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Galaxy's acquisition of Hernandez makes sense, but is anything but easy.By Robert Wagman
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, April 12, 2000) -- Even since last week's MLS Board meeting at which the Los Angeles Galaxy was told it would have to trade for a major foreign player allocation in order to create a roster spot for Mexican star Luis Hernandez, the telephone lines flowed into Galaxy's offices and several MLS cities.
According to leagues sources, if anything, the situation has grown even more complicated than it was a two weeks ago.
To review: MLS has apparently reached a deal in principal with Hernandez -- he of the flowing blond locks and superstar reputation -- for him to join MLS after the Mexican season ends next month. His pay will reportedly be in the Lothar Matthaeus\Hristo Stoitchkov range.
Hernandez is coming to America to play in Los Angeles. That is understood by one and all. No one within MLS or its various teams, disagrees. The stumbling block has been what price L.A. will have to pay.
For several months the Galaxy has assumed that if the league wants Hernandez, they will have to put him in Los Angeles. Thus the Galaxy could get him for nothing. But the league's executive committee made it clear last week that if the Galaxy is to get Hernandez, it will have to have a foreign player allocation ready.
Right now there are only two such allocations available, one owned by San Jose and the other owned by New England (both owned by Kraft Sports and controlled by Sunil Gulati). So the bottom line is that Los Angeles will have to either work out a trade with San Jose or New England, or with another team in a three-way deal.
Our sources say that the first offer floated by L.A. was the possibility of trading midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos to either San Jose or New England. But the league office quickly intervened, not wanting a repeat of the El Salvadorean community turning against the Galaxy as happened in Washington when D.C. United traded Raul Diaz Arce in 1998.
Next to be heard from, reportedly, was Kansas City. Over the winter, Kansas City obtained defender Jeff Baicher from the Revs for several draft choices. But Baicher, who the Revs had obtained in a late season trade with San Jose, has not reported. His wife hold down a very good Silicon Valley job, and had no interest in relocating to the Midwest. So Baicher informed the league that unless he can play back in San Jose, he is retiring.
Kansas City, at first, demanded its draft choices back. The league said no, the deal remains because it was Kansas City's fault in not speaking to Baicher and getting his commitment to play before making the trade.
Now the Wizards see the Hernandez situation as a way of getting out from under. The proposal was that Kansas City would trade Baicher to Los Angeles for Steve Jolly. Jolly has become expendable in L.A. since coach Sigi Schmid has converted Joey Franchino into a defender and has gone to a three-back set with Franchino, Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney with Paul Caligiuri as the main backup.
The idea was that the Galaxy would then trade Baicher back to San Jose along with a bunch of draft choices for the allocation. The result is win-win-win for everyone.
Not so simple. Reportedly San Jose said basically "we don't particularly want Baicher back." Some think what the Earthquakes were really saying, much as Los Angeles was originally about Hernandez, is that if the league wants Baicher back they will have to let him play in San Jose and the Earthquakes will have to give nothing in return.
This puts the allocation deal back to square one. The Galaxy will have to make a deal with either San Jose or New England.
New complications have arisen. New England has its eyes on Honduran defender Samuel Caballero. If he signs with MLS, which now is looking likely, the Revs probably will have to use the allocation it has on Caballero. If this happens, the Galaxy's only deal would be with San Jose.
San Jose, itself, reportedly has been talking to several younger Mexican players. At the same time, to open cap room and a foreign roster spot, several sources around the league say the Earthquakes are shopping Costa Rican Mauricio Solis. This is significant in the Hernandez deal because it means that San Jose will want an American player in trade for the allocation.
Los Angeles is ready to give up Jolly and draft choices for the allocation. But reportedly San Jose wants much more, a starter and either Jolly or draft choices. One name mentioned in San Jose is starting Galaxy forward Clint Mathis.
MLS, it would seem, has about a month to work all this out.
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be
e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org..
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at email@example.com..