Q&A with the SA Editors: May 28, 1999

James Reilly Palo Alto, Calif. Why do you think Bruce Arena did not call up Frankie Hejduk for the Argentina game? Pete Bailey: It was simply because Hejduk needs a vacation. Remember that he played the 1998 MLS season with Tampa Bay and then immediately left for Leverkusen. It's been quite a while since he's had any time off. During Leverkusen's winter break, he was still training and accompanied the squad on its trip to South America. Even if Arena had called him in, there's no way Frankie would play now, since he broke his nose in a collision with the Wolfsburg keeper in a game on May 23. He's still expected to be in the mix for the Confederations Cup in July. David P. Crocker University Park, Md. Do MLS rules require that each MLS team be under the MLS salary-cap all season long? Or do rules require only that each team be under the cap by a specific date -- with the provision that a team may exceed the cap if and only if it does so after the specific? Also, Corey Clementson, agent of a number of MLS players including Raul Diaz Arce and Mauricio Cienfuegos, recently stated that many players in MLS receive a larger salary than MLS's publicly stated maximum salary of $250,000 dollars per season. Is Clementson right? If so, would you please explain? Ridge Mahoney: David, the MLS salary-cap guidelines were largely ignored the first two seasons, but the league has cracked down and now all teams are supposed to be under the salary cap as of March 1. Trades and other player moves could push a team over the cap during the season, and any such move has to be approved by the league, which would impose a deadline for getting back under the cap. Several MLS players receive income from sources other than the league's player salary budget -- from sponsors, signing bonuses, performance bonuses, etc. -- that exceeds the maximum salary, and to sign high-profile players, the league incorporated such sponsor deals into a player's contract. In some cases, the league has made deals with teams so that only a certain portion of a player's salary counts against the cap. This has usually been done as part of a trade, or by the league wishing to keep a player and absorbing the portion of the salary not counting against the team's cap. Jose Gomez Kelowna, B.C. I understand that the Gold Cup is the main CONCACAF nations' championship. If this is true, why is the Gold Cup just being played in the USA (besides one year played in Mexico)? Why aren't the other CONCACAF countries hosting this great event? Paul Kennedy: Simple: money. No other country can guarantee the crowds that the United States -- specifically Los Angeles -- can. The last two finals, in '96 and '98, have surely been $2 million gates. No other country besides Mexico can match that kind of figure for a final. And no other country can produce crowds for earlier games involving teams like El Salvador and Guatemala like the United States can. Jose, I'm sure you're wondering about Canada. It simply doesn't have the large grass stadiums nor specific ethnic audiences (for CONACACF purposes) to match the United States. Without the money from gate receipts, there's no way CONCACAF can put on the tournament. TV revenues are tiny compared to those for say, the European Championship. Jeffrey Gordon New York City A question that's been on my mind for some time and spotlighted in the recent US-Mexico match -- where are the Latino-American players? Only recently (in the last four years) have we seen the emergence of more significant black soccer players (Pope, Lassiter, Thornton, etc) on the national scene. However, with one or two exceptions, the amount of Latino-American players is notably absent which is puzzling given the presence of that segment of the population (and in the stands in San Diego). Given the MLS fan base is this not a recruiting problem? Is it being addressed? Who are some current notable exceptions? Mike Woitalla: The issue is being addressed, most recently through Project 2010, the United States Soccer Federation's player development plan that places an emphasis on finding the talented young players who may have been traditionally overlooked because they've played outside the mainstream. Many Latino players, for example, play in unaffiliated leagues, or in isolated communities where their parents and coaches may not be familiar with the routes to the national team program. U.S. Soccer is trying to convince unaffiliated leagues to become affiliated and it is sending scouts into the big cities to search for players who have not been part of the Olympic Development Program. For example, U.S. Soccer coach Juan Carlos Michia is holding U-14 tryouts across the country and from his efforts, two teams will go a national camp, where they will be joined by the traditional regional teams. (See Soccer America, "My View," May 24, 1999 issue). A major importance of the Project 2010 plan, and the Michia tryouts, is that it will make it possible for players from poorer families to find a path to the national teams. The Olympic Development Program can be very expensive -- as can the traveling club teams that get a lot of attention. Another important development in the effort to ensure that minority talent is not overlooked comes with Project-40, a U.S. Soccer-MLS collaboration that brings young talent into the pros and offers the players education money. Before a professional league arrived, players who opted not to play college soccer -- either because they couldn't afford college, weren't academically inclined, or were neglected by college coaches who in general recruit the white middle-class player -- would fall into obscurity. MLS has ensured that players like Carlos Parra, Ramiro Corrales, Esmundo Rodriguez, Vicente Figueroa etc., have a place to play. (Parra and Corrales played in the U.S. Olympic/U-23's last game, a 1-1 tie with Canada.) In fact, MLS's emergence is probably the most important development in the quest to make the U.S. national team and American soccer in general more accurately reflect the United States' multicultural population. MLS teams are and will be looking for young American talent that can help them win, no matter what the color or background of the players. MLS, and I believe Project 2010, will avoid the politics and prejudices that have excluded non-mainstream players in the past. Finally, I don't know if counting starters on the current U.S. national team is the best way to get an accurate reading of the situation we're addressing. I would think that, within the next few years, we should be able to look at all U.S. national teams -- i.e., including all the youth teams -- and the emerging young talent in MLS, and notice a diverse player pool. Jorge Cerda Alpharetta, Ga. Can you clarify for me what are the names of the various field positions in soccer. I believe I might have created some of my own and when dealing with kids you want to make sure you are giving them the correct information. I use a 3-4-3 formation and this is how I have defined them: forward - striker - forward halfback - midfielder - midfielder - halfback defender - stopper - defender and then, of course, the goalie Can you let me know where my creativity might have gone south? Ridge Mahoney: Halfback is not often used in modern terminology, but it is still referred to. Other terms are outside midfielders, or flank midfielders. Some systems call the wide midfielders wingbacks. Several decades ago, they were called outside halves, as in those days, halfbacks referred to what we now call midfielders. All stoppers are defenders, but not all defenders are stoppers. Are you referring to a "sweeper," a player free to intervene where necessary? Are the defenders "man-markers," or do they guard a zone? Some coaches use :outside backs" to refer to the wide defenders, and 'central defenders' or 'stoppers' to refer to those in the middle. Forwards and strikers, while not synonymous, are both used. You could also call the wide forwards "wingers." Incidentally, the numbers commonly used refer to, in order, defenders-midfielders-forwards. In the case of a 3-4-3, of course, it makes no difference. But be aware that in common usage, the first number refers to the number of defenders. Hence, the 4-4-2 meams four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards, not the other way around.
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