Player uncertainty brews in K.C.
Prior to Thursday's announcement by Kansas City Wizards investor-operator Lamar Hunt at Arrowhead Stadium that he had decided to sell the team, five-year veteran back Nick Garcia had a telling conversation.
"Somebody called me on the phone this afternoon and asked, 'So, where we moving?' They thought I had the inside scoop, and I didn't. I thought they were pulling my leg. I had no idea. I don't think any of us did," Garcia said about Hunt's decision to put the Major League Soccer club on the market.
Hunt -- also the investor-operator of FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew -- on Thursday said he was resigned to the fact that the Wizards were a drain on the operation of his NFL franchise, the Kansas City Chiefs, and that the building of a soccer-specific stadium was not something he was willing to fund, especially after a referendum went down to defeat that would have brought a publicly-funded modernization of Arrowhead Stadium.
"I can't believe it," Garcia said.
It was ironic that Garcia, whose contract with MLS expires on Dec. 31, as well as recently re-signed midfielder Diego Gutierrez, were both present at the news conference announcing Hunt's intent to sell the Wizards. The contrast represented by each player's situation represents the uncertainty that each faces.
"Now is the time to call my agent and see what his thoughts and feelings are and go from there," Garcia said.
The 25-year-old defender, who recently returned from a failed trial in Norway and has been called into the U.S. national team training camp next month in California, said before MLS Cup that if he was going to play in MLS next season it would be with the Wizards.
But now with the murky future of the team in Kansas City, Garcia gave an ominous response as to whether that would impact his decision.
"Sure it does. I think, either way, things happen for a reason, and even though Kansas City is a great place to be and a great team to play for, I don't see us being here for the next two years, especially maybe in the 2006 season," he said. "Things are going to happen, and we just have to wait and see."
Garcia also gave his view on the possibility of a local investor fulfilling Hunt's qualification of a "doable" plan for a soccer-specific stadium.
"At least 40-50 million dollars is what it's going to take [$10 million for the team and $30-40 million for a stadium]. I think it's going to be difficult to get a local investor," he said. "I think that's why you have Rochester on the market. I think that's why you've got Tulsa, Houston, and San Antonio. So we'll wait and see. Lamar is committed for another year and after that we'll wait and see.
"After [the 2005 season], I think the odds [for the team to be playing in Kansas City] are slim. I think it takes awhile for a stadium to be built. You have that as the No. 1 priority for the league, so that's going to be difficult. It's going to take some time to get it done."
The Wizards are the only professional team Garcia has played for since they drafted him out of Indiana University in 2000. Garcia was forthright about his feelings if he left -- or had to leave -- Kansas City.
"It would be sad. I enjoy Kansas City a lot. The people are great, the fans are great, and the cost of living is very, very good compared to some of the other cities," he said. "If that happens, it happens. It's part of being a professional."
Garcia and the rest of the Wizards players were hearing Hunt's statement for the first time Thursday. The news has helped Garcia understand some moves made by the team's front office.
"I don't think I've lost any confidence. I'm going to question what the role of this team or any team I am going to be on is," Garcia said. "With things having happened with Tony and now with the team being on the market, you kind of wonder, maybe see now why certain things were done from a financial standpoint."
Garcia and Meola are not the only Wizards whose contracts expire at the end of the calendar year, with Jose Burciaga Jr. and Kerry Zavagnin in the same boat. Garcia emphasized the expansion of possibilities with two new teams coming into the league for the 2005 season with Real Salt Lake and CD Chivas USA, but also for himself, options overseas.
"There are still some possibilities for me abroad, but at the same time possibility of getting something done. Right now it's just going to be a matter of looking at things and taking it day by day. I'm not in a rush by any means. I'm not going to jump at the first thing that's out there. I'd be a fool to do that," Garcia said.
"There are still possibilities -- hopefully we can get something done here with the league soon, but know who knows. We have two more teams coming into the league. That's a good possibility for more employment, but now we have our own problems."
Robert Rusert is a contriutor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.