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MLS rumor mill: Is Stillitano out, but are Kirovski, Campos in?

By Robert Wagman

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Thursday, December 29, 1999) -- Twas a couple nights before the year 2000 and the Major League Soccer rumor mill was churning.

According to an MLS club official who has first-hand knowledge, talks have reached the critical stage between MLS, United States national team attacking presence Jovan Kirovski and his German Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund over the player returning to the U.S. and MLS.

According to league sources, if Kirovski signs with MLS, the league would like to allocate him to the Columbus Crew, effectively to replace the Trinidad & Tobago's striker Stern John, who moved to England.

There are reportedly a couple of sticking points in the talks. The first is salary. Even though Kirovski has not been playing this season in Dortmund, he is still making well more than the average MLS player. He will not want to take much of a salary cut to return. Then there is the question of transfer fee. MLS wants the move to be a free transfer, paying Dortmund nothing. The German club apparently wants at least a token transfer fee.

In 1992, Kirovski left the U.S. while still in high school to join Manchester United's youth program in England. There he played on a reserve team that included David Beckham and Ryan Giggs. In 1996, at age 20, he signed with Dortmund, the youngest American to ever sign with a Bundesliga club.

Over the next two seasons he played in a dozen matches for Dortmund's full side, including two starting league-match assignments. He scored two goals, one in Bundesliga play and one in a Champions League match.

Last season Dortmund loaned him to second-division Fortuna Cologne where he was a regular most of the season. This season, he returned to Dortmund, but has been playing with the reserve team. Reportedly, his efforts to move elsewhere in Europe have not been successful.

If Kirovski does end up at Columbus, it will be interesting to see how Crew coach Tom Fitzgerald will use him. Kirovski sees himself as an attacking midfielder, essentially the same position as Andy Williams, and whether the two could play side by side is an open question.

Actually, if Kirovski comes to Columbus, the Crew might opt instead to deal Williams. A trade to Miami for Welton would make sense, since Welton appears to be expendable with Roy Lassiter on the scene.

What does seem clear is that Kirovski is one of the very best Americans not now in MLS, and one who is still young with many years in front of him. He would be an excellent addition for MLS.

It is an open secret that many of the owner-investors in MLS are extremely annoyed at the dismal way the New Jersey's MetroStars have been operated over the past few years. Many put the blame squarely on general manager Charlie Stillitano, and they have been pressuring Metro's operating head Stuart Subotnick to replace the GM. So far, Subotnick has remained loyal to Stillitano, and has refused to fire him. Now, we hear, some of the owners have hit upon a face-saving way to ease Stillitano out of the Meadowlands. They will promote him out.

A move is underway to create a position for Stillitano in the league office, perhaps as assistant to commissioner Don Garber. That way he can appear to resign for a better position, Subotnick will not appear to have been pressured to have fired him, and some new blood can be brought in to try to turn the Metros around.

If this is going to happen, it will happen quickly. The Metros will need a new GM in place before the season begins.

Of the various player openings around the league, one of the most interesting is the goalkeeping situation in Colorado. Last season Marcus Hahnemann, thanks to his German passport, moved onto Fulham in the English first division. He has not played a minute this season, but is being paid probably three times what he was making in MLS to pick up splinters on the bench.

Ian Feuer replaced him, but shouldered the responsibility for Colorado's nose dive at the end, and his contract has not been renewed.

So who to put in the nets for the Rapids? We hear that a number of people in the league office think that the Rapids might be the perfect solution for what some are calling the "Jorge problem."

Mexican Jorge Campos remains under contract to MLS, but no one seems to want the Mexican star. Nominally, he belongs to Chicago, but the Fire washed its hands of him a year ago. Miami does not want him. New England, who also needs a keeper, is -- shall we say -- not overly enamored of him.

So the only place where it might be a good fit, at least until Houston comes into the league, is Colorado where there is a sizeable Mexican population and where Campos could help not only on the field, but off.

If the Rapids had their druthers, they would probably like to trade for Dallas' Mark Dodd. We hear they almost had a deal last summer after Hahnemann left. But the pressure might be on to take Campos and as compensation, so to speak, the best college goalkeeper in the upcoming draft. William & Mary's Adin Brown, who badly wants to go to D.C. United, might find himself in Denver.

The knock on Campos is that he will insist on playing some at forward and will miss a number of matches with Mexican national team duties or personal problems. So if Colorado takes him, it must have a backup who can play. There's wide agreement that Brown can play in MLS right now.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at

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