sports 3 days ago

Crew Cuts: Martinez, on Panama's preliminary World Cup roster, in 'wait and see' mode

The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio — Andrew Erickson The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

May 17--Cristian Martinez watched from his computer last October as Roman Torres scored the goal of his life, finding the back of the net in the 88th minute against Costa Rica to send Panama to the World Cup.

"It was a big joy," the 21-year-old Panamanian midfielder said through a team interpreter Tuesday. "I think people had been waiting for it for a long time so when it happened everyone was excited. Everyone had been waiting for it and it happened and everyone was happy."

He was again on the computer for another big moment, when he found out Monday he had been included on Panama's preliminary, 35-player roster for the 2018 World Cup. The final cut to 23 players won't happen until June 4, but the third-year Crew midfielder said he's not fixated on the result.

"As of right now I'm just focusing on Saturday's game because that's what's up next and so I'm just looking forward to the game," Martinez said. "I don't really know what's going to happen so for me I'm just focusing on one thing at a time."

Not that the thought of playing the World Cup hasn't crossed his mind.

"Of course I've thought about it," he said. "Every player dreams of going to the World Cup but we just have to wait and see."

Twenty-three-man roster or not, Martinez's inclusion on the initial roster is a sign of his progression with Crew SC. Martinez, who has made two appearances with Panama's senior national team, sees this season, in which he has made nine starts and provided two assists, as a potential jumping off point toward future national team opportunities.

There will be questions for Crew SC's coaching staff to answer once Pedro Santos returns from injury -- only two of four capable players in Martinez, Santos, Niko Hansen and a now-healthy Mike Grella can start a given game -- but Martinez has shown flashes of his potential in an early-season minutes increase created by the Justin Meram's trade to Orlando in January.

"Of course, I think it will help me. I just have to continue to work hard, so hopefully it does happen," he said. "If it doesn't happen and they don't call me I'm just going to continue to work hard like I have been and things will work out for me."

His coach, Gregg Berhalter, said he is pulling for Martinez, adding that when he looked at Panama's squad, his first impression was that Martinez deserves to be on the 23-man roster. He's also hoping to hear something official from Panama's soccer federation, as his only reference point for the roster is one he saw on the Internet.

"I'm still waiting for actual confirmation of that, but it's nice to see it on the Internet," Berhalter said. "It'd be nice to get something from their federation saying that, just giving us some type of heads up. So, Panama Federation, if you're out there, send us something."

Lawsuit update

Counsel for Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer on Wednesday filed a motion for expedited consideration of their appeal, a day after filing a notice of appeal with the Franklin County Clerk of Courts on the grounds that the court erred in tolling a six-month period spelled out in Ohio Revised Code 9.67 -- also known as the Art Modell Law -- and mandating defendants comply with "judicially-created processes" they argue were neither authorized nor called for in the case.

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey M. Brown earlier this month filed a 19-page journal entry and order calling for a 90-day tolling period of City Attorney Zach Klein and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's lawsuit against PSV and MLS, a 90-day stay of discovery and a deferral on a motion to dismiss filed in the case. The journal entry also called for the parties to come to an agreement on non-disclosure agreement terms and financial information to be provided to prospective buyers of Crew SC.

The granted tolling period, PSV and MLS argue, equates to an injunction "that has caused -- and will continue to cause -- irreparable injury" to the PSV and MLS. By extending beyond the six-month notice period spelled out in the Modell Law, the Wednesday motion read, "appellants are prevented from timely exercising their right to relocate Crew SC and instead preliminarily enjoined until after the expiration date of the newly created period."

The judge's order prevents PSV and MLS from taking the steps "that would make relocation for the 2019 season possible," according to the motion, adding that an unwarranted delay would have a "domino effect on later action plans."

Spokespersons for DeWine and Klein issued statements Tuesday disagreeing with the merits of the appeal.

In a separate filing Wednesday, counsel for DeWine and Klein filed a memo in opposition to PSV and MLS' motion for additional time to file their brief in support of their motion to dismiss.

Klein and DeWine previously agreed not to oppose a motion from PSV and MLS asking for an additional two days to file. PSV and MLS then requested an additional three months for their reply.

"Because this latest request is entirely unwarranted and especially dilatory in light of defendants' recent appeal of portions of the journal entry and order" the city and state oppose the motion for additional time, the memo read.

"And though this court has stated that it will defer ruling on the Motion to Dismiss until after the 90-day told of the R.C. 9.67 six-month notice period or until further order of court...the defendants fail to present any argument why they are justified in simply ignoring the reply deadline that they chose."

It is not immediately clear when a ruling will be handed down regarding either procedure in the appeal or the status of the motion for additional time.

aerickson@dispatch.com

@AEricksonCD

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