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ian woodville
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Whose side are you on? --Always a hard question for fans. Since most of us work for a living, decent pay and fair conditions of employment would seem to be goals that we could, and should, support. To my mind, guaranteed contracts and the kind of free agency within the league that the players are advocating seem like no-brainers. Pay gets more complicated, but then again, the players have said repeatedly that this dispute is not about money. As fans, I assume that we also want to see professional soccer prosper in the US. One argument is that the MLS owners have done better than any of their predecessors and that, therefore, we ought to agree with their notions about ensuring the success of professional soccer. In this, the single entity concept gets a lot of attention. Several facts, however, suggest that mindless support for the owners would be silly. First, all the earlier soccer leagues failed because of decisions by owners, not players. NASL, in particular, was destroyed by the owners' inability to cooperate. Second, MLS owners have a far from sterling record -- witness the designated player rule, the early deviations from FIFA rules and the like. Third, the MLS owners are fixated on the single entity as necessary for the league's survival, even though here and in Europe most sports leagues operate quite well under other arrangements. The single entity has saved MLS from the greedy and pigheaded behavior that doomed NASL, but other leagues use other methods to achieve the same result. Finally, the single entity approach solves the owners' problems at the expense of the players. Frankly, I suspect that controlling the workforce is at least as important to most MLS owners as protecting themselves from their fellow owners. Nevertheless, is the kind of workforce produced by the current arrangement really in professional soccer's best long term interest? Are low pay, onerous conditions of employment and general alienation in the league's best interest? Will young American athletes choose soccer over basketball or football under conditions? Will young players want to stay in MLS? Will other American sports fans take MLS seriously? The owners may currently enjoy their complete control, but is a grumpy workforce really part of a successful future? I think not.
I am sure that you don't want to hear this, but being the original investor in a business doesn't give you the right to take all the profits or to exploit your employees. Believe me, no one would pay money to watch the Hunts or Kraft or Anschultz play soccer... so the players have also made a contribution from the beginning. I would think all you free market zealots would support the players in this because what they are asking for is the right to sell their services to the highest bidder, once their original contracts are done. Isn' that what Ayn Rand would have wanted?
Toggle Commented Feb 23, 2010 on MMCB: On the MLS labor mess at Soccer By Ives
Why does management want to restrict "free agency" within the league? First, never underestimate management's urge to have complete control, even if no money is involved. Second, "free agency" would put the several inept front offices under that much more pressure. Who really wants to play for a team like the Red Bulls, with a new coach every year and constant roster turnover? Or perhaps for DCU -- who balked at pay increases for younger veterans and then wasted thousands on an unfit Argentinian. And I doubt that New York is the only outfit where experienced players would like to jump ship, even if it meant no particular increase in pay. It's not as if most MLS teams have focused on developing younger players and establishing a stable lineup.
Toggle Commented Feb 22, 2010 on MMCB: On the MLS labor mess at Soccer By Ives
The league may claim that free agency would undermine a single entity approach, but it's probably a bogus claim. Many corporations operate subsidiaries that are free to hire staff from each other without reference to headquarters. In the case of MLS, the salary cap serves as the mechanism to allocate resources. To qualify as a single entity, the league doesn't have to make all decisions about resources.
Why assume that management has all the answers and that the workers have nothing to contribute? How would what the players want harm the league? The only additional costs would be those caused by guaranteed contracts. Surely holding management to the contracts they signed is something that we all should favor. Otherwise, the salary cap and the limits on roster size are already important concessions on the part of the players -- way beyond the working conditions that apply in the rest of the world. With those limits in place, management can readily control salary costs. Allowing for free agency after contracts expire and having contracts negotiated by teams rather than the league costs management nothing and leaves the important controls on cost in place. Various folks have asserted that free agency would negate the single entity concept, but I have yet to read a convincing explanation for this claim. Corporations with multiple subsidiaries allow the subsidiaries to negotiate contracts and to recruit employees from one another without falling apart. How is MLS any different?
As fans, of course, we don't want a work stoppage. But also as fans, and presumably as folks who work for a living, shouldn't we support the players. They are asking basic rights, rights that players in nearly all other countries already have. What the players are asking for will cost the league little or nothing and will probably strengthen the league in the long run, by making it a more attractive place to play. Isn't it time for a little solidarity with the players?
A salary cap is the best way to ensure competitive balance. Denying the players free agency within the league after their contracts expire is not necessary to protect competitive balance. if team can decide what to pay foreign players, surely they can be "trusted" to decide what to pay players from within the league. The same sort of argument can be made in favor of guaranteed contracts. MLS management has, to this point, had everything its own way and enjoys the fact that it exercises almost total control over the players. Conceding some power will be painful, psychologically, for management, but it won't hurt their pocketbooks.
Certainly DCU's payroll over the past two years demonstrated a fundamental misapprehension of soccer. Paying over the odds for three or four players was not the way to build a winning team. If, in fact, the front office has learned its lesson (not clear at the moment) we should all applaud. A business like DCU which is bleeding money every day needs to control any and all costs that it can. Even a hundred thousand or two in payroll saved can be significant. I hesitate to ascribe any intelligence to the front office, but a frugal approach to the payroll as long as the team has to play in RFK would be a sensible strategy. The projected cost of a stadium is irrelevant. The issue of the moment is operating costs. I don't know how much Chang is willing to sink into DCU, but anyone with business sense would see that DCU needs to husband its dollars carefully until and unless it finds a new place to play. I suspect the decision to drop English language radio broadcasts also reflects a new cost-conscious approach.
The DP is simply an invitation for MLS teams to waste money. Winning soccer is about balance not one great player. Having said that, it seems that DCU has gone pretty far in the other direction so far this off-season --shopping at the thrift stores. I suspect that the payroll will grow somewhat before the start of the season, but overall I think Will Chang has taken a hard look at the operating statements and realized that DCU must restrain costs as long as it is forced to play at RFK -- where it loses money every game.
Not much of a makeover -- a couple of low budget acquisitions plus a loanee (none of whom seem likely to have a big impact), one draft choice, a new goalie plus dumping three big salaries -- Emilio, Fred and Olsen. Hard to believe that the team will keep Moreno or Gomez, but if they can't find anything decent between now and the start of the season they may just do that. Really looks like a move to a low budget operations -- trying to survive while condemned to play at dingy, old RFK and lose money every game. I give the team no more than than two years to find a better place to play -- either in Washington or elsewhere.
One of the fascinating aspects of this discussion and others like it is that some people can not accept that it is possible for people to fail to meet their goals through no fault of their own. If player X has not been successful, it must be because he has a bad attitude or because he has accepted bad advice or because he simply is not good enough. Of course, all of those may be appropriate explanations, but it is also true that many players (people) fail to meet their goals in life because of factors beyond their control. And this is particularly apt in the context of European soccer. Clearly there is an oversupply of professional soccer players and of aspiring professional soccer players in Europe. The competition is intense. Something like 80-90 percent of the 16 year olds on the books of professional clubs in England are not playing professional soccer five years later... and so on. And the expectation for many clubs is immediate success. Coaches don't have the luxury of giving young players playing time. Even in the English lower divisions it is worthy of comment when a 18 or 19 year old plays. So why is it hard to accept the young Americans -- foreigners with different training -- don't have immediate success in Europe? Why must folks assume that the players are at fault, that if they had the right attitude, they would succeed?
The argument seems to be that Adu hasn't gotten much playing time at several clubs and, therefore, it must his fault. That may be the case, but since no one seems to have witnessed any of the practices for any of these clubs or have first hand information from one of the coaches, this is all just speculation. And my point is that there is another explanation that accounts for all the facts -- that is, that European soccer is intensely competitive and focused on immediate success and that, therefore, many young players get lost. Adu could be just another one. Of course, it doesn't help that Adu is somewhat small and that his favored position is attacking midfielder where teams certainly prefer experience and that it is a position missing from many of the formations currently in favor. Having watched virtually every game Adu played for DC United I know that he has great strengths, including a willingness to work hard on the field -- so I don't buy many of the criticisms bandied about.
Perhaps it's pointless to introduce facts into a discussion like this, but, when Adu was at DC United, he was not a "one-way" player. He played outside midfield in a 3-5-2. The defensive responsibilities were considerable -- basically from end line to end line and Adu was DCU's most effective player in the position. Perhaps Adu would prefer to play elsewhere, but he is more than capable of playing outside and playing defense. It's hard to know much about Adu's experience overseas, but it is certainly clear that European clubs usually have more players than they know what to do with and that coaches are reluctant to play younger players -- if only because coaches are expected to produce results quickly. Adu would not be the first good young player who got lost in the system through no fault of his own.
An overly kind article. It lets the front office off very easily. Soehn needed to go, but the roster the front office handed him the last two years were jokes -- full of overpaid, unfit, lazy, self-centered underachievers. Has the front office learned anything? I think not. The latest signing is another undersized Central American, more than likely a defensive void -- in a position where DCU already features its most promising young player -- Rodney Wallace. It's no wonder that the team is struggling to attract a new coach.
DCU may slip into the playoffs, but they are a team in serious disarray. Soehn feels compelled to play his aging South American even though they produce little or nothing. Gomez was invisible, particularly on defense. Moreno was a turnover machine. Fred -- as a late defensive substitute -- Wow! The youngsters -- especially Pontius and Wallace show great promise, but display little improvement since the start of the season. Does DCU actually practice together? And Soehn has no confidence in any of the team's mid-season acquisitions. It looked like he believed in Julius James, but then he pulled him in favor of Avery John -- whose best days are in the past. DCU -- a team in need of a serious overhaul in the offseason.
To my eye, the TV replays show no contact between Wickes and Montero. That doesn't mean that Wickes didn't deserve to be sent off, but it does mean that the media should stop writing about Wickes "stomping" on Montero. I will believe that there is a reasonable case to be made for Wickes injuring Montero when Montero or the Sounders push for criminal charges against Wickes or file a civil case for damages.
Toggle Commented Sep 5, 2009 on U.S. Open Cup Final: A Look Back at Soccer By Ives
NY is simply the worst in class among MLS teams in identifying and developing players. Nearly all MLS struggle to identify good players - at US colleges, the USL, and in the overseas markets where MLS teams can afford to shop. Nearly all MLS teams have also demonstrated a remarkable inability to develop good players once they sign them. Teams are almost all impatient with their young players. If Stover is talking about improving these two aspects of NY, he deserves some patience from the fans. If not, then it's just more management-generated hot air.