MLS: On red cards, the playoff format, the Diaz Arce trade, Meola resigning ...

The following are quotes from MLS executive vice president Ivan Gazidis, MetroStars coach Octavio Zambrano and Los Angeles Galaxy defender Robin Fraser from a May 30 press conference. Ivan Gazidis Opening Comments "There are a few things happening that are worthy of being announced. We've had a couple of important player signings. We've re-signed some key players to long-term agreements. The first is the signing of Kansas City Wizards goalkeeper Tony Meola to a multi-year contract. ôWe are extraordinarily pleased that Tony has signed a new contract with us. He's having a terrific season this year, he is our all-time shutout leader, and he ranks first in six goalkeeping categories. He's in the middle of a great season, having set the MLS record with 681 consecutive shutout minutes. The second player signing is Leo Cullen, one of the best young defenders in the league. He has also signed a multi-year contract with us. There was interest from overseas in Leo's abilities. I am pleased that another rising young American star has once again chosen MLS as the place to continue his development." "There are also some new developments on the player lawsuit to report on. Last month, Judge George O'Toole granted MLS' motion for a summary judgement, the major issue of the case. Last week, Judge O'Toole denied the players motion for an immediate appeal on the anti-trust issue. Now, all of the issues in the case would have to go to trial first before there could be any appeal. We are extremely pleased with the judge's ruling on this matter." Playoff format "There has remained one outstanding issue to be resolved regarding our playoff format, which deals with the issue of how to break ties. The playoff format is a three game series where each game is played as a regular season game. They'll play 90 minutes, with a 10 minute overtime period. If the game remains tied, the game will end in a tie and we'll move forward. The teams in the series accumulate points as they would in the regular season. At the point where one team can no longer be caught, the series comes to an end." "If we get to the end of Game Three's overtime, with no result, then we would move to a 20 minute additional overtime golden goal period. If there was no golden goal, then ultimately the series would be decided on penalty kicks. Aggregate goals will not be looked at, neither will regular season records. Essentially, it's an extra 20 minute overtime period after Game Three if the teams are deadlocked on points." "We are aware of two issues that happened over the weekend, one was during the Columbus-Miami game, the other during the Chicago-MetroStars contest. We are reviewing both of those instances. There is no official word yet, but there will be between the next 24-48 hours. I personally reviewed the MetroStars-Fire scuffle but I can't comment as of now. It seemed to me that it was 20 players trying to break up something that wasn't happening." "Also, the U.S. takes on South Africa on Saturday at RFK at 4 o'clock. We wish the U.S. well. It'll be nice to see Shaun Bartlett back in the country, a place where his career developed well." Octavio Zambrano's Opening Comments "We are obviously looking forward to this weekend. It is a very important game for us. We feel good about our results in the last couple of weeks, especially the win over Chicago. They are a very good team. Los Angeles is no different, I felt when we played them at the Meadowlands a few weeks ago, the game could have gone either way. We are looking forward to going into Pasadena with a full team and we'll try to get a result as well." Robin Fraser's Opening Comments "With regard to my injury, in all likelihood I will not be playing this weekend. It's been a pesky ankle injury that has taken its time coming around. There is a remote possibility I can play, but I highly doubt it. It's kind of unfortunate, because we haven't been playing that well over the past few weeks and we are looking to get back on track here. I'm extremely pleased for Clint (Mathis), Roy (Myers) and even Joey (Franchino) in New England for how well they've done. We were very sad to see them go. We felt like we had great rhythm and chemistry here with those guys. We understand why certain things are done, business decisions were made. I think it'll be the type of thing this weekend where we aren't looking at individuals but just the team we are playing against." Zambrano on last weekend's skirmish with Chicago "I don't think any decision has been reached on that situation. Obviously, I would like to have the opportunity to tell my side of the story. The benefit of videotape should help. I expect to be on the bench this weekend. I will go to Los Angeles, but if the league decides I can not be on the bench at the Rose Bowl, then I will look at the game from the top and get messages to the players." Zambrano on Mike Ammann facing the most shots in MLS "That is what goalkeepers are there for. This is their job, to try and keep teams in games. Mike has had a particularly great last few matches, we are very pleased with his performances. The transformation that our team is going through, during the season, makes it very difficult for us to have consistency defensively or otherwise. I am concerned, but not worried to the point where it is a trend that will continue." Fraser on the arrival of Luis Hernandez It's a great thing that Luis will be with us and not with Mexico for the Nike Cup. It's really important that he is here with Cobi (Jones) and Greg (Vanney) gone. It's key that he can contribute and we learn to play with him more. So far it hasn't been as good as it's going to be." Gazidis on the Hernandez compensation "We had a situation where the Los Angeles organization was very keen on seeing Luis Hernandez sign and play with the Galaxy. We had three different fronts to work on. One was the internal backing, and we went to our board and got that backing. There was tremendous backing for what Los Angeles was asking for. Then, there was the negotiation between Luis and with Tigres. ôThe deal was much more complicated and lengthier than we wanted. The third issue was what you do competitively. The obvious answer was Los Angeles going out and getting an existing allocation that was out there. They spent a number of weeks looking for it, mainly with San Jose, and it became clear that there wouldn't be any deal. At that point, the league was faced with various choices. One would have been to sign Hernandez and allocate him elsewhere in the league. We felt we needed Luis in Los Angeles to access the large Mexican population. On any other basis, it would not be a good business decision. We then had a choice not to sign him, which we decided that it was not a viable option." "We decided that it was better for us to sign him than not to sign him. Given that, we had to come up with a mechanism to do that. The lottery system was designed not for this situation, but for when a player signs late with the league. The player would go into the lottery, but here placing Luis into the lottery would have defeated the purpose of signing him for Los Angeles. The players that were given up by the Galaxy were decided after a lot of discussions both with the Galaxy and our board. The players given up by L.A. were placed in a draft after a lot of discussions. We had the lottery, and at the end of that, Mathis went to the MetroStars and Franchino by the Revolution. It's an imperfect resolution to an imperfect solution, but with a great result for the league." Zambrano on lineup changes "Last week was a question of matchups. We felt Mark Semioli was a better matchup for Dema Kovalenko. Mike Petke has done very well for us and has settled well into what we are asking him to do. He understood my position against Chicago. It depends now on the opponent, it was better for us to play a three-back system against Chicago. I wouldn't rule out having four in the back in the future." Zambrano on Matthaeus' injury "I am glad it didn't happen with us. I hope he recovers well and plays well for Germany and then for us. I don't think the quad injury is serious. I hope that he recovers for the competition that he's been looking forward to." Gazidis on responding to players criticizing officials "We review each comment like any other league. We review any commentary and consistently apply principles to them and there are often consequences to be had." Gazidis on Diaz Arce trade "The league is the owner of the Tampa Bay Mutiny, so of course it's concerned when you have a player of value on the bench. That does not mean that the league played any part in determining that Raul Diaz Arce should be playing in D.C. The league does play a part, as any owner would. We have a hands off approach to that and any decisions that are made by the Mutiny staff." Gazidis on a replacement player for injured Lubos Kubik "We have a marquee player rule, when one of the team's key players is out for an extended period, we can go out and get a replacement. There are some practical difficulties in finding a player on short-term loan. We are working together with the Fire to see if there is a suitable player that makes sense." Zambrano on the role of Tab Ramos "Obviously having so many players whose instincts are to go forward, we had to make some compromises. I can say nothing but the best of Tab's attitude, playing a role he's not really used to, more defensive. It was important for us to have the pieces in that order. As I've said, he's got so much to give offensively, but it's good to know he can play in different roles. I don't think it will be his role all season." Zambrano on the health of Roy Myers "Myers had an adverse reaction to some drink that he had before the game last week. That caused him to have a stomach reaction, he's over that and trained well today." Gazidis on the MetroStars and Revolution benefiting from the signing of Hernandez "It certainly wasn't' arbitrary. The only place that a deal would make sense to us was Los Angeles. Every single year in the league, we have to make a decision about where to use our resources. We have ways to disperse the talent, the weakest teams get to pick first in our draft. The weakest teams need the most help. Another mechanism is the system for allocating players, where teams that didn't make the playoffs get an allocation. In MLS, we are in a world wide market. We are in an unusual situation, that is different than any sport here in the U.S. It's not easy for those teams that drafted poorly to catch up. The lottery was designed to help the struggling teams." Gazidis on the Myers and Diaz Arce trades "We never placed any kind of mandate on Los Angeles with respect to Myers. The Galaxy, once they had Luis Hernandez had a salary budget problem. Hernandez ate up a lot of salary budget, and in those circumstances, they had to get under budget. They also had a problem with having five international players. Their solution was to trade Myers, nothing was forced on them. In the end he was dealt for Brian Kelly, a promising young American player. The salary budget was eaten partially by the Galaxy to do the trade." "With respect to the Diaz Arce siuation, the May 15 deadline does have some significance. After the Discovery deadline has passed, after a team has no allocations left, there's very little purpose in having salary budget open because you can't bring in any more players from outside the league. The budget is still relevant, in place and there. But, you don't lose much if your Discovery request is either a low salary player or you don't have one. You won't lose anything by trading a player but eating some of his salary budget room. There's no real downside at this point." Gazidis on the effects of players leaving for international competitions "Every league in the world of soccer has issues that arise with international games and competitions. It's a little bit exaggerated with MLS because the summer months, the middle of our season but the offseason in most places, are used for international tournaments such as the World Cup or European Championships. The success of the U.S. National Team is a critical part of raising this country's opinion of soccer. It's not just MLS, but all of soccer. Hopefully, MLS' boat will rise with that tide. We have to balance that with the need to present the best possible product we can." "Two things are evident: the level of play in MLS is an improvement again over last season. We are improving by leaps and bounds. We must remember the league is just over four years old. Another thing is we have investors that are prepared to step up and make the kind of commitments to improve the league, such as building stadiums. They come in the face of many difficulties that we face as league. In the end, there are more positives than negatives." Zambrano on why the MetroStars are winning without Matthaeus "I don't think you can make one the reason for the other. This team has gone through a transformation. Some players have come in while others have left. It is coincidental that our team has played well without him. I don't think it's due to the absence or the presence of Lothar. He did have an impact at the beginning, our guys were not used to that type of media frenzy. I think now that he is gone, he has time to reflect on what the league is all about and come back better prepared to help us." Gazidis on the players Los Angeles gave up for Luis Hernandez "There may be people in L.A. that feel the costs were too high, there were people around the league that feel the cost was too low. L.A. was and still is extremely pleased with the signing of Luis Hernandez. Clearly, it was in Los Angeles' interest and MLS' interest. The two players they had to give up were league mandated, but it wasn't absolute. The Myers trade, the Galaxy knew what its salary budget was and having five international players wasn't going to work." Zambrano on getting a red card last weekend "I'd rather not comment until I get the word from the league. I went in there with my only mission to break up a fight. I only went into the group of players when I saw the whole Chicago bench do it. It was my intention to get people out of the melee. Hopefully, everything is on the videotape. I can say without a doubt that the whole incident started when the Chicago players lost their cool. It was completely uncalled for." Gazidis on the WUSA agreement "I think that MLS came away in a great situation. Much wider, I think U.S. Soccer came away with a great deal as well. The agreement will take soccer forward, regardless of gender. Too often within soccer, groups with vested interests are fighting amongst themselves. This agreement is going to give us exposure that we've never had before. The possibility that the WUSA owners get involved is great."
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