Empire XI: The Jermaine Jones Saga, Rapid Weight Loss and A New Wardrobe for MLS

New Wardrobe

By CHRISTIAN ARAOS
Columnist

If you have ever lost at least 10 pounds in a relatively short span, you know the lengths to which you will go to delay buying new clothes that are better fits. Eventually, there comes a point where the effort becomes too much and you go buy a new wardrobe. MLS has reached that point.

The symbolism of MLS’ upcoming rebrand becomes more poignant when you consider the Jermaine Jones transfer saga as a precursor. Technically, this is logically incorrect but just go with it. The confusion surrounding Jones’ potential destination was a product of MLS’ outdated roster rules. The rebrand is being billed as a way to commemorate a new era for the league. One event shows the need for change, the other celebrates the change.

The change itself remains to be seen.

All things considered, if the Chicago Fire‘s and the New England Revolution‘s interest in Jones was equal enough, then the blind draw was the right mechanism to use for the league. The problem is that the league has reached the point where equality becomes a hindrance to owners instead of a way to protect them.

This is where single-entity’s equality complicates everything.

That equality amongst teams and owners contradicts the myth of competition that exists in the paradigm of most intense soccer observers. Ending single-entity would suit the interests of these individuals but that may not be as ideal as it sounds. Ultimately, single-entity protects all those who invest in MLS in ways unlike any other major North American league.

Consider the relative ease MLS had in buying back Chivas USA in comparison to the litigious process that the NBA fortunately avoided with the Los Angeles Clippers. The former was simply a case of partners buying out another partner while the latter involved forced sales amid the specter of franchise termination.

MLS’ single-entity structure worked in this instance to prevent a massively destabilizing event, and while the league is stable enough to see two of its more fiscally conservative teams commit enough money to acquire Jones, it is not stable enough to turn itself from a tight collective into a loose association. In order for such a transition to occur, every present and future team that joins the league has to be in a financial situation in which it can sustain a competitive team in complete independence. MLS is not at that stage but it is not at a stage where it needs to be as tightly wound and as cautious as it is either.

Thankfully, the fact that collective bargaining exists means the league will have to change aspects of its competitive structure and readjust for the reactionary state it put itself in. To revisit the clothing metaphor, this is the time to go to the outlets and buy a brand new look. The next few months should give us some indication as to what the new look may possibly be as the particulars of both the owners’ and players’ platforms become more known.

The waiting game is a game that no one with a vested interest in the financials of MLS is willing to play right now, but that is the only game to play at the moment. Both the owners and the players have to deal with a great deal of inequality within their own ranks, which is really the issue that can threaten MLS the most. As a result, it would be potentially suicidal for the owners to get rid of single entity because not every team can financially compete with the richer teams (this is why Bruce Arena‘s salty comments sound good but lack the required perspective). Additionally, the disproportionate amount of money spent on players harms MLS’ long term future of developing players because other leagues can offer younger players more money to go overseas.

In short, the prevailing thought for MLS as a business has to remain being sustainable. The current model is sustainable but obviously not optimal, like wearing belts on all your pants just to keep them on. However, the current style is working well enough so that it would be equally counterintuitive to overhaul it and to leave it the same like trying patterns because you won’t look someone who spends all day on the slots machine and because a little variety never hurt.

Clothes and style are ultimately reflections of an individual and his/her personality. MLS’ personality has ultimately been appealing enough to attract a big enough foundation of followers in order to squash the notion that things like the Jermaine Jones saga turn enough fans away for it to really matter. That personality has changed however to be a little bolder and outgoing than what its current wardrobe would suggest.

The negotiations are a good time to buy a new look which reflects this bolder look while also maintaining the league’s personality which is one that is both protective and proud.

In order to do that, MLS will have to institute mechanisms that allow teams to fulfill their ambitions while also making sure that the idea of parity, which allows for every team to be relevant and in contention, remains. It needs to give its players and perspective players more freedom, which it can afford to do.

Ultimately, the truth with the league and Jermaine Jones is that the league cannot afford to remain the same.  The clothes simply don’t fit.

Empire XI

1. The New York Red Bulls have to win their first three CONCACAF Champions League games. They need to get six points against FAS and surpass the Montreal Impact in the Group 3 standings so that they can enter their final group game against the Impact at Red Bull Arena with full control of their destiny.

2. Two players expected to feature tonight for the Red Bulls in the Champions League are goalkeeper Ryan Meara and newly-acquired forward Saer Sene. Considering how vital Luis Robles and Bradley Wright-Phillips have been during the regular season for New York, a string of good performances by Meara and Sene would not only make the Red Bull front office look like geniuses for building a deeper squad, but would also keep Robles and Wright-Phillips rested for a critical stretch drive.

3. All things considered, tonight’s game is vitally important for the Red Bulls. We all know why that’s the case but the main issue with the Red Bulls this year has been their lapses in concentration, particularly in defense. That issue gets exploited time and time again in all CONCACAF competitions for club and country, and if the Red Bulls lose tonight, that will be the reason why.

4. If Jermaine Jones can make his New England Revolution debut this weekend, the Revolution’s game against Toronto FC better be the Stream of the Week on MLSSoccer.com. Games like this are why the idea of the Stream of the Week, where fans can essentially pick a game to be nationally available is such a good idea.

5. There are six teams within five points of each other atop the Supporters Shield Standings which presently makes it a deeper race than last year’s in which the top five teams were separated by six points at the end of last season.

6. The New York Cosmos‘ Fall Attendance through four games is 17% lower than the team’s average spring attendance. The next three games will provide the telling information necessary to make a conclusion on the team’s attendance situation and extrapolate that towards the overall financial situation with the team. However, the Cosmos are right now staring the idea of a 40% drop in attendance within one calendar year in the face. Never a good sign for a franchise.

7. On the field, the Cosmos can find success with Jemal Johnson at the wing and moving Andres Flores centrally which suits his playmaking abilities. Johnson and any of the other wingers that would play on the right side preserve the team’s width in attack which makes it easier for Ayoze and Hunter Freeman to overlap. All of which makes it easier to consistently create chances from a variety of places. When a defense has to defend in different ways numerous times, they will eventually make a mistake.

8. Frank Lampard‘s retirement from international soccer comes as no surprise and it will preserve his career with New York City FC. The decision does not really mean anything for NYCFC but it will be intriguing to see how England rebuild its midfield after a disastrous World Cup.

9. After Stoke City Manager Mark Hughes made the dumb decision to opt for Phil Bardsley instead of Geoff Cameron at right back, Cameron has both sought a move to center back as well as a transfer and there is enough interest to suit his demands. While there are more than a handful of middling Premier League teams like Sunderland and Southampton interested in Cameron, Lazio are also expressing interest and that may be the most intriguing option of all. Stefano Pioli, a former center back with Juventus, is the team’s head coach and Cameron can greatly improve in the tactical and technical aspects of being a center back which is what Pioli is well-versed in.

10. Giancarlo Gonzalez will join Palermo for $5 million, the richest transfer ever for an MLS defender. Not bad for a player who joined the Columbus Crew less than six months ago. However, a move like that will likely result in the Crew failing to make the playoffs this season.

11. Nothing but the best for former US International Fernando Clavijo whose son announced that he is battling Multiple Myeloma.