By: Pedro Heizer
When the Fort Lauderdale Strikers made international headlines last week because of their unorthodox trade with the San Antonio Scorpions for Best XI midfielder Walter Restrepo the soccer community went on frenzy. How could a team trade one of their best players for hotel rooms and limousine service?
Restrepo himself was taken away by the trade but not surprised. In an exclusive with 90 Minutes Strong, Restrepo revealed he had been looking for a trade out of Fort Lauderdale for the past two years. “For two years I have been telling management about my intentions of leaving,” said Restrepo. “I wasn’t surprised with the trade, I thought it was a very creative way of getting me to San Antonio.”
“They knew Walter was not going to be a part of their future plans,” said a source close to the organization. “So instead of just losing him as a free agent and not getting anything in return they ended up making a smart deal and getting something out of it.”
“What all these reports are failing to mentioned is that Restrepo did not perform well at all last season,” continued the source. “He only scored twice and had zero assists in 2013. He even had a heated altercation with a teammate.”
From the outside looking in, a trade that involves a player and hotel stays doesn’t sound very smart, in fact it sounds comical. However, in the world of the North American Soccer League, a league in which players do not stay with the same team for a long amount of time, the trade was very successful.
One of the things that has not been mentioned is that the Strikers and the Scorpions were in talks last season on a possible trade that would have sent Restrepo to San Antonio. However, the clubs could not get a deal done and the trade fell through. This time around, San Antonio pulled out all the stops to make sure Restrepo didn’t slip from their hands again.
“When you stop and think about the trade in context,” the source continued. “It wasn’t a bad deal at all. The Strikers received something in return for a player that was not in their plans anyway. Had they not picked up the his option, Restrepo would have moved to the Scorpions for free.”
Restrepo, who broke into the scene with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 2011 after the club signed him midway through the season, had a very successful campaign. Restrepo got a call for a tryout with the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer.
Restrepo ultimately did not make the Fire roster and so returned to Fort Lauderdale.
In 2012, Restrepo played a central role for in the Strikers attack throughout the season collecting seven goals and nine assists in all competitions, with his eight assists in the regular season tied for first in the NASL. Restrepo’s season was cut short when he suffered a knee injury during training forcing him to miss the final seven games of 2012. For his stellar season, Restrepo was one of three unanimous selections to the 2012 NASL Best XI.
According to some sources, Restrepo essentially felt he was better then the rest of the team and essentially this could have possibly been the beginning of Restrepo’s fall from grace within the Strikers organization, a topic that Restrepo doesn’t believe in.
“I never had any issues with Coach Kronsteiner,” says Restrepo. “He is a very experienced coach and I have nothing but the upmost respect for him.”
Despite all the talk, Restrepo is looking forward to his new opportunity with the San Antonio Scorpions, “I’m very happy to begin the new season with a new team,” said Restrepo. “They [Scorpions] have big plans for me and the rest of the roster, and that makes me excited.”