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Lalas takes a bite out of Big Apple

Less than 24 hours after being named the new president and general manager of the MetroStars, Alexi Lalas was in the New York metropolitan area on a whirlwind media tour.

After arriving on the red eye from the West Coast at about 5:50 a.m. and meeting with the MetroStars front office staff in the morning, Lalas was in midtown Manhattan at noon for a media luncheon. It was then on to a press conference, a television interview and an online chat with fans on MLSnet.com.

At each stop Lalas talked about making the MetroStars a "superclub," having players who are not only solid technically but also good entertainers and he spoke about bringing the fans back to Giants Stadium and eventually to the soccer-specific stadium in Harrison, N.J.

"People pay money to watch us perform and entertain," he said. "Any team or player that I've been involved with understands from the start that they are there to entertain and to win. I believe the best teams in the world do that. Look at Brazil, it's not enough that they win, they have to win pretty."

Even though Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Metros as well as four other MLS clubs, said the MetroStars will be a higher priority within the company, the Metros still have the same strict salary cap as other teams and can't just get the marquee player with personality that Lalas is looking for.

Although he has yet to meet with Metros coach Bob Bradley -- who he acknowledged he didn't know very well -- or the players, Lalas spoke in general terms about the current team and its chances at competing for an MLS title. The Metros are currently tied for third place in the Eastern Conference and have lost just once in their last seven games.

"This organization has an opportunity to explode. I want to be part of that rocket ship. I believe it's going to go straight up. I want to be there for the ride."

-- Metros GM Alexi Lalas

"This team is good enough to win an MLS Cup," he said. "But that's not good enough yet for New York. I don't want to be one of the teams competing for the Cup, I want to be the elite team. I don't want to measure ourselves against D.C. United and New England."

And while he stuck to his original statement about Bradley, that he is judged on the results on the field and those results right now aren't good enough, he did heap some praise on the third-year coach.

"I think Bob is a quality coach who understands talent, who understands how to motivate players and recognizes what makes players tick," he said.

While part of his job is to improve the product on the field, Lalas also needs to get fans back into the seats. He acknowledges that task is as daunting, to reconnect with those fans who left and to attract new fans and convince them to return.

He started that task by playing in a 6-v-6 tournament in Chinatown and he will host a town hall meeting with about 50 Metros fans Wednesday night at Giants Stadium.

"This organization has an opportunity to explode," Lalas said. "I want to be part of that rocket ship. I believe it's going to go straight up. I want to be there for the ride. I truly believe that the club you see today as opposed to five years and 10 years from now, will be drastically different. And in a positive way."

Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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