Two Nixed Trades - and Which Is Worse

Two of Major League Soccer's (MLS) brighter lights - Shalrie Joseph (profile) of the New England Revolution and Josh Wolff (profile) of the Kansas City Wizards - were denied oppotunities tomoving abroad ahead of tomorrow's transfer deadline. The players would have gone to Scotland's Celtic FC and England's Derby County, respectively. Of the two, I'd point to Joseph's as the greater tragedy - at least on MLS's side of the equation.

In Wolff's case, it wasn't MLS that blocked the move, but English transfer rules that require that a non-EU player has to have played in a (frankly ridiculous) percentage of games for their national team. With the minimum requirement standing at 75% of these games, and with Wolff coming in under 50%, it's not too surprising he didn't make it. This doesn't mean the situation doesn't suck for Wolff.

Turning to Joseph, though, it was a matter of the league thinking the courting club (e.g. Celtic) wasn't offering enough cash for one of the league's better-known players. But the most irksome part of the league's reasoning appears in Joseph's agent's comments on the situation:

"I understand why they did it, but I am saddened by it. [The league doesn't] want to sell players during the season because it sends the wrong message to fans, plus the Revolution are making a playoff run and a drive for the championship. The offer was being made after the transfer window closed here so they wouldn't be able to replace him."

I'm not sure that fans worry about the "message it sends." Speaking as a Revolution fan, sure, I'd hate to see Joseph go; he's a hell of a player that most teams would struggle to replace even out of season. But, to make the leap from soccer to baseball, this isn't unlike a minor league player getting called to the majors. Sure, fans hate to see the player go, but, on a human level, don't they feel a bit of excitement for the player? I know I do. I get these, "Oh, our little boy has grown up," kind of feelings whenever an MLS player gets a shot to head overseas.

A deeper concern - and, again, one that matters no less to fans - also enters this equation. Joseph isn't the only Revolution player being held back by the league: there's also Clint Dempsey, who was denied a move to a couple of English clubs. Add Taylor Twellman's salary woes to this picture and think about what this does for morale in the Revolution locker room. Based on New England's current form, it's a fair question as to whether their lackluster season owes something to a poisonous atmosphere. Does that possibility enter into the league's calculations of what fans will enjoy?

I'm not sure whose interest these decisions are in, but I'm thinking it's neither the fans nor the players. The league, for their part, may discover this winter that the decisions didn't turn out to be in their interest either.


Mike H said...

Your baseball take on all this is right. The whole "this isn't unlike a minor league player getting called to the majors" idea is exactly how it should be, however, MLS seems to think themselves a top league in the world and not a feeder one. This is one of the biggest reasons they will not send away American players during the summer transfer window.

The reason I don't buy their 'it hurts the fans' arguement is they sent away Dedi Ben Dayan away from Colorado, thus killing any offensive threat they have. The last time I looked, the Rapids were fighting to stay in the playoff race, so I'm not sure why they let this happen.

The Manly Ferry said...

Whoops. I misread your comment the first time through; I didn't see the word "seems" preceding "to think themselves.

But that still points the conversation in that direction. At what point will the league be able to compete, even remotely, with Europe's big five? How will they, or even we, know when that date has arrived?

For the present, I'm with you: MLS isn't a big league and should stop thinking themselves as such and let players take the opporunities that come their way. Not for free, mind you, but, when the player wants away, they don't need to be assholes about the fee.

I think the frustration comes with the impression they're not even thinking about it.