Admit it, you have seen the names of various MLS players moving on to Europe and you’ve thought to yourself, "There is something definitely wrong here."
You can relax folks. The sky really isn’t falling. Is the league losing more players than in previous years? Yes, but will the league really be less talented than in 2007? I would go with NO on that one.
You see, what the panicked few who think MLS is losing too much talent fail to realize is that not only is there talent coming into the league, but the window for that talent to arrive isn’t even halfway closed. The MLS transfer window closes on April 15, meaning there are several players, both high-priced and lower-priced, who will sign with the league between now and then.
Even before those players sign, the list of players to already join MLS stacks up pretty well with the players who have left.
Consider these two groups of players and ask yourself which group is more talented:
- GROUP A GROUP B
- Eddie Johnson Marcello Gallardo
- Pat Noonan Raphael Wicky
- Clarence Goodson Duilio Davino
- Joseph Ngwenya Franco Niell
- Nate Jaqua Franco Carracio
- Marcos Gonzalez Gonzalo Peralta
- Chris Gbandi Ramiro Corrales
- Clint Mathis Mauricio Castro
- Troy Perkins Jose Carvallo
- Matt Pickens Gonzalo Martinez
- Andrew Jacobson Ian Joy
- Denilson Oscar Echeverry
- Nat Borchers
Which group is better? I’m sure some will let name recognition sway their opinion, and it can be argued that most of the players in Group B haven’t shown that they can produce in MLS, but I find it hard to believe that Group A is that much better than Group B, if at all.
Does MLS need to increase salaries? Of course it does, but the current exodus of players has as much to do with there simply being opportunities in Europe for players whose value in MLS has diminished. You don’t think Pat Noonan would have had his option picked up if he had shown he was worth it in 2007? Were Clarence Goodson and Chris Gbandi really that difficult to replace? Was Troy Perkins really that bad a loss for D.C. United, which has replaced him with Zach Wells AND Jose Carvallo? As good as Clint Mathis once was, is he better now than Honduran playmaker Mauricio Castro?
Obviously Eddie Johnson is a high salary player who was going to move to Europe regardless of how much better the salary situation in MLS is, but is there any reason to believe that a player better than Johnson won’t come to MLS this year via a designated player slot (like a Claudio Lopez)?
That’s just it. Players are still coming. With almost two months to go before the window closes, teams have plenty of time to sign quality players. The league has done a good job of replacing the talent that has already left and there are still more players to come. Does the salary cap prevent teams from being able to sign some of the players they really want to sign? Sure, but when we’re talking about the players who have left MLS, it should be noted that, in some cases, teams chose to let players in Group A go in favor of players in Group B.
If there is a position that hasn’t been bolstered its goalkeeper, where Matt Pickens and Perkins have left. It isn’t much of a concern becaues the consensus about this year’s rookie class is that goalkeeper is one of the strongest positions.
MLS defections aren’t any more a problem than they were in years past. Yes, there may be more players leaving, but there are more players arriving and teams have become better equipped at finding talent to replace those departing players. That may mean more foreign players coming into the league (courtesy of the recent MLS rules changes) but that should be a short-term solution until salaries go up in 2010 (when the new collective bargaining agrement kicks in) and until the league’s new player development programs start to bear fruit.
No need to panic folks. Talent is leaving, but it also being replaced and continues to be replaced. You may not know the new players yet, and they may not have played in MLS yet, but the same could have been said for Juan Pablo Angel, Luciano Emilio, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Guillermo Barros Schelotto a year ago.
What do you think of this issue? Share your thoughts below.