Q&A with K.C. GM Curt Johnson
Speaking nearly an hour after seeing his Wizards go down to defeat Sunday in MLS Cup 2004, Kansas City General Manager Curt Johnson revealed that the Wizards will likely call the Eastern Conference home next season and he discussed the upcoming, and possibly convoluted, off-season.
MLSnet.com: What conference will the Wizards be in next season due to expansion?
Curt Johnson: The word that I hear is the Eastern Conference, so that change will be made. That's not ideal for us, but certainly it's hard to argue with geography.
MLSnet.com: How will conference realignment impact established and growing rivalries?
CJ: Obviously we've got a pretty big history now with both Chicago, playing in the two finals [MLS Cup 2000 and the 2004 U.S. Open Cup], and D.C. as well now. We'll still play Los Angeles and Colorado, San Jose, Dallas, all of them, we just won't play them quite as regularly. It will be fun.
MLSnet.com: What is the time frame for decisions regarding player personnel for the upcoming expansion draft?
CJ: Well, unfortunately, it's right now. We turn in our paperwork Tuesday afternoon. We've given it thought; it's not something we're going to wake up [Monday] and start thinking about. It's something that we'll have to finalize [Monday].
MLSnet.com: Is there any word about an increase in the salary cap for each team?
CJ: No, no final word. I'm hopeful that the league will move it up based on just inflation if nothing else. I think we're much like all teams (up against the cap). The cap is tight like it is every year, and there are tough decisions to be made as the months pass, the weeks pass. But the first order of business is the expansion draft, and obviously the cap plays into that.
MLSnet.com: What can you say about left back Jose Burciaga Jr. graduating from Project-40?
CJ: Certainly Jose had a great year, and we have high hopes that he'll be back in 2005. He solidified himself as a starter this year and got through all his injury challenges. He has a bright future with us. He's been a good player for a long time. Certainly the injuries were something that held him back.
MLSnet.com: What can you say about the core of the Wizards defensive unit being out of contract at the end of the year?
CJ: We have a great nucleus of players, and we're going to do our best to keep that nucleus in tact. But change is inevitable, and there will be some changeover, and certainly, probably, some trades and draft picks. But we want to keep the nucleus of our guys together - there's no doubt about it. There's no reason not to. I mean we're 90 minutes away from an MLS Cup championship, and a goal away from the Supporters Shield, and [we] won a U.S. Open Cup championship and won a Western Conference Championship, so this is a team with a bright future. We just have to work hard to make the right decisions over the coming months so we can put ourselves in the best possible situation we can going into spring training.
MLSnet.com: How do you communicate moves to the players?
CJ: [The players] will know what their status is prior to the expansion draft, so they won't be in the dark, that's for sure.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.