While Commissioner Don Garber was hired to handle MLS's business affairs, he will ultimately succeed or fail based on how he handles soccer questions.
Case in point: What does he do about Stern John?
The Crew striker, whom our Columbus correspondent, Craig Merz, features on page 8 [Sept. 6, 1999 issue of SA
], is the best pure striker MLS has developed, but the Crew is now in danger of losing him after only two years.
Nottingham Forest manager David Platt flew to Columbus to watch John against Tampa Bay Aug. 22.
Given the success of another Trinidad & Tobago player, Manchester United's Dwight Yorke, English clubs are paying close attention to T&T prospects these days.
MLS player boss Ivan Gazidis is on the record as saying MLS will not stand in John's way if he wants to move on at the end of the year.
There's no mention of a price tag, but we're probably talking $2 million.
That's great for MLS finances, but what about the Crew, which took a chance on John when no other MLS team would? How does it expect to keep Crew Stadium full if it loses its biggest star? What does it say about MLS's future that it can't keep its brightest young players?
The catch, of course, is John could simply play out his contract -- like Frankie Hejduk, Tony Sanneh and Marcus Hahnemann have done -- and MLS would risk getting nothing for him if it doesn't do the deal.
Perhaps MLS can do nothing to keep John. The All-Star Game snub sure didn't help. But Garber needs to move fast.
For all the money MLS threw at Lothar Matthaeus, who will be lucky if he plays a full season, it can surely come up with a similar amount to entice John, a player with 10-15 years ahead of him, to stay.
It's time for Garber to make John an offer he can't refuse.
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