"We Don't Need No Stinking Rules"

A very strange thing happened over the weekend.

Well-traveled forward Nate Jaqua, out of contract after a brief stint with SCR Altach in the Austrian first, re-signed with the punchless Houston Dynamo FOR THE BALANCE OF THE 2008 MLS SEASON.

Astonishingly, the Dynamo was not bound by the new MLS rule that requires all teams to compensate Toronto FC for any player they sign.

Even more amazingly, MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis did not block the deal or demand that he work for $2.75 an hour (plus tips) as payback for having the gall to leave the league last year.

Over at ussoccerplayers.com veteran MLS observer J Hutcherson HAD SOME INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS about league policies regarding transfer fees that are worth a look.

His main point is that while MLS is more than happy to suck up big transfer fees for their players - having already taken in more then ten million dollars in such fees this year alone - they are incredibly stingy when it comes to paying a little of that money back out.

The result is a net loss in quality which they're attempting to paper over with quick-fix signings of limited value and no long-term viability.

They always justify these deals by telling us that the money they make goes back into building the league, but there's precious little evidence to back that up.

Along those lines maybe I'm the only one, but I recall that back in the dark ages, when Alan Rothenburg was peddling the concept of Major League Soccer, one of the primary selling points was that finally there'd be a place for top American players to hone their skills and/or get a paycheck playing soccer.

Back then, Americans were viewed overseas as nothing much more than cheap practice players who were never likely to see the first eleven except in the locker room.

(Indeed, as recently as 2002, when an Italain club offered MLS $600,000 for BOTH Damarcus Beasley AND Clint Mathis - and were outraged when they were turned down - it was still obvious that Europe viewed the US as the soccer equivalent of Beansie's Bargain Basement)

Many early MLS stars will tell you they passed up better opportunities to come back to the US to help get the American First Division off the ground, and however that may be, there's no question that a good deal of the motivation behind the league - and that's not to mention the $50 million the USSF kicked in as seed money - was to provide a league for American players.

With that background in mind, it seems impossible for MLS - a league notorious for manipulating player movement - to block deals like Pat Noonan-to-Columbus. This was exactly the type of situation the league was supposed to be about: a talented American stuck on a bench overseas needing a place to play.

Yet here we are in 2008 with Major League Soccer essentially telling a US National Team pool player to go ahead and let their career rot. This wasn't quite what they told us this was going to be about.

And back in 1996, the vision of the Scottish GM and English Head Coach of a Canadian soccer team exploiting MLS rules regarding the allocation of returning US National Team players to keep a long-serving American player OUT of MLS unless they are able to extort a King's Ransom would have seemed impossible if not completely absurd.

"Sorry Brian - the Canadians won't let you play in MLS any more"

Particularly when that player, Brian McBride, was one of those guys who came back from Europe - VfL Wolfsburg in his case - to help get the league off the ground.

Where was Canada then, exactly, besides laughing at the stupid Americans for trying to start another First Division soccer league??

We were told that we just needed to be patient, that eventually MLS would come around to operating more rationally.

Instead, it just gets weirder and weirder.