Since becoming coach of the Washington Diplomats one year ago, Gordon Bradley has made numerous scouting trips abroad.
But none of those trips can compare to the one-month journey Bradley embarked on Friday.
"At this point there's no reason for us to sign a player unless he's going to be 50 or 60 or 70 percent better than the player we have at that position now," Bradley said. "Since the new owners took over, we've been looking at different class of player."
Specifically, Bradley and his scouts have been looking at higher-class players. "I know if I go to the Madison Square Garden People and tell them I want a player and he's going to make a big difference to our team, I'll get him. They'll give me the money I need," Bradley said. "It will be different."
Before - until a month ago - under the ownership of San Racing, Inc., Bradley was restricted by a tight budget. Good players he could sign, great ones he could only watch.
But since the Garden, a subsidiary of Gulf & Western, Inc., bought the Dips last month, that has changed. Money is no longer a problem for Bradley.
With his new found wealth, Bradley has hired five scouts in Europe, Latin Amercia and the United States to look for players who can help improve on the Dips 16-14 record of 1978.
Bradley knows that David (Sonny) Werblin, president of the Garden, is expecting his open pocketbook to produce results on the field. But he says he isnot worried.
"It does add a burden," he said. "In the past if I decided to bring a player over and something went wrong and he didn't produce, well, that might mean that $10,000 or $20,000 had been misspent because of a mistake.
"Now if that happens it may be a mistake that costs $300,000 or $400,000. That may not sound all that much to Gulf & Western but it is a lot to me. I don't want to make mistakes that will cost that kind of money."
Bradley will visit Britain. Germany, Greece, Belgium, Holland, Scandinavia, Argentina, Brazil and Adruduay on his current trip and hopes to sign several players. He says he is thinking in terms of five new starters next season.
Amongthe players Bradley will look at and perhaps approach are German winner Alan Simonsen, an outstanding young player in the mold of former Cosmo Steve Hunt; Kevin Keegan, the English winger currently playing in Germany, who would certainly carry a multimillion dollar price tag, and Dutch midfielder Johnny Rep, a flashy crowd pleaser.
"I think we have to start with midfield" he said. "We need to have some help there certainly. But I'm going to look at players at all positions. If a player is one of the best in the world, and we'll be looking at some of those, then we're going to try to sign him no matter where he plays."
Bradley will try to sign at least two midfielders to shore up what was unquestionably the Dips' weakest area last year. The biggest question is what he will do up front, especially at the striker position.
Paul Cannell, the Dips'leading scorer last season and their leading scorer of all time, is the incumbent. But Cannell has two problems.
First, he has been bothered by shin splints since the middle of last season. They slowed during the final 10 games and he has been ordered not to play this fall.
Despite rest, calcium deposits have continued to develop on his shins and he may need an operation. Bradley admits concern but is optimistic Cannell will be ready by April.
The second problem is the feisty Englishman's penchant for penalties. He sat out seven games in 1978 as a result of being disciplined by the league and Bradley knows that he cannot afford to have his starting striker out often.
"Paul and I talked about this at great length at the end of the season," Bradley said. "He knows he hurt the team with his penalties because he's of no use to us when he's not playing.
"I want him to be aggressive player. But a lot of his penalties came because he wasn't thinking, because of things he did when the play was over. We can't afford that."
In short, if Bradley can find a big mobile striker, he will sign him. Cannell is not untouchable.
Bradley also will look for help on the wings. Ray Graydon, who set a club record for assists in 1978, has decided not to return next season and Bradley has sold his contract to Oxford United. If Kenneth Mokgojoa, the fleet South African continues to improve, he will probably be a starter, but the other slot is wide open.
Bradley is happy with goalkeepers Bill Irwin and Bob Stetler and would probably only sign another if a world-class player became available. Eric Martin, who sat out last season with a broken leg, is progressing slowly and at 33 Bradley concedes that Martin does not fit into his plans.
"The thing people have to understand is that money doesn't guarantee we're going to get all the players we want," Bradley said.
"Nowadays, players in Europe and Latin America are making big money. That wasn't true until a few years ago. That's not as true as it used to be."
Perhaps not. But don't expect Bradley to come home empty handed.