It has been only a week since the Kansas City Wizards won Major League Soccer's championship, but the off-season already is shaping up as the league's busiest.
For two coaches, it already has been traumatic.
On Tuesday, Tim Hankinson was fired by the Tampa Bay Mutiny, even though he took the team to the playoffs and had brought Mamadou "Big Mama" Diallo, the top goal scorer in MLS, into the league this season.
On Friday, Dave Dir was fired by the Dallas Burn, even though he led the team to the playoffs in each of its five seasons and had won the U.S. Open Cup in 1997.
Both coaches had records hovering just above the .500 mark. Dir, the last of the original 10 MLS coaches, was 81-75-4 in five seasons in Dallas, and Hankinson was 39-38-3 in two-plus seasons in Tampa.
But their playoff records eventually led to their undoing. Dir was 6-11 in playoff games, Hankinson 0-4. Had either done better, he might have salvaged his job.
But probably not.
Neither was on the same page as his general manager. There was a thinly disguised dislike and mistrust between the coaches and their front offices.
"After five years, I feel that in order to get to the next level in MLS, a change in direction is necessary at this point," Dallas General Manager Andy Swift said of Dir's departure.
Swift and Dir had not gotten along well, with the coach believing all season that his days were numbered. He told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that fans might have played a part in his ouster.
"[Swift's] exact words were that he was getting outside pressures from the Hispanic population," Dir said.
Among the names being mentioned as a possible successor are veteran Burn goalkeeper Mark Dodd, longtime Southern Methodist University Coach Schellas Hyndman and, intriguingly, former Burn player and Mexico national team star Hugo Sanchez, whose coaching credentials consist of one season in charge of the Mexican club Pumas.
Hankinson clashed frequently with Tampa Bay General Manager Bill Manning, who said as much in announcing that he was seeking a new coach.
"The current relationship was lacking a bit of chemistry," Manning said. "A couple things, we didn't see eye to eye. I just felt it was an opportunity . . . for me to bring in my own guy who sees my philosophy. I think in some sense, the relationship between the front office and the coach may have affected the team."
Former New York/New Jersey MetroStar coach Alfonso Mondelo has been mentioned as a possible candidate in Tampa as well as Dallas.
The Miami Fusion apparently is going to try a novel approach to deal with its league-worst average attendance of 7,460 at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium. Reports are that it will change its name to either the South Florida Fusion, the Florida Fusion or simply Fort Lauderdale. . . . Former UCLA striker Ante Razov will not be back with the Chicago Fire next season. Razov, the team's leading scorer the last three seasons, has signed a two-year contract with Racing de Ferrol, a second-division team in Spain.
Lothar Matthaeus of Germany, 1990 World Cup winner, has been critical of MLS but voiced some optimism while on a visit to Munich. "If those responsible take the right steps, the United States will play an important role in the world in 10 or 15 years," he said. Matthaeus is in Europe for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars' two-game trip to Austria and Germany. . . . The Chicago Fire's DaMarcus Beasley will join Dutch club PSV Eindhoven for a monthlong tryout.
Three members of Kansas City's championship-winning team, Denmark's Miklos Molnar, Scotland's Mo Johnston and Canada's Alex Bunbury, announced their retirements. . . . D.C. United and U.S. national team winger Ben Olsen, 23, is in England, where he is playing on loan for Nottingham Forest while trying to secure a contract with the club. Another D.C. United player, 18-year-old midfielder Bobby Convey, is expected to train in England with Ipswich this winter.
According to Soccer America magazine, the San Jose Earthquakes will not renew the contracts of midfielders Khodadad Azizi of Iran or Mauricio Solis of Costa Rica for the 2001 season. Meanwhile, Earthquake Coach Lothar Osiander is scouting players in Poland and Russia.
Brazil has selected former international goalkeeper Emerson Leao, 51, as coach of its national team, replacing the fired Wanderley Luxemburgo. Leao, who played for Brazil in the 1974 and 1978 World Cup tournaments, is said to have an explosive temper and a reputation for producing teams that employ a rough, physical style. . . . Franz Beckenbauer, president of Germany's World Cup 2006 organizing committee, confirmed that Berlin will stage the tournament final.
Roy Hodgson, formerly coach of Switzerland, is favored to be named coach of England's national team, replacing Kevin Keegan, who resigned this month. . . . Raul Tamudo, who helped Spain win the silver medal in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, has been sold by Espanyol to Rangers of Scotland for $15.1 million. . . . An auction of memorabilia connected to England's legendary Sir Stanley Matthews, who died in February at 85, raised $95,760. Among the items, the English Football Assn. paid $2,600 for an English Schools Football Assn. medal inscribed with "S Matthews" that was won by the then 13-year-old in 1929.