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Sagas of Johnson, Twellman intertwined
by Ridge Mahoney, January 15th, 2008 6:45AM
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TAGS:  mls


The exodus continues. Matt Pickens, Clarence Goodson and Eddie Johnson have left the U.S. camp in Southern California to chase overseas opportunities. Taylor Twellman hasn't. Today's lesson is the importance of foresight.

Johnson left Sunday to conduct final negotiations for a transfer to Fulham of the English Premier League. He turned down Derby County last summer after the EPL club matched the "trigger" price stipulated in his contract, approximately $3.6 million. At that price, MLS is obligated to sell him, contingent upon Johnson wanting to join the bidding club and agreeing to compensation, his share of the transfer fee, perks, etc.

If other clubs are also bidding, as has apparently been the case, Fulham may have to pay more to secure his services, but if a club and Johnson can agree on personal terms, and of course he passes a medical exam, the deal is done.

The fact he's left the U.S. camp to negotiate indicates he has no such aversion to joining the Cottagers, which sit just one place above bottom-feeder Derby and list Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride and Kasey Keller (at least for now) on their roster. After Watford turned down a 4 million pound ($8 million) transfer bid for striker Marlon King, talks with Johnson intensified.

Johnson left behind at Home Depot Center his other USA teammates, most notably Twellman, whose bitter public comments about MLS and/or New England turning down a $2.5 million offer from Preston North End of the League Championship (second division) roiled the training camp over the weekend.

Twellman just signed a new contract with MLS last year. The deal pays him approximately $375,000 in base salary, which a source says will be the individual salary-cap limit this year.

One can sympathize with Twellman, to a point, especially in the light of New England's obstructionist history regarding players going overseas. The Revs turned down inquiries from foreign clubs regarding ex-Rev keeper Adin Brown, midfielder Shalrie Joseph and Dempsey - refused permission by the team to train with Everton prior to his move abroad - prior to the Preston offer for Twellman. But that history should also have sounded a warning.

The question arises: is there a "trigger" price in Twellman's contract. If so, what is it, and if not, why not? Twellman, and a lot of other people, are surprised Preston has upped its bid to $2.5 million. But did he and his agent Dan Segal insist on such a clause in his contract?

Had he done so, and the league and Revs refused, he could have played out his contract and gone abroad as a free agent. With a price in place, he could play on, assured that if the magic figure is attained, only his personal demands stood in the way. Having it both ways seldom fulfills both contingencies.

Two months ago, Kansas City coach Curt Onalfo said Johnson was ready for a move to Europe. Scoring 15 goals in 2007 under Onalfo's tutelage has strengthened his resolve and restored his confidence.

He'll need plenty of both traits at Fulham, which needs goals and a good run of results to climb out of the relegation zone. Fulham has won just twice and scored 23 goals in 22 matches.

The Johnson deal might still fall apart, though any contract that doubles his MLS salary of $875,000 is good stuff. Remember, Brian McBride was done and dusted and gone to Blackburn, until a club executive insisted a clause be added that his salary would be halved if Rovers went down. McBride balked, Fulham pounced with a similar salary unfettered by such restrictions, and he's been there ever since. But who knows what changes may come if Fulham go down?

Fulham has changed managers - Chris Coleman, Lawrie Sanchez and now Roy Hodgson -- but managing director David McNally has kept his position and prompted the influx of Americans, who are well valued in England because of their spirit, determination, and relatively cheap price tags.

"I've said if before: America is the new Africa," said Everton keeper Tim Howard last year after leaving Manchester United. "It's one of the few places left where you can still get a bargain."

No doubt the departure of Johnson angers Twellman anew. But if no team has matched his buy-out figure, he just has to sit tight and reiterate his desire to leave. And if no such clause exists, he really only has himself to blame.

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