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Friday, June 19, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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After Their Rescue By Sounders, Ex-Jaguars Get Shot At Revenge

Special To The Seattle Times

Randy Mann, quite frankly, was a pain in the neck

The flinty midfielder was a catalyst for waspish scuffles and contentious conversation every time his California Jaguars A-League soccer team played the Seattle Sounders. He never missed a chance to mouth off with Seattle's Geoff Aunger, David Hoggan and Bernie James.

But when the Jaguars started jettisoning top-salaried players, dismantling the defending Pacific Division champions, Sounder Coach Neil Megson called Mann. He told Mann the Sounders were seeking players who want to win and - in Mann's words - "would bite, scratch and fight to do it."

Mann still thought of the Sounders as the enemy. "My first reaction was no way," he said. "I don't want to come play for you. But he stressed the professionalism of the organization, and once I thought it through I liked the idea."

He signed a contract earlier this month, following forward Mark Baena, the league's No. 2 scorer last season who also was released by the Jaguars.

Although they still work and reside in the Bay Area, these California commuters, who fly in for Sounder matches, have no loyalty to the Jaguars. And they vow to lead the attack tonight when Seattle (5-6) host California (5-7).

Payroll-slashing that invited the nickname "the Florida Marlins of the A-League" also brought the Jaguars a flock of inexperienced local players. They found out how ready they are for A-League play last Friday, losing 9-2 to Vancouver. The 86ers led 8-0 at halftime.

"The Jaguars genuinely had a quality team, one of the best in the A-League," Baena said of the group that began the season. "We don't know what kind of a team they'll have. But if it's the team they had against Vancouver, we should look to go double digits."

Mann said he felt "betrayed" by California: "I came into the season (thinking) we were going to make a run for the championship."

One of the original players when the Jaguars joined the A-League in 1994, Mann once kept the franchise alive by volunteering to replace the fired coach.

"I helped them through some difficult financial times," he said. "But they weren't learning anything from it; they weren't making the situation better for players. They never really wanted to commit the financial resources, and it became a mockery."

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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