SAN DIEGO — Jean Willrich, the Socker team captain and a nine-year veteran, was traded to the Wichita Wings Tuesday for an undisclosed draft pick, said Ron Cady, Socker president.
The trade to the Western Division team was made in an effort to help the Sockers comply with the Major Indoor Soccer League's salary cap requirement of $1.275 million per team, Cady said.
Scott Simpson--the agent for Willrich and goalkeeper Jim Gorsek, who is also on the trading block because of the salary cap--said Willrich will earn more than $300,000 over a three-year period at Wichita. The midfielder's contract also has no-cut, no-trade clauses for the three years, Simpson said.
Willrich, a popular player, said he was somewhat bitter about leaving San Diego because of his salary.
"It has nothing to do with my ability to play," said Willrich, 34, who was earning $96,000 a year with San Diego. "I cannot understand why it had to end this way. I knew that it would have to end someday, but not this way. I was not doing anything bad for the club."
Said Cady: "The league's salary cap has placed us in a unique situation, as it has all of the MISL teams. Letting Willrich go was not something we wanted to do. Rather, we were forced to make some harsh player personnel changes due to the salary cap."
The Sockers still hope to work a trade for Gorsek. Simpson said he is negotiating with the Chicago Sting, Tacoma Stars and St. Louis Steamers but none of the teams has made a concrete offer.
"Hopefully, as with Jean, we can make the best of a bad situation," Simpson said.
If no trade is made involving Gorsek before the league's Nov. 15 deadline, Simpson said the goalkeeper will remain on the Socker payroll until his contract runs out in November of 1988. Gorsek, 32, earns $67,000 a year.
"He (Gorsek) has no place to go," Willrich said. "It is not up to his ability of whether he is a good goalkeeper, but it has to do with this baloney (the salary cap)."
Gorsek said it would be difficult for him to play for another team with less than a week before the start of the season. Most teams have already decided on who will play in the goal.
"I'm still part of the team. I still practice with them every day, and I will until something happens," Gorsek said.
Willrich said he will leave for Wichita today and expects to play in the season opener Saturday against the Sockers in Wichita.
"It's unfortunate that the first game on a different team is against our team, San Diego," Willrich said. "It is not easy. . . . I have a job to do and I will try to do the best that I can."
Willrich, who began playing in San Diego after the club moved here from Las Vegas in 1978, has played in more of the Socker games (248) than anyone on the team. He has been the team's captain since the middle of the 1984-85 season. Coach Ron Newman said he was disappointed that Willrich went to a team in the same division as the Sockers.
"If I had my choice, first, I wouldn't let him go, but my choice would not be to send him to a team in the same division," Newman said. "It seems like the players we have let go to another team (in the Western Division) have come back to haunt us."
Socker forward Juli Veee said he was shocked when he heard of Willrich's trade.
"I knew it would happen sooner or later. Everybody had been talking about it, but I had hoped that it wouldn't," Veee said. "At least Jean still has a job."
Willrich, who said he probably will finish his career in Wichita, plans to retire in San Diego.
"I was thinking about that," he said. "I said I began here (in San Diego), I will finish here. I don't mind to leave, the only problem is how they (Socker management) handled it.
"I had a good time in San Diego, I grew up here, the fans were good to me. It's tough."
Socker Notes The Sockers signed free agent defender George Fernandez to a one-year contract Monday. Fernandez, 26, played the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Lazers, appearing in a career-high 40 games last season. Before playing in Los Angeles, Fernandez played two seasons for the Cleveland Force. The former Cal State Hayward player was considered one of the top college prospects when he was drafted by the Force in 1983. . . . Coach Ron Newman said he probably will not announce a starting lineup until Saturday in Wichita. Newman is not sure whether defender Brian Schemtzer (sprained knee) and forward Branko Segota (strained hamstring) will be healthy by Saturday's season-opener.