By Ridge Mahoney
Not all of the soccer news emanating out of Salt Lake City this week is
bad. Much of it, yes, but not all of it.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon
decided Monday to back the vote of a Debt Review Committee that
recommended Salt Lake County reject a proposal by which $30 million in
hotel taxes would be funneled to a $110 million stadium project in
In the aftermath of Corroon's announcement, operator-investor Dave Checketts has threatened to: a)
sell the team; b) move the team, or c) well, there is no Plan C.
But there is hope. The stadium itself hasn't been rejected; the
committee simply denied Checketts the use of public funds. Checketts
could solicit funds from the private sector or take on partners to make
up the shortfall, or pay it himself. He had already pledged an
additional $7.5 million.
The team's lease at Rice-Eccles Stadium runs through the 2007 season,
and there's a complex financial ceiling that could prevent the team
from playing its full schedule at Rice-Eccles in 2008, should a new
lease be worked out. Before deciding to cast his vote for Sandy,
Checketts reviewed proposals to build a stadium in Salt Lake City
itself as well as Murray, another suburb. (The Salt Lake City Council
will hold an emergency work-session meeting Wednesday afternoon to
"discuss the option of soccer in the Fairpark area.")
Head coach John Ellinger and
his staff are preparing for the start of training camp next week. The
team will train in Salt Lake City indoors for a week, head to Florida
for a mini-tournament with New York, Houston and Chicago, and return
home before enjoying the plum of the preseason: a 12-day visit to Real
"That's not too shabby," says Ellinger. "They're home the weekend that
we're there, and the next weekend they play Barcelona in Barcelona, so
a few of us are thinking about staying and driving to see that one."
Real also plays the second leg of their Champions League series against
Bayern Munich in Germany March 7.
Salary cap-issues are clouding the status of Andy Williams as well as Nick Rimando, who was acquired from
D.C. United in the Freddy Adu
trade but has yet to agree on a salary. The team is being dinged
$100,000 against the cap as a condition of trading Clint Mathis to
A bid for Jeff Cunningham was
received from an unspecified Israeli club. General manager Steve Pastorino noted that it fell
"about $990,000 short" of what it would probably take to acquire
Cunningham, who led MLS last season with 16 goals.
RSL has landed Chris Lancos,
who was picked up in last year's supplementary draft. He signed with
Kaiserslautern last winter and has decided to return home after being
unable to break out of the reserves.
"He's played almost every reserve game at holding mid, but he played
four years at right back at Maryland and a couple of years he led the
team in assists, so offensively he can play," says Ellinger, who
traveled to Germany to see Lancos in a match. "You just had to put a
bungee cord on him at times when I had him [with the U.S. U-17s].
"The game I saw he got red-carded with about seven minutes to go, but
then we had dinner and he seemed good about the possibility. He called
me over the break and said he liked to do it so we started the process."
Ellinger plans to play Lancos at right back if he goes with a four-man
defense but says he can play wide in a five-man midfield. Carey Talley will anchor the
midfield, Adu will be given the chance to run the attack, and Mehdi Ballouchy has first call on
the left side. "Right now, you know Carey's going to be in the middle
and Freddy's going to be in the middle and the other two spots are
open," says Ellinger. "We'll try things in preseason and hopefully we
can figure it out."
Figuring it out is what Checketts hopes to do, too.