Empire XI: LA Galaxy, Sporting Kansas City Affirm Status as Champions of MLS CBA


Staff Writer

The end of the last transfer window of the current collective bargaining agreement between MLS and the MLS Players Union is as frenzied as one would expect, given the current climate of the league. However, there are threads which ring true for the teams making noteworthy moves regarding players and management that reflect their recent history conducting business in this agreement.

The two most successful teams in MLS during the past five seasons have been the LA Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City. The Galaxy have always been able to shrewdly find a way to keep the core pieces of the team that won back-to-back MLS Cups (making Omar Gonzalez a DP and re-signing Robbie Keane) and finding ways to address their weaknesses midseason (Jaime Penedo and Christian Wilhelmsson). Now Head Coach Bruce Arena and Team President Chris Klein are making moves again.

The Galaxy traded Kofi Opare to D.C. United and swapped places in the allocation order currently placing them third behind the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas. Opare was a backup centerback with the Galaxy and will be the same for United, but it still makes him a solid depth acquisition, especially with the CONCACAF Champions League set to start next month.

With all due respect to the young center back, he was not the reason this trade matters.

With a week left in the transfer window, any transaction involving the allocation order instantly becomes noteworthy. Since this is the last transfer window of the current CBA, that only gets further emphasized. No one knows exactly what changes to the player acquisition mechanisms will be mad,e but the universal opinion is that there will be changes. With that being the case, if there ever was a time to try and make the most out of the current system to improve your team for what should be a very tight playoff race, now would be that time.

The Galaxy never needed that reminder and have established the framework for what should be the deepest team in MLS. Successfully implementing LA Galaxy II is the greatest testament to that and the Opare trade is a small indicator of what the Galaxy can do under the current CBA and will do under the new CBA. By simply having more professional players in their infrastructure, they are more likely to have players who can help other MLS teams which means they can get a good return on a trade, such as the third ranking in the allocation order.

As Franco Panizo reports, the Galaxy are aiming to acquire Sacha Kljestan on loan from Anderlecht. Kljestan would have to go through the allocation order and with either the Crew or FC Dallas reportedly unable to pay the club’s loan fee, the Galaxy are right there to snatch up an extra midfielder to lessen the workload on the 32 year old Marcelo Sarvas. They also make anyone who wrote them off earlier this season feel really dumb.

Sporting Kansas City were able to keep Matt Besler and Graham Zusi because they won last year’s MLS Cup with only one DP. It speaks to the superb job Head Coach Peter Vermes did in assembling one of the most cost-effective squads in recent history. It also speaks to the job Vermes did in replenishing his squad after Roger Espinoza joined Wigan Athletic. Uri Rosell’s departure for Sporting Lisbon also failed to negatively affect their roster. Lawrence Olum and Mikey Lopez have held their own in the midfield allowing Benny Feilhaber to progress with a winning club. The recently acquired Jorge Claros will be molded as similarly as Espinoza was and the cycle continues.

If the salary cap does not rise to the point where Sporting can keep Feilhaber, Aurelian Collin and Dom Dwyer, the team put itself in a position where it can feel confident about contending in some regard with Besler and Zusi secured for the long term. In short, the club prioritized those two players and made them DPs which reflects the inherently distinctive nature of the DP contract.

The particulars on how Besler and Zusi’s cap hit next year will be interesting to see in that if their cap hit were to remain the same but if the threshold—the highest cap hit a player’s contract can have without him becoming a DP—were to increase, then Sporting can use the difference as extra cap room to give Feilhaber, Collin or any other key player a contract that can keep them there. It is another example of how to use the CBA to your advantage and it shows how Sporting KC and the Galaxy did just that and became the league’s most successful teams.

Empire XI

1. Connor Lade’s loan from the New York Red Bulls to the New York Cosmos is a good move for the three respective parties, especially if it means the Red Bulls can free up a small modicum of cap space. From a Red Bulls perspective, this move further advances the thought that the Cosmos are not really their rivals. The opposite perspective is a little more ambiguous considering the paradox that comes whenever a professional sports team does business with a team that it claims as its rival.

2. With the Red Bulls about to enter the meat and potatoes part of the season, it is bad news for them that Real Salt Lake were able to recapture their attacking success against the Montreal Impact last week. Olmes Garcia‘s goal not only ended a year-long scoring drought but adds some reassurance to the belief that RSL can hold their place in the Western Conference despite the loss of Alvaro Saborio.

3. Beating Arsenal should bolster the Red Bulls’ confidence ahead of their meeting with RSL but this is a remarkably tough game for them considering they have not scored a goal at Rio Tinto Stadium since the 2008 Western Conference Final. Remarkably, Real Salt Lake have three holdovers from the squad who hit the post three times in that game: Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Nick Rimando.

4. Jermaine Jones and the New England Revolution would be a match made in heaven on the field but will probably not happen because of off the field issues on both sides. Jones has a home in Los Angeles and would not want to move across the country and away from his family.  It would be revolutionary if the Revolution went out and splashed the cash for any Designated Player,  let alone one that wants to be compensated as handsomely as Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey.

5. In terms of who will have a better career with New York City FC, don’t be surprised if Andrew Jacobson beats out Frank Lampard. Jacobson was a regular starter with FC Dallas and at 28, will still be in the prime of his career. Not to say Lampard will be a dud but Jacobson can be to New York City FC what Ned Grabavoy was/is to Real Salt Lake.

6. Remember when the New York Jets lost 45–3 to the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football? The main reason that game was such a rout was the fact that starting safety Jim Leonhard broke his leg a few days before the game and the Jets defensive gameplan was shattered. While Chad Marshall did not break his leg, he was an unexpected and late addition to the injury list when he was in a car accident on Friday. Marshall has been a foundation to the Seattle Sounders defense this season and their unguided performance against the Galaxy on Monday Night Football was the consequence of his sudden departure.

7. The confrontation between Omar Gonzalez, DeAndre Yedlin and Dempsey will certainly get its play but it’s not a big deal. Things get intense on the field but what happens on the field almost always stays there. Also this is club season, memories of the good times in Brazil go out of the window considering the task at hand which is to win the MLS Regular Season game. Related, when the task at hand is to win the next US Men’s National Team game, the scuffle in Seattle will also go out of the window.

8. Ronaldinho is now a free agent after ending his contract with Atletico Mineiro. The 34-year old will reportedly announce his next destination today and has been in talks with some MLS teams. A move to Boca Juniors seems like the most likely scenario at this point.

9. The sites for the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship (the World Cup Qualifying tournament) were announced as matches will take place at Sporting Park, Toyota Park, RFK Stadium and PPL Park, all of which have grass surfaces. When Megan Rapinoe was asked about how next year’s World Cup would be played on turf, Rapinoe replied, “I think it’s absolutely absurd that we’re playing on turf and it’s really a slap in the face to women’s football by FIFA and just a show of disrespect,” Rapinoe said. “Maybe you’re not having a thousand times more injuries, but there’s an aspect to the purity of the game and the quality of the game that is played on grass that is different on turf. They can say what they want, but it’s all bullshit to me.”

The fact of the matter is that next year will be the first time a Men’s or Women’s World Cup will be played primarily on turf. The prevailing thought is that next year’s tournament will serve as a test run for FIFA to see if turf can be used at future Men’s World Cups essentially making the women guinea pigs.

10. Although NBC will lose its MLS rights next season, the network has secured Kyle Martino and Tim Howard as analysts for its Premier League coverage for the foreseeable future. Martino told Awful Announcing he will stay with NBC until the end of its current Premier League deal. Howard signed a multi-year deal to continue his work with NBC as both a color commentator and an on-site studio analyst.

11. So the attempts to have a conversation on pro/rel have received a mixed reaction but the most productive point made last week came from Andrew Bissonette regarding the financial gains a lower division team would get from being promoted. The notion that lower division teams are mostly financially sound is not entirely correct. While the financial climate is much better than it was a short while ago, it would be more correct to say that they are doing okay.

Promotion and the idea of contending for promotion would be a great gain for these teams, especially with attendance, but a club can mismanage promotion very badly and end up in worse shape. All it takes is overspending which has been a major reason why the financial situation amongst European clubs is so bleak right now. Therefore, it would be counterproductive to institute pro/rel if there is no mechanism to protect both the promoted and relegated clubs from jeopardizing its financial future. All counter-arguments are welcome, just keep it clean.

  • Anonymous

    Of course pro/rel is exciting and would add a new element to North American sports. However I would only favor it if basically all teams operated under the same structure in terms of salary cap, roster construction, etc. Teams shouldn’t be in a position to outspend each other to get promoted or be stuck with an unsustainable wage bill if they are relegated. What would help is if the lower divisions were equally covered by SUM for TV rights, again to ensure that pro/rel isn’t a function of money but rather of talent.

    The only way I could see pro/rel happening then is either USL Pro and NASL and MLS all agree to operate under a common financial framework or MLS becomes large enough to split into divisions itself i.e. MLS 1, MLS 2, etc.

  • Andrew Bissonette

    Thanks for the shout out guys!! Wasn’t expecting that at all lol

    Anyways, I just thought with my original comment on pro/rel that it was important to show people that pro/rel isn’t all about what the first division clubs would lose, and instead could be about what the lower division teams could gain. Of course, financial mismanagement is always a concern, but isn’t that always the most important part of balancing a roster? Anyways, I agree, there has to be substantial precautions and regulations put in place to guard against the disasters that could lead to a club folding because of pro/rel before it can realistically be considered.