Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Arena 2, Hankinson 1 (AET)

The row between US National Team manager Bruce Arena and Colorado Rapids gaffer Tim Hankinson has taken some attention away form the upcoming qualifier against Grenada. However, this issue was bound to come up at some point on the road to Leipzig. Just never thought it would be on THIS side of the Atlantic.

Hankinson requested that his player, defender Pablo Mastroeni, be allowed to play in the Rapids' Wednesday night match against Kansas City before joining the US camp for Sunday's tilt with the Spice Boys. Upon this request, Arena chose not to call Mastroeni into camp, believing that players needed to be in Columbus for the entire week prior to the fixture. On top of that, he also chose not to call in three players from the Wizards (goalkeeper Tony Meola, striker Josh Wolff, and midfielder Kerry Zavagnin) so that the Rapids would not gain an advantage by hanging onto its player. Much has been written about who's right and who's wrong in this situation, and thus here is my take:

* Both sides dropped the ball here, for different reasons. On Hankinson's part, he chose to use the bully pulpit when it wasn't necessary. As for Arena, he did not make an effort to contact Hankinson after receiving word that the FIFA rule concerning call-ups would be invoked.

* A REASONABLE compromise could have been reached, whereby Pablo and the KC guys would be in camp for Monday and Tuesday, head out to play the Wednesday match, then return to Columbus either that night or early on Thursday. Had the two men talked, this could have been accomplished.

* What this set-to has done has been to draw a line in the sand for Arena concerning camp and the expectation placed on those called-in. HE will make decisions as to who is in camp or not, NOT the club manager, and if a player cannot be made available for a length of time satisfactory to Bruce, he will not call the player in.

* On a side note, isn't it nice to have this flexibility within the player pool, to be able to stick to an up-front position because there are enough decent players that a moderately-strong roster can be brought together even with absences due to injuries, personal requests, and club managers' tantrums.

At this point, I expect all four players to be brought into camp for the second leg unless there is an injury to one of them tonight in Denver. I also expect Bruce to call in some additional players and allow those who are "needed" by their club sides to rejoin them since we will have a healthy margin in the aggregate heading down to St. George's.

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