Segota's disappearance may make contract vanish, too

MSL notebook

January 07, 1991|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

His contract is no cut, no trade. It also exceeds the Major Soccer League's salary cap by $30,000.

But San Diego Sockers midfielder Branko Segota may have put that package at risk by going AWOL between Dec. 28 and Jan. 4.

As he awaits a meeting today with team owner Ron Cady, Segota had better hope he has read the small print of that contract, because there is little doubt Cady will be reading it with a magnifying glass.

When Segota asked coach Ron Newman for time off to go home to Yugoslavia to visit his girlfriend between the Sockers' Dec. 27 game and their next game Jan. 4, Newman said no, giving several reasons:

* Yugoslavia was too far to go in too short a time.

* Segota only recently returned from a leg injury that had sidelined him for the first 13 games of the season, and he needed to continue to work on his conditioning.

* And, the Sockers have been hot. They've won 10 of their last 13 games, including last night's 4-1 victory over Kansas City, the Eastern Division leader. Before he took off, Segota (three goals, two assists in five games) was just beginning to get comfortable in the offense. Newman felt the practice time during the holiday break would help him to get even better.

"It surprised me that he left the team without permission," Cady said from his home last night. "But he didn't just disappear. We knew where he was going. Now my options are to do something or to do nothing. I'm not prepared to say what I'll do until I've talked to him. But he did miss four days of practice."

And because he returned with tonsillitis or the flu -- he'll be diagnosed by a doctor today -- he also has missed two games, Friday's 4-3 victory in Tacoma, and last night's win over Kansas City.

Newman is not shy about saying management can't just let Segota off the hook.

"Not showing up for a game or refusing to play is worse than what he did," Newman said. "But to leave the team, to leave the country, without permission, it is almost as bad . . . And the worst of it is he didn't get back when he thought he would, and he is sick on top of it."

At the least, a fine will be levied. Cady said if it is more than $100 -- and sources suggest it will be at least several thousand -- Segota will have seven days to appeal to the players union and have it settled by an arbiter.

While every other player in the league toils for $72,000 or less, Segota earns $102,000 because he had signed a long-term no-cut, no-trade contract for that amount two years ago. The $30,000 above the salary cap of $72,000 has been "grandfathered" into the Sockers' payroll.

"If he broke his contract," said Newman, "that might make his hair curl."

Last night, Segota was unavailable for comment.

"He is supposedly home, sick in bed, drinking hot tea," said Sockers spokesman Tim Latta. "At least I think it is tea. If he's taking Newman's advice, it might be arsenic with a touch of lemon."

* A DOUBLE BLAST: No one was AWOL from the Blast this weekend. In fact, the team managed to win two games in two days for the first time this season.

Friday it held on to beat Dallas, 6-5, and Saturday the Blast rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat St. Louis 7-6 in overtime.

Standout efforts in Saturday's game came from Tim Wittman, Billy Ronson, Mike Stankovic, Dale Mitchell and Bruce Savage.

Wittman, playing for the first time since suffering a severe back bruise Dec. 15 in Tacoma, got things started on a counter-attack while the Blast was trying to kill a penalty, setting up Mike Reynolds for the short-handed goal.

Then Ronson decided, "We had bored our fans for three quarters; they needed entertaining."

So Ronson went into the game as the sixth attacker, and also took on the role of No. 1 cheerleader. He urged the crowd of 8,218 to louder and louder cheers, while Mitchell (two goals) and Stankovic (two goals) led the comeback. Ronson scored the winning goal in overtime.

All along the way, Savage showed why he's the No. 1 defender in the league, shutting out Preki, the No. 1 goal scorer in the league. On Friday, Savage held the league's No. 2 goal scorer, Tatu, to one goal.

* WHO'S A STAR? All-Star ballots go out this week and players must return them by Jan. 18. The results of the voting for the Feb. 13 game in Kansas City will be released later this month.

* THE CARPET CAPER: Commissioner Earl Foreman took a personal tour of the Baltimore Arena carpet Saturday. "A lot of work has been done, but there is an awesome amount yet to do," he said afterward.

Foreman said he would not comment on what he believes should be done, until after a meeting between Blast general manager John Borozzi and Arena officials scheduled for Wednesday.

* MANNING AS THE GIPPER? Blast coach Kenny Cooper said he told his players just before the overtime began Saturday to "win this game for Scottie."

Blast goalkeeper Scott Manning, 8-7 with a 5.88 goals-against average, made 25 saves on 51 shots against Dallas Friday, giving up just five goals, as the Blast held on to win.

Saturday, St. Louis leveled 28 bullets at him. He gave up six goals, making eight saves, in one of his rare not-so-spectacular performances.

"Scott has kept us in games all season," said Cooper. "We won this one for him."

Said Manning: "What am I, dead? When did I become the Gipper?"

* A HALE AND HARDY FINE: Foreman fined Blast owner Ed Hale more than $1,000 for his derogatory comments concerning the officiating of Toros Kibritjian.

"Earl has told me if we document specific incidents concerning Kibritjian, he'll look into them," Hale said. "I think we'll be doing that."

Hale had little to say about the fine.

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