MLS: Blockbuster deal sends Lalas, Meola to Kansas City

Two of American soccer's most recognizable players will play for a new team in 1999, as World Cup veterans and three-time MLS All-Stars Alexi Lalas and Tony Meola of the MetroStars have been traded to the Kansas City Wizards for midfielder Mark Chung and goalkeeper Mike Ammann. In another MLS trade, D.C. United acquired Argentine defender/midfielder Diego Sonora in a three-way deal involving the MetroStars and the San Jose Clash. As part of the trade, San Jose receives D.C. United's first-round selection in the 1999 MLS Supplemental Draft (No. 11 overall) and United's second-round selection in the 1999 MLS College Draft (No. 21 overall). The MetroStars pick up D.C. United's second-round selection in the 2000 MLS College Draft, United's third-round selection in the 2000 MLS College Draft and San Jose's third-round selection in the 2000 MLS College Draft. The two deals by the MetroStars have put the team well under the MLS salary cap. "As a team, we recognized that sacrifices have to be made in order to realize our ultimate goal of winning the MLS Cup," Metros GM Charlie Stillitano said. "This is yet another step in the remaking of the MetroStars." Meola, 29, recently rejoined the U.S. national team for the first time in more than four years for an exhibition match against Bolivia in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The three-time MLS all-star earned his 28th international shutout in that match, a record for U.S. goalkeepers. His 88 appearances as a goalkeeper for the national team are also a record for the United States. Lalas, a three-time All America selection at Rutgers University, was traded to the MetroStars on February 4, 1998 from the New England Revolution. The former U.S. national team defender played every minute of the 1994 World Cup, and was a member of the 1998 squad, but did not see action in France. He played 25 games for the MetroStars in 1998, and scored the game-winning goals in consecutive games against Chicago and San Jose in April. "These talented individuals obviously meant a great deal to the MetroStars," Stillitano continued. "But we feel that we've gone as far as possible with these players. We're now in a position that allows us to go out and acquire the impact players [Metros coach] Bora [Milutinovic] wants." Chung joins the MetroStars after three productive years as a midfielder for the Wizards. A strong left-footed player, he was named to the AT&T Best 11, and won the Snickers Fair Play award in 1997. Chung has made 24 appearances for the USA. He made his international debut for the national team at age 21 on February 12, 1992 against Costa Rica in San Jose, California. Ammann, a 27-year-old native of Orange, California, had been the Wizards starting goalkeeper for the past two seasons. He came to Kansas City as a discovery player from Charlton Athletic FC of the English First Division in 1996, where he appeared in 32 games over two years. Meanwhile, D.C. United gets all-star defender Sonora, who started and played 30 games at the right back position for the MetroStars in 1998, and set a team record for points by a defender with 13 (three goals and seven assists). "The acquisition of Diego Sonora certainly addresses a need we've had," said D.C. United GM Kevin Payne. "It's rare to be able to pick up a three-time All-Star and fill a position on the field where you have a need, but we've been able to do that. We're thrilled to have him." The Sonora trade opens another foreign-born player spot to the MetroStars. The team currently has two foreigners on the roster: Colombian defender Arley Palacios and Ecuadorian striker Eduardo Hurtado. League rules mandate that no team may carry more than four foreign-born players on the roster. "This is another necessary step towards the goals we've established for 1999," Stillitano said of the Sonora trade. "We have come to realize that the team needed to be remade, and that means some difficult decisions needed to be made." Here's a look at what each team got out of today's deals: D.C. United: Receives D/MF Diego Sonora Kansas City Wizards: Receives GK Tony Meola and D Alexi Lalas. MetroStars: Receive GK Mike Ammann and MF Mark Chung; also receive San Jose's third-round pick in the 2000 MLS College Draft, D.C. United's second-round pick in the 2000 MLS College Draft and D.C. United's third-round pick in the 2000 MLS College Draft. San Jose Clash: Receives D.C. United's first-round pick in the 1999 MLS Supplemental Draft (No. 11 overall) and D.C. United's second-round pick in the 1999 MLS College Draft (No. 21 overall).
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