TAMPA — FC Tampa Bay unsuccessfully attempted to terminate defender Omar Jarun's contract for a "material breach" earlier this month, the second time this season the club has tried to tear up a player's deal.
Veteran midfielder Tony McManus left town and missed FC Tampa Bay's game vs. Montreal on May 21 for undisclosed personal reasons and was released from his contract five days later.
Jarun, a 27-year-old defender who injured his knee May 21, was also handed a termination form after he left town Memorial Day weekend without the club's permission.
But Jarun's agent, Washington D.C.-based Justin Stone, filed a complaint to the league, which instead issued Jarun a fine and one-game suspension, which has been served.
FC Tampa Bay owner Andrew Nestor said both players displayed actions that showed they were not committed to the team.
"We are committed to our players," Nestor said. "We go out of our way off the field to take care of them. We expect our players to also be committed to the club. We felt that their actions went against the essence of the players' obligation in the contract. We felt because of the serious nature of that, that we moved to terminate."
Nestor said the coaching staff met with players to discuss McManus' situation, a meeting Jarun did not attend. Nestor also said he met with team captain Frankie Sanfilippo about Jarun's abrupt absence.
"Frankly, the players get upset when they see their teammates not putting in the effort and commitment as well," Nestor said. "We have a very good clubhouse. It's very positive right now and we don't want to lose that and make sure the players we have here are totally committed to the team."
Stone said he was surprised by the club's move to try to terminate his client's contract. At the time Jarun left for his hometown of Atlanta, he was an inactive player rehabilitating his knee while the team was out of town on a road trip to Minnesota and Edmonton.
While he was away, Jarun did miss an impromptu mandatory appearance, but when he was contacted by the club he did not take from the conversation that his departure would be punished so harshly. Jarun expected to return Sunday, but didn't get back until Tuesday.
Per the NASL's ruling, Jarun was issued an undisclosed fine and one-game suspension, which he served June 4 against Carolina, Nestor said. He is currently playing for the Palestine national team.
"Once he finished his duties with the national team, he'll report back and I guess it's just expected from both sides that we both do our jobs and move forward in a professional manner and try to win games," Nestor said.
The Palestine national team, playing in Asia group World Cup qualifying, has two more scheduled games — both against Afghanistan — on Tuesday and Sunday. After that, Stone also said he expects his client to return to Tampa Bay.
"Omar is a professional soccer player," Stone said. "As of right now, he is a current member of FC Tampa Bay and even prior to this incident his No. 1 goal was to make the playoffs, perhaps a regular-season title and ultimately an NASL championship. That's why he plays the sport."