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Complete archive of Robert Wagman's It Seems to Me.

It Seems To Me . . .

MLS shuffles its ‘deck chairs,’ with no apparent winners or losers.

By Robert Wagman

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Tuesday, June 1, 1999) -- Details of Major League Soccer’s self-styled blockbuster trade had scarcely been announced when my e-mail box started filling up with messages from you asking my opinion. Is this a good deal for Miami? What about the MetroStars? Will this get the Galaxy back on track?

To be honest, I don't have the slightest idea. I would be surprised if anyone does -- including the general managers and coaches of those clubs. This is a trade filled with questions, questions that may not be answered for some time.

One MLS general manager I talked with called this a "deck chairs" trade, as in rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. "Three teams in deep trouble are trying to get rid of problems in the hopes that a change, any change, can only help them," he said. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. There's too many questions here to know now."

Let's break this complex trade down to its component parts.

Forgetting about various intermediate stops on paper, essentially the MetroStars traded a player coach Bora Milutinovic was not all that happy with, Costa Rican midfielder Roy Myers, to Los Angeles. In doing so, they opened up a foreign spot on their roster.

To make room for Myers, Los Angeles dumped a foreign player, struggling striker Welton, who new coach Sigi Schmid was also reportedly less than thrilled with.

Meanwhile, San Jose eliminated a question mark in its future by effectively releasing injured striker Eric Wynalda. On paper Wynalda became the "future consideration" owed the MetroStars for Marcelo Vega and Raul Diaz Arce, sent to San Jose in the offseason. So for San Jose, sending Wynalda off means no more obligation to the MetroStars, and no longer having Wynalda's salary counting against its cap.

New Jersey’s MetroStars get an MLS IOU for one superstar foreign player that MLS had promised Miami after commissioner Doug Logan transferred the unhappy Carlos Valderrama to the Tampa Bay Mutiny. New Jersey also gives up defender Arley Palacios effectively in compensation to Miami for the rights to this so-called "marquee" player.

Miami gets Palacios, Wynalda and Welton in exchange for giving up the right to sign some foreign savior.

So who got the good deal? Who is going to end up looking silly? Let's start with Miami. Managing director Doug Hamilton is quoted as saying "We add talent, depth and experience in critical areas, scoring and central defense. Combined with our current roster of talented young players, we are poised to compete at the highest level for years to come."

Well, a year from now, Hamilton may be proven to be a prophet. Or the above statement may go down as among the funniest uttered in recent American sports. In Palacios, Miami gets a very serviceable defender who is a threat on set plays. That's a plus, but it really doesn't solve Miami's biggest problems.

In Welton the Fusion gets a player who has shown that in the right situation, and when the mood strikes him, can score in MLS. But this year, so far, he has been a total washout. He may become a star in Miami, or he may go the route of some many other foreign players who have already moved quickly through the Fusion organization.

The big question mark for Miami is Wynalda. He is recovering from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament. He is not a kid anymore. He is coming off, at best, an undistinguished year with San Jose, scoring only six goals.

I personally hope he makes it all the way back to again star in MLS and hopefully to reemerge in Bruce Arena's plans for the national side. And since Miami didn't actually give up anything but an IOU of questionable value, it is probably a risk worth taking. But for Miami, this trade is a roll of the dice.

For Los Angeles, it's really a question that Myers can't be any worse than Welton, and may fill a needed role. With Mexican striker Carlos Hermosillo returning, Myers can play an attacking midfield position and take some pressure off playmaker Mauricio Cienfuegos. L.A. can probably still use another attacker, so Cobi Jones can move into a more natural wing or midfield position. So for the Galaxy, the value of this trade will not be apparent until Hermosillo is back and playing up to speed.

For the MetroStars, your guess is as good as mine. The Metros now have three, count them three, foreign roster spots open. Under MLS's rules they can sign two really big bucks (for MLS) players and one medium-salary player. Obviously if they get a couple of world class players who still have their legs, they are the big winners in this trade. If they don't, well coach Bora Milutinovic can wait till next year.

The one player they apparently will not be getting is German libero Lothar Matthaeus who has told the German media that he will honor the final year on his contract with Bayern Munich. I say apparently, because Matthaeus statement could still be a negotiation ploy to wring some more money out of MLS. We'll have to wait and see.

One other player that MLS apparently is also not getting is national team defender-midfielder David Regis. Regis' contract with French team Lenz is up, and given his mixed season his welcome there seems to have ended. There has been talk that he would like to come to the United States and play in MLS. Some rumors had him heading for Miami. Now there are reports in the French media that he will sign with Valence, a French second division team that avoided relegation back to the third division by a single point this season.

Robert Wagman wrote a nationally syndicated political column for Scripps-Howard for many years. At the same time he has covered soccer in North America for British and South African newspapers since the days of the North American Soccer League. His "Football In America" column now appears regularly in British newspapers. He can be e-mailed at SoccerWag1@aol.com.

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