Last week, we were discussing the LA Galaxy's blog-o-ma-phone being a bit sub-standard in the professional sports franchise sweepstakes--bush league if you will. Let's carry that theme forward to Major League Soccer in general, specifically as regards the sorry state of affairs with the Red Bulls' attempted capture of Macoumba Kandji. I'm with Stollar on this one--MLS will whistle and sweep it under the rug and the cold light of justice will never shine on the black heart throbbing within MLS HQ and in the dark recesses of The Owners' Box. But I digress. Let's recap what we do know. Cue the Zapruder film!
We start with the Red Bull motorcade rolling into view. There's the big Atlanta Silverbacks striker now! Kandji whispers something to Jackie O--whoops! I mean, J. C. O(sorio), waves to the adoring throng of twenty or so ESC members that have bothered to show up in the parking lot at the Swamp, and . . . blam!
The deal is dead!
What the hell happened? Is that Gazidis and Garber leaning out of the window of the Swampland Book Depository? Is that Kraft at the head of a shadowy cabal perched upon the grassy knoll?
So much for preferential treatment of one of the "marquee" franchises in the league, eh? The Red Bulls sold Jozy Altidore for a tidy sum and went to invest it in another young striker. The problem? He's currently starring in the USL, apparently, and MLS won't allow $200k to be shelled out for a lowly USL player (ick, he's got lower-division cooties!). Of course, the problem is that we just don't know what happened. MLS and Red Bulls' head honchery are putting up the stone wall of a united front, claiming that no meddling went on. Heck, Gazidis even came out and launched a veiled dig that perhaps Ives was making things up for traffic.
Bold words from Darth Sidious. Ives still stands by his sources. Who to believe? Well, if MLS Rumors was making this claim, then we'd all have our obligatory laugh and move on, but Ives doesn't fall into that same sordid category. Gazidis highlights the different standards in print media and the blogosphere, an argument that many have made (sometimes fairly), but many are losing (see: the sorry plight of newspapers). Sounds like sour grapes to me from someone who doesn't like sharing. Secrets are getting harder and harder to keep in an age of ubiquitous connectivity and the bypassing of Big Media thugs protecting their fellow corporate kleptocrats.
Wake up, MLS! USL is just another net that can land you some quality players by separating wheat from chaff in a professional environment. You may miss something with your phenomenal scouting apparatus (sarcasm!) and the proven crap-shoot of the draft. If some dude had a decent college career, but slipped through the SuperDraft net, then starts banging them in for a USL side, you take a harder look. If you like what you see, you splash the cash for what has to be considered a more proven commodity than some kid who played for UCLA or Maryland, thus guaranteeing that he's going to be a solid contributor at the pro level (sarcasm, part deux!).
And I think we can be fairly well satisfied that, while the USL may be doing things a bit differently than MLS's approach, their record in cup competitions (both foreign and domestic) seems to indicate that they have a pretty viable product. No Beckhams and Blancos, but teams that can hold their own and put a competitive side on the field.
This is what supposed top-level clubs do the world over. They watch the lower levels and cherry-pick the cream that rises to the top (if I may mix food metaphors). You'd think that anything that made MLS appear anything like a top-tier Euro-club would give the suits at MLS HQ a collective boner.
Grassy knolls, people.