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July 30, 2007

Meola wants to finalize Ironmen deal soon


"It feels like it will (happen)," goalkeeper Tony Meola said about the possibility of playing with the Ironmen. "Nothing is definite."
"It feels like it will (happen)," goalkeeper Tony Meola said about the possibility of playing with the Ironmen. "Nothing is definite."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

Former Red Bulls and U.S. international goalkeeper Tony Meola is hopeful that an agreement can be worked out for him to play for the Major Indoor Soccer League New Jersey Ironmen this fall.

The Kearny, N.J. native has been in talks with officials from the expansion team and the New Jersey Devils, who own the club. The Ironmen will make their MISL debut this October and will play at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

"It feels like it will," Meola said Monday morning. "Nothing is definite."

Meola said he would like to finalize a deal before his children return to school in Kansas City, Mo. Aug. 15-16. He and his wife Colleen have bought a house in Lavallette, N.J.

Reaching an agreement on the playing end was the easiest part of the deal. "It gets me back on the field," Meola said.

Finding extra money to afford Meola and finding him a front-office position is the more complicated part. The 38-year-old Meola earned $125,000 with the Red Bulls before he was released by the MLS club last year. The salary cap per MISL team is $380,000 for 20 players.

The Ironmen, the Devils and Anschutz Entertainment Group Worldwide were putting together a package that would satisfy the veteran goalkeeper, Meola said. The deal with the Devils and AEG would include Meola working in the front office.

Meola said the deal "hinges on what AEG Worldwide can do."

He hopes that AEG will come through.

"I need to learn the sports business," said Meola, who runs his own mortgage company, American Mortgage Co., in Kansas City.

"When you surround yourself with the likes of Jeffrey Vanderbeek, Michael Gilfillan and Lou Lamoriello, the more you're going to learn. AEG Worldwide opens up a lot of doors for me to learn the business," he said.

Vanderbeek is the Devils owner and Ironmen's co-owner. Gilfillan is the Devils vice chairman and Ironmen's co-owner and Lamoriello is the Devils president and general manager.

Meola said he has met with Ironmen and Devils officials four times. He was supposed to meet with Vanderbeek Sunday, but the inclement weather forced both men to put off that meeting.

If a deal is struck, Meola probably would work for both the Devils and AEG. A typical day during the season would have him training with the Ironmen in the morning and go to certain meetings a few days each week in the afternoon. During the Ironmen’s off-season, he would work fulltime in the front office. He said that he would work on "certain accounts on the AEG side."

Meola said there were three factors in his decision to pursue an indoor career: Returning home to New Jersey, the organization and coach Omid Namazi.

"Omid is an honest coach and that always tops a players' list," he said. "I've known him for a long time. Just sitting down and talking with him was pretty refreshing.

"The organization is top-notch and you want to be able to work with people like that."

The group, Meola said, told him that it would have no problems with him playing outdoor soccer if he found an MLS team.

Meola said he was ready for the fast-and-tumble world of indoor soccer, where shots blaze at goalkeepers from point-blank range.

"If I didn't think I could do it on the field, the rest of it would be irrelevant."

The 6-1, 205-lb. Meola played with the indoor Buffalo Blizzard in 1995-1995.

"I played like an outdoor goalkeeper," he quipped.

Meola, who last year overcame lymphangitis, a serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection if not treated quickly, said he was healthy.

"I feel great,” he said. “I started working out a couple of weeks ago real bad. . . . I don't think health will be any real issue."

Meola said he was approached by former Red Bulls trainer John Gallucci and then former MetroStars president and general manager Nick Sakiewicz.

Meola hinted that a couple of former teammates on the MetroStars and Red Bulls could wind with the Ironmen.

"I still got a lot of friends who hopefully still can play," he said.

The Ironmen are hoping the same thing about Meola.

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