MLS On the Record: EtcheverryÆs displeasure; spitting in KC?; All-Star coaches, etc

Issues addressed at the June 27 MLS conference call include: EtcheverryÆs complaints, accusations against Hernandez, Beckerman goes P-40, all-star game coaches and MLS minimum wage. The participants are: MLS executive vice president Ivan Gazidis, D.C. United defender Eddie Pope and Colorado Rapids GM Dan Counce. Ivan Gazidis' Opening Comments "A few points I wanted to touch one. First, about the New England and San Jose allocation situations. I'm afraid that there is nothing new to report on those fronts. We've been working on a couple different options for each team. ôI'm hopeful that in San Jose's case in particular that we will reach a resolution very shortly, and that could also be the case in New England. We are not at the point were it would be appropriate or productive for us to get into to where we are exactly. We hope to have something to announce for both teams within the next week or so. ôRegarding the all-star game, the coaching staff has been chosen to represent the West in this yearÆs All-Star game. The staff is rewarded to the team with best record on July 9. In fact, if we project forward, even if Kansas City would lose all their games, and Los Angeles would win all its games the Wizards would still be in pole position as of July 9. ôI'm very pleased to announce that the coaching staff for West will be Head Coach Bob Gansler, assistant coach Brian Bliss, goalkeeper coach Tim Mulqueen, trainer Chet North, and equipment manager Gary Minnick. Congratulations to all of them and I look forward to seeing them all on the sidelines at the All-Star game this year. ôAlso, we have signed an 18-year-old player to a Project-40 contract. We are extraordinarily excited about that because he is one of the key players that we have targeted to sign from the U-17 team that did so well in the recent FIFA World Championships in New Zealand. ôHis name is Kyle Beckerman, an 18-year-old midfielder that can play forward. He is currently playing with the U-20 team. He participated in the U-17 residency camp along with Bobby Convey, DaMarcus Beasley and Seth Trembly. ôHe was the second leading goals scorer for the U-17 team, with ten goals and six assists. He was second only to Landon Donovan, who had 12 goals and three assists. He was a key member of U-17 squad that finished fourth at recent FIFA U-17 World Championship. ôWe are very excited that he has decided to make his future with MLS, following in the footsteps of those other young players. It represents a continued commitment by MLS to do everything we can to provide the best environment for our young American players here and we are tremendously excited by it. Dan Counce's Opening Comments "We're looking forward to the second half of the season. The first half was pretty up and down for us. We've had a lot of injuries, national team callups and a lot of changes in our team. We haven't really had our full team together. We feel that we haven't really seen our full team together. ôWe hope that during the second half our personality will emerge. We've had to play games with A-League callups in our starting lineups. It's been a real rough first half for us, but we are encouraged about the second half of the season. We'll get on track." Eddie Pope's Opening Comments "Certainly, I have experienced some injuries at the beginning of the year with knee surgeries. I feel a lot healthier now, maybe not quite 100 percent, but a lot better. As far as the team is concerned, we also had a shaky beginning of the year, hopefully the second half is going to hold better things for us. We've performed decently in the last four or five games. Hopefully we can beat L.A.. and go in the game against Colorado with a string of wins. Obviously, we need to start getting three points every game." Gazidis on Marco Etcheverry's criticism of MLS referees "We want to sit down with Marco, we wanted to do that when he was in New York, but couldn't get together. We want to give him a forum to express those concerns and to understand them. I think Marco is experiencing some of the frustrations that everyone on D.C. has this season. It stems from the performance of the team. ôMarco knows that we listen very seriously to his comments. If he has constructive comments about our referees than we will happy to hear them. We are not prepared to listen to complaints against referees that are unjustified and come out of his teamÆs performance this year. I don't believe that Marco is going to be playing anywhere other than MLS next year and I certainly would hope that he will finish his career here. I know that he is very happy in D.C. and we are happy to have him in MLS." Gazidis on the Luis Hernandez incident in Kansas City "I've seen the videotape of the incident myself. We are looking at the angles that were not shown on TV. We are getting some reports, and the referee reports and other reports from people that were present. As soon as we have done a full and thorough investigation, we will reach a decision on that. There may be consequences, there may not be. It is difficult to determine from the tape what happened there." Gazidis on Beckerman's team "We want to get Kyle playing as quickly as possible. He's the perfect candidate for the weighted lottery draft. The draft is based on teams records for the last 32 games, so it goes back into last season. I haven't done the calculations yet, to work out the order of the lottery. ôThat will be done and that draft will be held by the end of the week. We'll get Kyle out to his team. The teams with least amount of points over the past 32 games will have the better chances of getting him, assuming they put their names into the hat. That doesn't guarantee the he goes to them. There's always a chance that the better performing teams will have their names picked out of the hat. It's not actually picked out of a hat or with ping pong balls. We have a random number generator computer program." Pope on the MetroStars improvement "They have certainly gotten some additions that have helped them quite a bit. (Clint) Mathis has certainly helped them out a lot. Having Tab Ramos back has helped as well. They're a lot better team than they were in the past, especially dangerous on the attack. We were lucky to get out of there with a 2-2 draw last week. They are definitely one of the better teams in the league right now." Counce on the MetroStars "We obviously lost to them last week and were disappointed in how we played as a team. It's a much better team than they've had in the past. The addition of Clint Mathis allows (Adolfo) Valencia to become much more dangerous. Tab Ramos being back on the field also helps them, giving them another dangerous player in the center of the field. Those three players are very good and that combination will work well for them. In the back, they are a team with young, hard working guys. The Metros are playing reasonably solid in the back and working hard. They have enough firepower to win some games." Counce on Colorado's stadium situation "We will be playing in the new Mile High Stadium when it is complete next season. We are unsure of the exact completion date. We do believe that it will be sometime between May and the end of July of 2001. ôOur dilemma is if it's not May, where do we play our games at the beginning of the season. We'll probably be asking the league to give us a considerable amount of away games at the beginning of the season. We will probably end of playing in a temporary facility for somewhere between five and seven games. We are exploring the possibility of where we will play those temporary games. We have visited the University of Colorado and are not sure that will work for us. We are looking at other facilities in the area." Gazidis on the Rapids schedule for 2001 "We have to work out a situation that makes sense, it could be a little unbalanced. It'll be as balanced as we can make it in the practical circumstances that we encounter next season." Gazidis on Cobi JonesÆ contract "We are in discussions with Cobi's representative. I don't like to negotiate player contracts in a public forum, so those negotiations will remain confidential as far as I'm concerned. I'm hopeful that we will reach an agreement that will keep Cobi here, but that can't be at any cost. It has to be at a cost that makes sense to us. Clearly he is one of the most important players that we have." Pope on the possibility of being on the Olympic team "I haven't spoken to Clive Charles about that. He hasn't mentioned anything. If he wants me to be a part of that team, then I would do that. Fortunately, I have played already in the Olympics so it wouldn't be crushing blow not to go." Gazidis on the weighted lottery "It's the same principle as the dispersal draft. The weighted lottery was designed and implemented in November of last year. It was meant to deal with the controversy of allocating young P-40 players. ôWe tried to come up with something designed to do away with allocating Project-40 players, producing a more equitable system. What we have know is the SuperDraft, into which P-40 players go into in the first instance. Then, we have to deal with players that sign late, after the SuperDraft. ôBack in November, we decided that late signings would fall right into the weighted lottery system. The Hernandez allocation was a special set of circumstances. We used the mechanism that was pre-existing. The reason we have an element of chance in the lottery is so you can't have players circumvented the draft system, knowing for example that the MetroStars for example are going to have the first pick in the lottery the day after the draft. ôIt keeps us from being manipulated. That's why the lottery is weighted as opposed to straight draft order. In the case of Mathis and Franchino, there was no case of manipulation, so there was no reason to have an element of chance." Gazidis on the Hernandez decision "If there was going to be a suspension, that decision would have to be made quickly. I don't think that's really in the cards with respect to what we've seen. I certainly think that there could be fines that come out of that, but I don't think a suspension is coming." Gazidis on Hernandez's struggles "The statements about him wanting to go to Europe, are no surprise to me. That's been part of the arrangement. He will play during our offseason with a team in Europe. What we are seeing is that MLS is a better league than we are sometimes getting credit for. It's not easy for foreign players to come in and dominate our league. We have a lot of very good teams and very good players. ôGradually, the world is waking up to that. Players can't come in and expect to dominate. He's come in and working as hard as I've ever seen Luis Hernandez work in games. The Galaxy hasn't developed the right team chemistry, they are still learning about each other. I can still envision as a real possibility that at the end of this year there will be a picture of Luis Hernandez wheeling away from the goalmouth with a big smile after scoring the winning goal at MLS Cup in D.C. ôIt's a little bit early to make judgments. I remember people were asking me questions about Ariel Graziani being a failure a year ago. I'll give the same answer now that I gave then, eventually top class players rise to the top. The cream rises. Once he gets used to the tempo in our league and once he develops a chemistry with his teammates he'll be a very important player in this league. I think it speaks volumes about the progress of our league, no player can come in and instantly dominate." Gazidis on the marquee player rule helping Chicago "The marquee player rule was designed to protect teams from a marketing standpoint, rather than a competitive standpoint. Should an important player that sold tickets be out for a substantial part of the season, and should a short-term replacement be found then we would look at that. Clearly, Chicago has two very important players out from a marketing standpoint. It has impacted sales. Having said that, the Fire look extraordinarily strong on the field at the moment. Competitively, I'm not sure it is having a damaging impact. ôIt's a complicated question, something we are looking at. I think there is the possibility that you will see a replacement player coming in if we can work out a short-term deal." Gazidis on MLS presence at Euro 2000 "I myself have not been out there, we've had various people go out there. It's not really a question of scouting, you are certainly not going to come out with any hidden gems. Frankly, its probably a higher quality of competition than the World Cup. ôWe keep our eyes and ears open. There are players whose names come up during this time of year. It is an interesting time of year, with most European leagues in their offseason, but for us the time we usually make deals is November and December. If something really special comes us up, we would be prepared." Gazidis on the playoff dates "The playoff dates are a little difficult to announce before you know what the matchups are because of availability. I think we have a general idea. The first round of playoff games will start one week after the end of the season. The Olympics could impact our playoffs. In some ways we hope it does, because it means the U.S. team has advanced." Gazidis on the U.S. Open Cup "We had nine of 12 teams progress, that's probably fairly typical in cup competitions. That's part of the attraction of top competition. On any day, any good team can beat any other good team. There are some very good teams in the A-League. We don't take the Open Cup lightly, we go out to win every game we can. We are disappointed that three of our teams are eliminated, but happy that nine of our teams advanced." Pope on D.C.'s struggles "It's been a combination of things, losing national team players and Olympic players. The league has gotten better, the players have gotten stronger and teams have gotten smarter. It's been some bad circumstances, some bad luck and some bad play. Having lost a player like Roy (Lassiter) is a huge blow. In the second half of the season we will adjust and hopefully start to do better." Gazidis on changing the allocation process "We try to do that. The truth is we are in a worldwide marketplace for players. I can tell you that each year that this league progresses, we earn respect. Nick Sakiewicz was watching England-Germany in Euro 2000 with Franz Beckenbauer. The degree of respect that Germans hold out league now is huge. ôThey believe the future, one of the absolute hotbeds for youth development is our league. What it means is that some of our young players will have tremendous opportunities. We've had to step up and keep them. It's not realistic to keep all the young players, no league in the world keeps all its good young domestic players. The most important thing for me is that the young and talented players, like Convey and Beckerman are choosing MLS to develop themselves are young players." Gazidis on changing the minimum salary "I certainly have a lot of sympathy with raising our minimum salary, there will be an appropriate time for that. ôThere are certain cities that have higher standards of living, and it's a different challenge to live in say San Jose or New York compared to Kansas City. These are things we have to look at. It's part of a wider group of issues I'd like to sit down and discuss with out players. What I hope is we can sit down together and negotiate out some of these differences at a table rather than through litigation."
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