Claim: US World Cup Player Dropped Over Affair

Ronald Blum of the ASSOCIATED PRESS reports Tuesday evening:

Eric Wynalda John Harkes

Breaking more than a decade of silence, former U.S. soccer coach Steve Sampson said Tuesday he dropped John Harkes from the national team roster two months before the 1998 World Cup because the American captain was having an affair with the wife of teammate Eric Wynalda.

Harkes has long denied having an affair with Amy Wynalda.

Sampson was prompted to confirm the move after Wynalda “brought up the affair” on the television show, Fox Football Fone-In. Wynalda compared his situation to what’s happening to the recently outed John Terry, who is the captain of England’s National Soccer Team.

Wynalda: “There’s a lot of similarities between what happened to us in ‘98 and what’s happening now to England. It’s an unfortunate time for England, because I know how that can affect a team firsthand. Obviously, we all know how we did in the World Cup in ‘98. I’m calling it an inappropriate relationship (between Harkes and his wife). It was a major contributor to why I’m no longer married.

The couple divorced in 2003.

Wynalda said that he tried to convince Sampson not to drop Harkes off the team because of the relationship: “At that time, I felt that he was still a player that could help our cause and he was still one of the best 22 players in our country.

Sampson: “Maybe now people will have a little bit more of an understanding as to why I made such a critical decision back in 1998. The last thing I wanted to do was drop John Harkes from the team because I really did believe that he was an outstanding leader on the field.

I felt that these are the kinds of issues that need to stay in the locker room and within the team and not (be) exposed to the public. The private issues for me were the most serious issues. I think I could have lived with everything else and kept John on the team if it had not been for the private issues. It’s one thing to have an affair outside the team. It’s another to have one inside. … There are just certain lines that one cannot cross.

Harkes went Mark McGwire when asked about the affair: “I am not going to rehash the things that have happened in the past. 1998 was devastating to me and my family. It was hard enough not to play in the World Cup, but it was even difficult to go through that time period, the most difficult time period of my life.

Right, kind of like breaking up Wynalda’s wife and three children?