When Galaxy coach Frank Yallop mentioned during MLS Cup activities last month he wasn't done changing the roster, he wasn't kidding.
By trading a pair of two-year players -- striker Herculez Gomez and defender Ugo Ihemelu, for eight-year veteran goalkeeper Joe Cannon -- Yallop has added an element that was crucial to his winning the 2001 and 2003 titles in San Jose: a goalkeeper who commands the penalty area. (The five minutes played by Gomez in the 2003 season aren't counted here.)
Both Cannon (2001) and Pat Onstad (2003) are among the best in the league at getting to crosses and balls lobbed into the box. Kevin Hartman, for all his superb reflex saves and quickness, seldom comes out of challenge or a tangle without a few biting words for the referee. A contested ball is a personal insult.
His failure to handle confidently cost the Galaxy in early-season losses to Columbus and New England, and he negated an otherwise excellent game by letting a bad-angle shot squeeze through him in a loss to Real Salt Lake. Numerous over the past few seasons are his claims he was fouled. Sometimes the referee has agreed, other times not.
Example: While playing against San Jose during the 2005 season, he went up for a cross under a challenge from Alejandro Moreno, hardly an imposing figure at 5-foot-11. They jostled, Hartman's punch at the ball missed, and Moreno headed the ball into the net. Hartman complained but the goal stood.
"We went up for the ball together," said Moreno after the game, "and anyway, he's got about a two-foot advantage with his arms. Maybe I've just got some deceptive hops."
While negotiating a new three-year contract last February, Cannon was nearly traded to Kansas City but the deal broke down. His contract paid him $172,000 last season and is worth approximately $580,000 over its three-year duration.
"I am willing to trade him, but I am not going to give him away for nothing," said Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo at the time. "He is the best goalkeeper in the league."
In exchange nearly a year later, Clavijo received a forward who slumped from 11 goals in 2005 to five last year, and a rugged young defender who slipped somewhat from a fine rookie campaign after being drafted No. 5 overall in 2005 by former Galaxy coach Steve Sampson.
Statistically, Cannon had his worst season in MLS with a 1.55 goals-allowed average although his seven shutouts is just about what he's averaged during his MLS career. Hartman had one of his best seasons, with a 1.14 goals-allowed average and nine shutouts, but something more than numbers prompted Yallop to acquire Cannon and decline the option on Hartman's contract.
CARROLL ON TRIAL. D.C. United fans are anxiously awaiting word if Jaime Moreno will be back next season; of great concern should also be the status of midfielder Brian Carroll, who trained last week with German Bundesliga club Alemania Aachen and on Tuesday played for Marseille in a closed-doors match against Martigues.
He is out of contract after earning $58,754 last season, a figure that put him in the lower half of the club despite playing 93 games over the past three years and is one of the lowest salaries paid to starting MLS midfielders with several years' experience. Teammate Ben Olsen and Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark, to cite two examples, earn more than twice as much.