids improved its defense with acquisition of versatile Matt McKeon, but still needs a standout midfielder to direct the attack.

* The Columbus Crew hasn't changed much, but will be without goalkeeper Juergen Sommer (knee) possibly until June, which makes keeping Mark Dougherty on the payroll a smart thing. Plenty of talent on this roster, but the Crew needs to stay healthy. How will it adapt to a bigger field in the new stadium?

* The Dallas Burn needs to replace midfielder Alain Sutter (hip) with big-name player. Will Chad Deering stay on defense, or move up to his accustomed midfield role? The Burn was punchless last year due to injuries and absence of playmaking and scoring punch.

* The Los Angeles Galaxy is virtually unchanged but needs to develop offense so it can score against rugged teams such as Chicago and Washington. Will Carlos Hermosillo be more active in striker role? How serious were the Galaxy in trade speculation of midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos for Preki Radosavljevic?

* The Miami Fusion was one of the league's better teams at the end of 1998 season, but is still a work in progress this year, with more depth needed throughout the roster.

* New England should be helped considerably by the addition of defender Dan Calichman, providing he is fully recovered from broken leg suffered last year. Savarese is not the most skilled striker but he is a good finisher. Player/coach Walter Zenga takes up a foreign roster slot as goalkeeper. Edwin Gorter could be key at midfield if he bounces back from erratic 1998 campaign.

* The Chicago Fire is virtually unchanged, but the key players are old -- midfielders Peter Nowak, 34, and defenders Lubos Kubik, 35, and Francis Okaroh, 35. Developing depth is key for the 1998 MLS champions.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.

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