By Arturo Rivers
This Week's Edition: "International Incidents"
Zizi Roberts Darryl Powell and the notorious Cubans Rey Martinez and Alberto Delgado…besides being some of the Rapids’ international players what do they all have in common? The answer: finding out any news on the status of these guys from the Rapids or any other news source is like chasing smoke.
This week The Dark Side analyzes the situation of some of last season’s international players whose situations in the criteria of this writer are worthy of a special article. I know what you’re thinking: what better way to ring in 2005!
These days a man can no longer be away from his computer for a couple of weeks without the world turning upside down back in Colorado (riding turtles in the technology-lacking Galapagos Islands as part of my three week Xmas holiday didn’t help my cause much).
But thanks to high speed connections and all of us cyber-soccer-junkie-fans who keep the internet flowing with scoops rumors opinions and (sometimes) accurate information I was able to get back into the groove of the Rapids and MLS in no time!
After perusing all the news released by the Rapids in my absence I thought that one of the most pressing issues at this point (at least in my mind) was to answer this question:
What are the Rapids doing with some of the international players like Powell Zizi and the Cubans…and how come we haven’t heard anything official from the team?
Well let me share with you what I came up with.
I will start with a key MLS rule that applies to all 12 teams which I think is the lynchpin in addressing this topic: According to Major League Soccer’s competition schedule teams don’t have to comply with the team roster limits until March 1st 2005.
Think about that for a second. Now if I were the Head Coach of the Rapids why would I waive players before the deadline established by the league if I didn’t have to?
Many fans would say "Duh Arturo to make room for new players! What do you want to retain players for that you will eventually waive anyways or that you know are not part of your future plans especially if they are internationals?"
Well to all of you my answer is simple: to retain their potential value up until the roster compliance deadline.
To better understand this MLS regulation (seriously MLS should consider publishing a "MLS Rules & Regulations For Dummies" book so everyone can sort through this stuff) let’s play Rapids General Manager for a minute with some real-world situational examples.
Darryl Powell is reportedly back in England right now and has expressed in an interview (with Sky Sports) that he doesn’t want to come back to MLS after two seasons (now come on his experience in Colorado couldn’t have been anywhere near as bad as that other ex-EPL man Gilles Grimandi le grande crème-puff who returned to Europe after what 1 month?).
We all know everything about Powell’s injury-laden history and are somewhat aware of the high number that his salary takes up in the team’s cap so the answer to the question of what to do with him would seem simple: waive him and use his salary and Senior International spot to get some healthy impact player that we desperately need.
In the eyes of an MLS coach that might be the final goal but this regular fan knows it’s often easier said than done.
Understanding that let’s continue with this magnificent mental soccer trip:
Imagine if you will that Powell starts training with a team over in England next week and all of the sudden between now and the end of February he plays like he has never played before. Meanwhile while he’s training in England FC Dallas coach Colin Clarke and his scouts see him perform while they are in the UK on a scouting mission (remember we are all fantasizing here!) and out of the blue Dallas picks up the phone and calls the Rapids to offer a trade for Powell for oh say Ronnie O’Brien. Ok maybe this is too much fantasizing. Let’s say Dallas offers up a 2006 first round draft pick in exchange for Powell and his entire salary.
In this case wouldn’t it be great to still have him around? Maybe not physically but at least still on the Rapids roster? I think so because as Head Coach I’d actually get something out of releasing Powell instead of just letting him go and getting jack squat!
Now let’s apply the same logic in examples 2 and 3 (and maybe in a more realistic way) for Alberto Delgado Zizi Roberts and Rey-Rey Martinez.
Before I continue I have to say in all fairness to these 3 guys that my hat goes off to them for being some of the most accomplished professional athletes and public figures from their respective countries. The fact that their names are in this column is because of their excelling at this sport which has enabled them to move on to bigger and better things in the good old USA. Sometimes it’s easy for columnists like myself to come down hard on some of the Rapids’ underperforming international players but just for the record compared to guys like these who at least had the skills and courage to make the lineup of a first division professional soccer club in a foreign land well that’s something I could only ever dream of!
With that out of the way "The Magical Coaching Solution Inside Arturo’s Head" continues with the example:
Let’s say that one of the other MLS clubs are having big salary cap problems. How about someone like the MetroStars who could conceivably want to get rid of a player like Eddie Pope to clear some room and add new additions to their roster. I pick Eddie as a feasible example because reason tells me that a guy with his accomplishments US National Team experience and entering his tenth year in MLS should be at the top level of the salary scale (not to mention that Soccer America listed his salary at in between $286165 - $350331.66 on January 6 2004) which represents approximately one fifth of the entire salary cap of the Metros.
So the MetroStars are desperate to get a deal done but nothing is coming through the pipes and March 1st 2005 is approaching fast. All of a sudden on February 26th Arturo Rivers (remember I’m the Rapids Head Coach) picks up the phone and offers Metros GM Nick Sakiewicz the amazing duo of Delgado and Martinez two exciting Cuban Internationals in exchange for Pope and his entire salary!
And just like that the Rapids land a top flight central defender while freeing up two international roster spots and unloading the Cubans quicker than Cosmo Kramer can roll a crepe. Brilliant! (Whoops change that exclamation to Fantastic! The Rapids just reminded me that Budweiser’s a league sponsor and this isn’t a Guinness commercial).
Now to bring this neurological saga to an end (I’m getting a headache from fantasizing and sweaty palms from all the possibilities out there----whoops it must be late that sounds R-rated) let’s look at a worst-case scenario.
If none of the above happens and March 1st 2005 comes around and I (from the Head Coach position that I’m about to be Hankinsized from) end up with our last example player Zizi Roberts still on the roster. If he doesn’t fit into my plans for 2005 I just might be forced to straight out waive him.
When it comes to replacing him well it looks like I would have lost any bargaining power with the other teams around the league and I would just let him become a free agent. Then I could sign with his open SI slot one of the international players that I’ve been scouting and had training with the team since February 1st 2005 (official MLS date for beginning of Spring Training).
So after picking my own brain with this mental soccer floss where do I end up?
At least now I understand a bit better after writing this piece why sometimes in MLS especially at the beginning of the year we don’t hear too much official information from the teams on some of their players’ current statuses…..it seems sometimes it might be better to be on the lookout for players coming through the front door of the club instead of the ones coming out the back door!
Arturo Rivers' The Dark Side column runs weekly only on ColoradoRapids.com. Views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and not necessarily those of the Colorado Rapids or ColoradoRapids.com. Send any questions and comments to Arturo Rivers at firstname.lastname@example.org