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Player transfer intrigue a sign that MLS is growing in stature.By Robert Wagman
and Christopher Courtney
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Friday, December 29, 000) -- One of the yearís strangest tales of Major League Soccer players trying to find a place on a European side comes from Germany where two Columbus Crew players, Jeff Cunningham and Mike Clark, did well in trials with Bundesliga side Alemannia Aachen.
"Both were very fit and physical so they made a good impression in the trial," Alemannia Aachen spokesperson Marco Clemens said. "We have not decided yet on either of them yet since we had some recent injuries, and need to reassess where we are. Right now our most immediate need is on the defensive end, but we are always looking for offensive help as well. We have until January 15 to make a decision, and to sign one or both of them, since both are well within our price range."
All well and good. Both players performed well enough to be under active consideration, but we have learned there apparently is a lot more to the story.
The trial was reportedly arranged by former United States and Columbus Crew defender and one-time Bundesliga standout Thomas Dooley who is close to the manager and executives of Aachen. Although no one with the club would comment on the situation, Aachen apparently was under the impression that both players were out-of-contract and would be willing to make the move to Germany for MLS-level salaries, which are at the very low end of what the Bundesliga pays reserve players.
So the pair was invited over, and it was only during their trials, or perhaps even after, that Aachen learned both are still under contract to MLS -- Cunningham reportedly through the 2003 season -- and if the German team wanted either, it would have to negotiate stiff transfer fees. That seems out of the question since Aachen would not appear to be a financial position to pay a transfer fee since it doesnít even pay top European salaries.
Behind the scenes, we hear there is a lot of finger pointing going on. If a deal were to be made, Luxembourg-based agent Michael Becker would likely be representing the players, leading some in MLS to think Becker was behind this. He denies that strongly and said he did not even hear about the trials until the players were already in Germany. Other fingers are being pointed at Dooley, who, we hear, he is not the most popular figure around Aachen these days.
Given that Dooley did not leave Columbus on the best of terms, his role is interesting, to say the least. Maybe though, in the final analysis, it is a sign of the times that MLS is starting to get involved in the kind of player intrigue that is so much a part of world soccer.
Dooley, in the meantime, is getting ready to settle in Southern California where he wants to be involved in youth coaching. He is building a house in Laguna Niguel, which sits between Los Angeles and San Diego, and he plans to open a "soccer university" in Orange County where he will train young players, working with the American Youth Soccer Association, local clubs, the Olympic Development program and area colleges.
Finally, letís end the year with one of the most amusing items I have seen. A Washington, D.C.-based rock group that calls itself Barcelona, comprised of Jason Korzen, Ivan Ramiscal, Jennifer Carr, and Christian Scanniello, has put out a nice catchy pop tune called "Kasey Keller" about Rayo Vallecanoís American goalkeeper, and his 1998 Gold Cup 1-0 shutout of Brazil in Los Angeles.
The lycrics, in part, are:
Head for the touchline, Romario
We think it's great to see you play in Spain
As one observer noted: "This is certainly much better than any of those horrible football songs that are released in Europe. Anyone who rhymes Romario, Ronaldinho, Preki goal and Mexico is a genius."
The song is available on the Internet at http://www.barcelonadc.com/sounds/.
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be
e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.. Christopher Courtney
is an American living in Wuerzburg, Germany where he follows the fortunes of American players in Europe.
He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.. Christopher Courtney is an American living in Wuerzburg, Germany where he follows the fortunes of American players in Europe. He can be contacted at email@example.com.