MLS: Quotes from Aug. 31 media teleconference

The following are quotes from the Aug. 31 MLS media teleconference, which featured MLS Executive Vice President Ivan Gazidis, Dallas Burn Forward and MLS Leading Scorer Jason Kreis, Miami Fusion Forward Eric Wynalda. Ivan Gazidis' Opening Comments "It's nice to have two very positive pieces of news to talk about today ... There are probably some questions regarding our Competition Committee meeting and still has not happened yet ... There has not been a date set ... I suspect it will happen in the next two weeks and then we will turn some of those issues over to the full Board of Governors meeting at the end of September ... We are still in a holding pattern with regards to that meeting." "I'm looking forward to seeing Eric back on the field ... It has been a difficult time for him ... It is difficult to remember when you think about all of his achievements of his career that he has so much playing time ahead of him and we are looking forward to and are excited about the contributions he will make to the end of this season and to MLS." "The contractual news that we have today is in regards to Jason Kreis and we are pleased to agree to a contract with Jason that will carry him through the 2002 World Cup and beyond ... I don't think anyone will be surprised to hear me reiterate that we don't disclose the financial details of these contracts ... I will give you a little bit of information about it ... It is a wave of a new type of contract that I see being used in the future by MLS when we are talking about our promising young players ... That is a longer term contract that is very flexible and the amount that Jason can get out of it depends very significantly on his performance in MLS ... It is interesting that Jason has not yet established himself as a regular on the U.S. National team but that nevertheless we recognize that he has made enormous contributions to both his team and to Major League Soccer ... And the potential is there for Jason to make that contribution to the U.S. National team ... Refer to his recent call up ... This type of contract reflects longer term, more flexible, more dependent on performance, and more incentives ... It is one that you will see MLS moving more towards over time and we need to do that because we are in an international marketplace for our players and players such as Jason are attracting interest from other places around the world and we need to be competitive with that ... I doubt that it ever was enough for us to say to these young players 'make the commitment to MLS, make the commitment to soccer in the states and that is a reward in itself' ... We need to make a financial environment for our players to thrive in the structures that we have here on this side of the Atlantic ... We are delighted that someone like Jason has chosen to make his future with Major League Soccer." Jason Kreis Opening Comments "This is an extremely important year for me, playing out my option year and I potentially could have been put on the free transfer at the end of the year ... About a month ago my agent Richard Motzkin began discussions with the league and it became clear that MLS was going to be able to show the same level of commitment to me that I have shown and will continue to show to this sport in this country ... With this new contract, it dispelled the notion that I, other players in the league, and perhaps the media had, that player's salaries were connected to their National team forays." "There are two statements that are being made here ... First, that I have decided to bypass my chance to fulfill a life-long ambition to play overseas to help, in whatever small ways I can, the development of the professional game in the U.S. ... Second, and certainly bigger is being made by the league that they are committed in no small fashion to keeping and rewarding the players that they themselves have developed and have performed well in this league." "As far as the Burn, we have won three games in a row, and more important than that, three or four games before that we started playing consistently ... We are working on a positive note going into the end stretch of the season and it is an exciting time with the Western Conference so tight and certainly not decided yet ... Hopefully things go our way." Eric Wynalda Opening Comments "Congratulations to Jason .. I am happy for you and your family as well as joining the National team on the next trip ... I was looking forward to making my debut in Kansas City but as discussion with Ivo Wortmann and the staff we decided to give me a practice game before I actually stepped on to the field, so that is our line of thinking .. We have a game scheduled for today and I will test the knee out and see how it is doing, see how long I last and see how I recover ... I am excited ... I have relied on my friends Marcelo [Balboa] and Tab [Ramos] who have experience in this department with ACL surgery and recovery ... I've given it time to heal and it is really exciting to me to have the opportunity to get back on the field and help Miami ... Miami is a team that I believe has a lot of potential ... They have played extremely well over the last 10 games ... We've been a little unfortunate on some occasions losing to Columbus and Kansas City ... I know I can help this club whether it's scoring goals or assists ... Like Ivan said, it's been a long time and I am looking forward to this weekend against L.A." Gazidis on Kreis' new contract "We have options in the contract and the guaranteed term is up in 2001 and we have multiple options following that ... And Jason's compensation under the contract will vary according to his performance level." Kreis on national team Performance and Anxiety "To be honest, I shouldn't [have anxiety] but I do a little bit ... It has been a long time coming .. I have felt anxious every time there has been a call up that I would be there and now I am getting my opportunity ... The first thought that came to mind is that I need to take advantage of it right away, but when I sit down and have a chat with myself, I remind myself that is not the way to get it done and that if I do that, it will only end up badly." Wynalda on the Young Guns and Aspirations of national team Call Up "I can't complement the national team enough, post-World Cup ... Bruce [Arena] has done a tremendous job ... It says a lot about the league, to me at least, and it should be to the country that our strongest asset is young Americans and I consider Jason a part of that, players who have consistently performed over a pretty good span of time in the league and can play at that level, they deserve to play for the national team, and when they do they have done extremely well ... It says a lot about the talent level in MLS." "As for myself, when you have been on the National team for as long as I have and you take a year hiatus, people tend to forget about what you accomplished ... The only way for me to get back on the National team is have a good performance in MLS ... That is what I intend to do ... If I can back into the form I was once in, Bruce might consider me ... Bruce has not indicated that I am out of the picture, but he hasn't done that with anybody ... I will have to earn my way back on and that is the way it should be." Wynalda on Feeling Pressure "I learned my lesson with that ... I put myself under a lot of pressure with San Jose during World Cup qualifying and it didn't do me any good ... I ended up taking one step forward, two steps back every time and that is what has been keeping me off this ... If I were 26 years old, out of stupidity I would have probably already tried to play and that is a lesson that I have learned ... That is part of an experience with injuries ... You just can't rush this kind of injury and that is the most important thing, you just need to be smart ... There has been a lot of pressure from the outside ... I don't think that I really would have been able to help if I came back too soon, so timing is right ... Today will be a good test .. Ivo Wortmann has been tremendous throughout ... He hasn't put any pressure on ... He said that one thousand people will be asking me when I would be playing, but that he wouldn't be one of them." Kreis on Interest from International Clubs "Most of the interest has come from Germany, for particular clubs, it would be better to ask my agent Richard Motzkin because I really haven't been too interested in hearing which clubs ... I have tried to stay focused and help the Dallas Burn as much as I could." Gazidis on the New Types of Contracts "Contracts are not a black and white area and I couldn't say exactly what it is that distinguishes between this contract and others that we have entered into in the past ... Gradual progression and something that we have been thinking about for some time ... The kind that Jason has is fair to say is not the kind that we were offering in 1996 and probably not in 1997 when we first renegotiated Jason's deal ... I think that it is the way we will be moving forward ... Part of that is because MLS is gaining credibility and its gaining credibility based on performances from our club teams, our national team with MLS representatives on it and as overseas coaches and teams come over here and see the level of play and are surprised by it ... That is a positive and thrusts us into the international marketplace where players like Jason have alternatives that can be very attractive ... In order to keep young players like Jason we are going to have to be flexible." Kreis on D.C. United "D.C. is D.C. ... In my humble opinion, they are at a little bit of a different level than the rest of the teams in the league and that is a factor in their consistency ... When we play D.C., I know that all the boys on the team feel ready for the game and are a little bit more up than some of the other games and so it creates a very good opportunity for us and it's a real good situation for every time we play them ... It raises the level anytime a team plays them." Wynalda on Ben Olsen "Ben has been doing great things since coming into the league ... Guys like Ben are really showing their worth to the national team ... What he brings to D.C. is so much enthusiasm and ability ... He is a handful for anyone despite his size ... He has come a long way in a short time ... He is what I consider the future ... He is what I think is a potential starter for the next World Cup if he keeps up at this rate." Gazidis on Team Salary Budgets "When we started out in 1996 we knew that there were a lot of difficulties in assessing where we should be placing players under their contracts ... Players were coming from so many different sources and they hadn't necessarily played on the same field before ... That was a difficult process ... At the end of '96, some players had outperformed and we needed to do some renegotiating and Jason was one of them ... In terms of overall salary budget, moving towards highly incentivised contracts should not affect that drastically ... For every player that hits the upside on his incentives, there is a player who is underperforming ... That is a little simplistic but that is one way in which a highly incentivised contract structure helps us to achieve our budget goals." Kreis on the New Contract and Players not Going Overseas "I think so ... I thought that the movement should be towards more performance-based salaries ... Lots of bonuses and less guarantees ... It sets mood in the right direction." Wynalda on national team Call Ups "To be totally honest, I think that the National team is the way it should be ... It is who is playing well and who is in form to play on the national team ... In the past, people were hesitant to believe in the younger players because they have never really been tested, because we hadn't played enough friendlies or we were too busy trying to qualify for the World Cup .. We didn't really have the opportunity to experiment and now is the ideal time for these guys to play ... Playing well in the MLS is going to get you on the National team and that is the way it should be." Wynalda on MLS' Perception "I have always said that there is a perception problem we have almost a crisis within ourselves, that we aren't good enough ... In the beginning, people would only ask players like John Harkes or myself or Tab Ramos who have played in other leagues around the world to compare and it was impossible at the inception ... We are a lot better than we think we are as a country ... From your perspective [the medi]), some of our younger players don't even realize how good they are ... Being someone who has played in Europe, I have played against a hell of a lot worse competition in the first division in Germany ... That is something to be said about where we are and we realize how good we are." Wynalda on his Rehabilitation "This injury happened in March and my baby girl was born later that month ... I worked hard on my therapy and my baby girl Brooke is therapy in herself ... She made me feel rejuvenated and made me want to get back on the field ... I had to give the injury time to heal ... I started on bike the day after surgery .. It was an aggressive approach ... I had some setbacks ... I had an Achilles strain that kept me off for another six weeks ... You come back to early and it just isn't ready ... Tab [Ramos] has been instrumental in me playing the waiting game and told me to give it the time to heal ... I look at things in the long term and I intend to be here for many years ... I hit the weights hard in the middle ... The last month has been a lot of running and soccer work ... I'm fitter than you have ever seen me, that's for sure." Gazidis on Salary Budget "The way we come up with salary budget numbers is by taking the players base salary and adding to it the incentives that we believe they will achieve ... It is a little bit subjective but one of the indicators we use is the bonuses and incentives that they have achieved in the previous year." Gazidis on Bonuses in new contract "They are not exclusively MLS based but we have moved far more towards incentivising our players for MLS based achievements rather than national team achievements ... So not exclusive, but definitely a much more MLScentric weighting to them."
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