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Could Stoichkov be on his way to Chicago in blockbuster 3-team deal?

By Robert Wagman

(Monday, February 21, 2000) -- Major League Soccer spring training was abuzz with rumors of an impending blockbuster trade involving the Chicago Fire, Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny.

Chicago dumped Polish stars Roman Kosecki and Jerzy Podbrozny after last season. So the Fire is looking for MLS to sign them an eastern European who can both put the ball in the net and sell tickets.

The Fire’s original target was Stuttgart's brilliant midfielder Krassimir Balakov, who according to German media reports was interested in coming to America if the details could be worked out. Among those details reportedly was a salary somewhere near the reported $85,000 a weekthat Balakov is paid at Stuttgart. That was well out of the MLS price range, so those talks have reportedly broken down.

Chicago's new target is former superstar Hristo Stoichkov. The Bulgarian, 34, who last played in Japan, is interested in ending his career in America. Stoichkov, twice runner-up as FIFA's “World Player of the Year” in the early 1990s probably can still play at the MLS level. He also probably would be willing to sign for an amount MLS can afford and he likely could sell tickets in Chicago.

The problem apparently is that under the complicated and confusing MLS rules, Chicago, despite not resigning Kosecki and Podbrozny, does not have a foreign allocation coming from the league to allow Stoichkov to be assigned to it. Tampa Bay, however, does. Thus the rumored trade.

According to several sources around MLS, Tampa Bay would trade its available allocation to Miami for disgruntled striker Roy Lassiter who is holding out and has not reported to Miami. demanding that his $100,000 per-year contract be doubled. There are those who believe, however, Lassiter would play for the Mutiny for the $130,000 MLS has reportedly offered him. He loves Tampa where the fans have supported him.

Miami would then trade the allocation it gets from Tampa to Chicago, which would allow the Fire to be assigned Stoichkov. In return Miami would get some combination of players and draft choices. One player said to be included is young Ghanaian Junior Agogo. The 20-year-old striker who played the last three seasons with Sheffield Wednesday in England is emigrating to the U.S. with his mother and wants to play in America. He is negotiating a deal with MLS and is in the Chicago camp as a "discovery" player.

Reuters, however, quoted the Spanish weekly newspaper Football which reported Stoichkov was asking for $241,600 per month, far beyond what MLS would pay him. Stoichkov, who helped Bulgaria reach the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 1994, is currently director of all Bulgarian national soccer teams.

"Talks with Stoichkov are ongoing," Chicago coach Bob Bradley said.

MetroStars release Sorber, two others

SEACAUCUS, N.J. -- The MetroStars waived midfielders Mike Sorber and Lawrence Lozzano, and defender Jake Dancy today.

"In order to rebuild the team and stay under the salary cap, it became necessary to make these moves," said Nick Sakiewicz, the new MetroStars general manager.

Sorber, 28, who started all four United States matches in the 1994 World Cup and has 67 caps, joined the MetroStars from Kansas City prior to the start of the 1997 season in a trade for midfielder Damian Silvera. In 97 games as a Metro, he totaled eight goals and four assists.

Lozzano was claimed off waivers by the MetroStars on June 16, 1999. He started 12 of 13 games, scoring one goal and assist. He netted the final Metro goal of the 1999 season in a 2-1 road loss at New England in the regular-season finale.

Dancy was a sixth-round pick of the MetroStars in the recent draft.

Crew waives Thompson

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Midfielder Billy Thompson was waived to get down to the 21-player roster limit.

Thompson, 31, was The Crew's third round draft pick in the inaugural MLS draft in 1996. He appeared in 16 regular season games last year, starting nine, but did not play in any of The Crew's five playoff games. Overall, he appeared in 75 games -- 61 starts -- notching four goals and 18 assists for 26 points.

After a strong season in 1996, when he had two goals and eight assists, the California native and UCLA graduate missed all but six games of the 1997 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and never fully regained his form.

Peay will miss season

HERNDON, Va. -- Defender Clint Peay, a starter for D.C. United in MLS’s inaugural year who has only appeared only on rare occasions since, also tore his anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the entire 2000 campaign.

A native of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, United was counting on Peay as a replacement for when U.S. national team duty could take away as many as three or four of the team’s defenders.

The team is excited about the early performance of 16-year-old midfielder Bobby Convey, who was particularly effective Friday when United beat the MetroStars for the league’s preseason title.

"I felt I played pretty well," Convey said afterward. "This was just a lot of fun. It was a good experience for me. They were trying to knock me off the ball, to knock me down. But I pushed back. It was fun."

"He a tough kid from Philly,” coach Thomas Rongen said. “He is really going to be a special player." Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at

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