Salvadoran forward Ronald Cerritos was released by D.C. United yesterday because of his low scoring production and high salary.
United, desperate to clear space under the salary cap in order to sign new players, had tried to persuade Cerritos to accept a smaller contract so he could remain with the team. The club also tried to trade him to Colorado, but he told D.C. officials he didn't want to go to the Rapids and would prefer to be released in order to pursue opportunities in Central America.
"Ronald has been a true professional, but the goals weren't coming and we needed to find a different kind of forward," team president Kevin Payne said. "This is what made the most sense."
Payne declined to specify players the team is pursuing, but did say "we need a big player who is comfortable close to the goal and who can score goals consistently."
Cerritos, 29, had two goals and one assist in 10 appearances this year. All six of his starts came in the last seven games for United (4-5-4), but after scoring a superb goal against Los Angeles on May 19, he didn't contribute much until his assist on Jaime Moreno's goal on Saturday.
Cerritos was set to make $162,000 this season, fourth highest among players whose contracts apply toward the $1.7 million salary cap. Freddy Adu earns $500,000 but is exempt because of his age. Contracts become guaranteed at the end of this month.
"I didn't feel they really wanted me on the team, from the beginning," said Cerritos, who was acquired in a trade with Dallas in midseason last year and has 65 goals and 47 assists in 176 games over eight MLS seasons with three teams. "I'm disappointed that it happened this way, but I'm happy to go now and look for another club."
Meantime, D.C. United was told by doctors that Brazilian forward Thiago Martins will be sidelined the rest of the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee -- the second time since December that he has suffered that injury.
Martins, 27, was on the verge of returning to the active roster two weeks ago when he re-injured his knee during practice. The initial examination determined a meniscus tear, which would have meant a six-week absence. But doctors said at the time that they wouldn't know if the ligament was damaged until yesterday's surgery for the meniscus tear was performed.
United Notes: RFK Stadium was named yesterday as the site for the U.S. national team's World Cup qualifier against Panama in October.
The United States began qualifying play for the 2006 tournament this month against Grenada, winning the two-game series by a 6-2 aggregate score: 3-0 in Columbus, Ohio, on June 13, and 3-2 on Sunday in St. George's, Grenada.
The next stage will be a four-nation semifinal group in which the United States will play six matches: at Jamaica on Aug. 18; against El Salvador on Sept. 4 in Foxboro, Mass.; at Panama on Sept. 8; at El Salvador on Oct. 10; against Panama on Oct. 13 at RFK; and against Jamaica on Nov. 17 in Columbus.
The top two finishers will advance to the six-nation final round in 2005. Three teams will earn berths in the World Cup in Germany, while the fourth-place finisher will play an Asian squad in a special playoff for an additional spot.
RFK has hosted four World Cup qualifiers in recent years, with an average attendance of about 47,000. There was a 2-0 victory over Guatemala in 1996, a 1-1 tie with Jamaica in 1997, a 1-0 victory over Guatemala in 2000 and a 3-2 loss to Honduras in 2001, which ended the United States' 16-year home winning streak in qualifying play.
At each of those games, the visiting team had a large number of supporters, but because Panama's immigrant population is much smaller than that of most Central American nations and some Caribbean countries, organizers were confident that the U.S. team would have a home-field advantage in Washington. . . . .
Forward Alecko Eskandarian, who scored twice Saturday, was named MLS player of the week.