Flash back to May 2, 2007. It's Amado Guevara's 31st birthday.
But the scene inside Chivas USA's locker room is anything but festive. The Honduran midfielder is clearing out his locker and saying farewell to his teammates after playing only four games for Preki's club.
It's hard to believe that just five years ago, Guevara had strutted with pride and confidence that earned him Major League Soccer's MVP award. Things went into a downward spiral after that, as Guevara publicly feuded with his coaches, team executives and even fans.
Chivas USA was supposed to be his redemption story, though BobBradley, the man who brokered the deal to bring Guevara to the club, had since left for the head-coaching post with the U.S. national team.
Low points along Guevara's journey included heated arguments with his general manager in New York, a boycott of English-language media and an unauthorized trip to the stands in the middle of a game. But "El Lobo" always found a team to tolerate his eccentricities in return for his often stellar play.
It didn't work out that neatly at Chivas USA. He was brought in as a high-profile acquisition, with Chivas dealing its Designated Player slot to the Red Bulls in exchange for the '04 MVP and Golden Boot winner. But his exit was ignominious, as Preki -- himself a two-time MLS MVP -- questioned Guevara's worth ethic and ultimately decided it was time unload him.
"I have a vision of where the club is going," Preki said at the time, "and he's not part of it."
But things aren't that easy in MLS. Guevara had a contract to fulfill, but he refused to accept his trade to Toronto FC. Guevara and his family loved sunny Southern California. If they couldn't remain there, they preferred to go back to Honduras. MLS dutifully obliged, but arranged his move to Motagua as a loan deal. Guevara's redemption had turned into the saga of a runaway.
Eventually, Guevara finally decided that MLS was worth it, even if he did have to play in chilly Toronto. The prolific midfielder went on a good run of form over two seasons with TFC, but his star soon faded there as well. With Preki recently named Toronto's new coach, that leaves Guevara a lame duck yet again.
Guevara was left unprotected in last week's expansion draft for the incoming Philadelphia Union. He seemed like a good fit for the new team, but coach Peter Nowak passed, making a point of praising how his talented prospects are dedicated, humble and hardworking. Those aren't words that have followed Guevara through his seven-year MLS career.
Despite his colorful past, Guevara has remained deeply loyal to his home country, appearing regularly for Honduras and earning the record for most caps in his nation's jersey. Whether the 33-year-old can reconcile with Preki remains to be seen. The midfielder's vision, clever passes and creativity would be an asset to any MLS team if Toronto ultimately deals him.
Coaches, however, often describe how important the right locker room is and how certain individuals contribute to that. They refer to belligerent players as a "cancer" that must be snipped away.
That's the choice for any MLS coach considering making Preki an offer. Guevara's style can overcome his lack of substance, and in the right situation, he could be a key contributor. Nowak wasn't willing to take that gamble. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, is.