It was a meeting called in March simply to discuss how to right what would turn out to be the worst season in Baltimore Blast history, but in the end it may have cost midfielder Tim Wittman his job.
A decision was made Thursday not to re-sign Wittman, voted last season to the Blast's All-Decade team and who played more seasons (10) than any player in team history.
"I did everything the way they wanted me to, but I spoke my piece, and that's why I'm not here anymore," Wittman said last night from his home. "I thought maybe I'd be let go one day because of lack of play or something, but not a personality conflict. This doesn't seem the way my career in Baltimore should end."
Wittman said he has other business interests -- he owns a hair salon and works as a personal trainer -- but playing soccer is still his main priority.
"I want to fit in with a team where the situation is right for me," he said. "I want to find a coach and a club that's fair and wants me for what I'm capable of doing. I just want to play soccer."
Yesterday, Blast general manager John Borozzi at first cited Wittman's "durability" as the reason for the team's decision, but later said that Wittman's comments during that March meeting also played a role.
"Sure it did," Borozzi said. "We had it, and Timmy said a lot of things that should never have been said.
"I spoke to him after that, and at that point he agreed he made a mistake. But later we tried, unsuccessfully, to patch things up. He's a strong-willed guy -- and unbending."
What was said at that March meeting is unknown but, according to two people who were there, Wittman stormed out and cursed at Hale in response to criticism that Wittman was thinking too much about scoring.
Hale could not be reached for comment yesterday, but after that meeting, he said that he would not hold the comments against Wittman and added, "I'm going to keep him if he can help the team."
Wittman, a free agent, finished fourth on the team in scoring (30 goals, 25 assists), despite missing 19 games.
In recent seasons, Wittman has been hampered by knee, ankle and back problems.
"Timmy is a very good player," Borozzi said. "But durability is a factor. Timmy has the long-term capability, but a concern is his short-term capability. We needed a full season out of the guy."
Borozzi said that late in the season, he spoke to Wittman about his future.
"I said, 'Tim, it just might be time to part ways,' " Borozzi said. "He shook his head and agreed. Three weeks ago we had lunch and it was very cordial. I think he knew, and I agreed to help him find another team."
Money never was a factor with Wittman, who was the second-highest paid player on the team, he said.
"Not at all," Borozzi said. "We haven't talked one iota about the upcoming season in terms of finance."
The decision not to keep Wittman leaves a void for the Blast. Bruce Savage, voted Player of the Decade last season, retired and defender Mike Reynolds died after suffering a seizure.
"Defense is our big concern, with the losses we've had," Borozzi said. "Tim was a player who worked both ends. It's a void we have to fill."
Wittman, who became a free agent on June 15, played in more games (365) than any other player in team history. He needed just 25 points to surpass Stan Stamenkovic (130 goals, 199 assists -- 329 points) as the Blast's all-time leading scorer.
Wittman, 27, grew up near Herring Run Park in Northeast Baltimore and graduated from Calvert Hall. He joined the Blast at 17.