MLS: Fusion acquires Valderrama from Tampa Bay

Colombian national team captain Carlos Valderrama, arguably MLS' most internationally recognized and respected player, has been acquired by the Miami Fusion from the Tampa Bay Mutiny for an allocated player and future draft pick, Fusion GM Leandro Stillitano announced today. The league's all-time assist leader will join the Fusion immediately to begin preparing for the 1998 MLS season. Tampa Bay, which recently received Swedish National Team goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli as an allocated player, will obtain an allocated player from MLS in the near future in exchange for Valderrama joining the Fusion. In addition, Tampa Bay will receive Miami's second overall draft pick in either the 1998 MLS College or Supplemental Draft. Since the Chicago Fire selected first in the MLS Expansion Draft, Miami has the option of picking first in the college or supplemental draft. Miami must make a decision regarding the draft order by December 15. "Carlos Valderrama is an outstanding addition to the Fusion," Stillitano said. "He's a world-class player and a great person who brings excellent leadership skills to our organization." "Although I enjoyed my two years playing in Tampa, I am excited to be a part of this new challenge," Valderrama said. "South Florida has shown tremendous support of the Colombian National Team when we have played there. It's a region with great soccer tradition. I'm looking forward to playing for [Fusion coach] Cacho [Cordoba] and his attacking style of soccer." The Fusion, which recently selected eight defenders in the MLS Expansion Draft on November 6, now has 13 players as the club continues to fill out its 20-man roster. Valderrama joins former Mutiny teammates Cle Kooiman (D), Scott Budnick (GK) and Nelson Vargas (M) on the Fusion. "The expansion draft featured some proven defenders and that's where we decided to focus," Stillitano said. "We have been working on acquiring Valderrama for a couple of months. His addition gives us the league's best playmaker to go with a solid back line. We've been scouting some world-class strikers and are working with the league to bring them to the Fusion." Valderrama, whose nine Miami appearances with the Colombian National Team are more than any other city outside of Colombia, will showcase his skills in a market which has the second-highest Colombian population in the United States. He is scheduled to move to South Florida and join the Fusion in the near future.
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