Segota Says He's a Free Agent, Plans to Make Jump to Storm

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Upset that his skills are "rotting in San Diego," forward Branko Segota said Friday he plans to leave the Sockers for the St. Louis Storm.

Segota said he can make the switch via free agency and sidestep the Sockers' right of first refusal because his contract, which lapsed after last season, was signed four years ago before the current collective bargaining agreement went into effect.

It won't be that easy, however.

The Sockers contend that Segota is not a free agent and that they can keep him by matching any offer he receives elsewhere.

The Sockers have made it known they will match any club's offer of $60,000, the highest salary allowed in the recently amended collective bargaining agreement. They also have made it clear they will respect Segota's wishes to leave by trying to trade him.

"But," Coach Ron Newman said, "we're not going to grant him free agency just because he says he's a free agent."

Both parties expect a battle.

"If they have a right of first refusal," Segota said, "it should be written into my contract. But it's not, so I'll probably go to St. Louis.

"I want to play for (St. Louis Coach Don) Popovic and he wants me to play for him. He understands me and I think I can settle in there and get back to my old form. I'm rotting in San Diego."

Segota, the MSL's second-leading scorer, would be the fourth Socker to leave this summer. Midfielder Brian Quinn signed to play with the U.S. national team and defender Kevin Crow plans to retire. Forward Paul Wright was lost to Baltimore during the Sockers' ownership transition.

Wright, however, might be on his way back. Both he and Newman said trade talks have begun.

"If that happens, great," Wright said. "But if I have to play in Baltimore, I'll play in Baltimore."

Sockers notes

Sockers Coach Ron Newman said he has agreed to terms with several players and they now need to sit down with the managing general partner, Oscar Ancira Jr., and sign. . . . Newman is also talking to a number of free agents, including four players from the defunct Kansas City Comets: defender Iain Fraser, forward Jan Goossens, midfielder Carl Valentine, and David Doyle, the leading goal-scorer in the 1990 playoffs. . . . Newman said he also is talking to La Jolla native Arturo Velazco, who played sparingly with the Sockers two years ago and last year, while with the Milwaukee Wave, led the National Professional Soccer League with 119 blocks.

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