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Nov. 14, 2008
Red Bulls players upset with Lalas' remarks

Chris Leitch on Alexi Lalas: "I don't know who he thinks he is, but don't think he has a good grasp on things."
Chris Leitch on Alexi Lalas: "I don't know who he thinks he is, but don't think he has a good grasp on things."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

Hmmm. Sounds like the Red Bulls players and even team management won't be sending Alexi Lalas any Christmas cards this year.

Not after his prediction last week that the Red Bulls would be bounced by the Houston Dynamo in the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal playoff series last week.

On ESPN2 last week, Lalas, the former Red Bulls and Los Angeles Galaxy president and general manager, matter-of-factly stated, "New York's done."

He said it again at least one more time in the pre-game telecast.

Not surprisingly, that raised the ire of Red Bulls players, who were trying to figure out what Lalas was thinking.

"I watch him say, 'Oh, New York's done.' He's kind of not there," Red Bulls defender Chris Leitch said on Thursday afternoon.

"That's not fair. I shouldn't say that's not fair. That's his opinion. He's entitled to it. I don't put too much stock on what he said based on his opinion in the past. I don't think he's made great choices at the two clubs he's been at -- New York or Los Angeles. That's probably the reason why he's behind the camera now talking."

Dane Richards, who scored a goal and assisted on another in the 3-0 upset in Houston, could not believe his ears.

"Everybody off the field can say anything, but a never an off the field moment isn't going to have any impact on the game,” he said. “Whatever he wants to say, he's free to say. He was sure the team was going to be hurt, saying those things about us.

"Now, he can look at his words. He looks like a fool right now. He can predict again this week and "I’m going to prove him wrong."

The Red Bulls take on Real Salt Lake in the conference final on Saturday (Fox Soccer Channel, 9:30 p.m.).

Leitch said he lost some respect for Lalas after he became president and general manager of the MetroStars (who were purchased by Red Bull) in 2005.

"Look how he progressed with [then coach] Bob Bradley and some other guys in New York. I lost some respect for him. Growing up I looked at him as a U.S. National Team player with a lot of experience . . . a guy who has moved from the playing field to the front office. We have Jeff Agoos. I'm a great fan for whoever is a former player who moves into some kind of managerial role or coaching role. That's what that this sport needs in this country. For some reason this guy, I don't know who he thinks he is, but don't think he has a good grasp on things; how things should work, the people. His whole outlook isn't on par where it should be.

"That's the impression I had formed from the first day he was in New York and how he treated one of this country's best coaches and some of the players on the team. And I watch him say, 'Oh, New York's done.' He's kind of not there."

Bradley moved on to coach Chivas USA and is currently the U.S. national coach.

On Thursday night's pre-game telecast of the Columbus Crew-Chicago Fire Eastern Conference final, Lalas said on ESPN2 Thursday that he will "shot gun a can of Red Bull on the set at the HDC," if the Red Bulls win the championship.

"I think I said they were done," Lalas told ESPN announcer Rob Stone. "Don't we look like fools right now."

We? Stone did not make the prediction; Lalas did.

"A blind squirrel catches a nut once in a while," Lalas incredibly said. "Before we get gooey celebrations, everything went right for the Red Bulls and everything when absolutely wrong for the Dynamo."

Lalas then set the bar high for the Red Bulls to get his respect.

He said in order to be considered legitimate and get some respect from him, the Red Bulls would have to win MLS Cup (in Carson, Calif. on Nov. 23).

"Then you will have my complete and utter attention and my respect," he said.

Michael Lewis would like to hear from you. If you have a comment, drop him a line at email.
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