Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Benched Lalas Ready to Revolt

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Benched Lalas Ready to Revolt

Article excerpt

Spend any time around the U.S. national soccer team and it becomes obvious that defender Alexi Lalas is one of the most popular players on the team. Fans love him, he loves the fans. Few preach the gospel of American soccer as fervently as Lalas.

It would seem, however, that there is one person who doesn't love Lalas and, as luck would have it, it's his coach with the New England Revolution, Frank Stapleton.

Stapleton and Lalas have been at odds all year and their relationship hit the rocks on Wednesday, when Stapleton benched Lalas for New England's match with New York/New Jersey. If Stapleton was trying to send a message to Lalas, the message he got back was this: Bench your best defensive player, you lose 4-0.

After the game, Stapleton said of Lalas' future: "Everyone has the possibility of being selected. We'll look at it again in the cool light of day."

In the cool light of day, it would seem that if Stapleton has four defenders better than Lalas, he has done a heck of a job of keeping them out of the public's view. New England has the second-fewest points in the league and looks like a good target to be chased down by last-place Columbus and miss out on the playoffs. It allowed 10 unanswered goals before Friday, when Lalas was back in the starting lineup for a 2-0 win over Colorado.

Lalas, never one to keep his feelings to himself - just see what it does to his life expectancy - spoke his mind about the decision.

"It's a joke," he said. "It's been a nightmare from the beginning. If I ever get back to where I am able to play, it will only be for the players and fans."

Lalas is one of Major League Soccer's highest profile players, one of the players the league felt it had to sign to give it credibility with American fans. But Lalas and Stapleton, who is No. 1 on the Irish national team's career scoring list but has only one year of head coaching experience, have not gotten along from the beginning.

There have been two main points of contention. Lalas had been instrumental in getting former Padova teammate Giuseppe Galderisi to leave Italy's Serie A to join him in New England. But when Galderisi arrived, he was hurt and Stapleton quickly soured on him. Galderisi was soon benched - Stapleton decried his work ethic - and then released.

It seemed amazing that someone who has played in Italy, the toughest league in the world, wouldn't be able to handle MLS and many marveled at the snub. (Galderisi has since landed in Tampa Bay.) Lalas, feeling he had done his teammate a disservice by persuading him to move to America, was flabbergasted.

Meanwhile, Lalas was getting ready to play for the U.S. Olympic team, which would take him away from the Revolution for several games. In much of the rest of the world, the Olympic soccer tournament is a small thing, an event for players under 23 years of age and of little importance. …

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