As we all know, some unfortunate events conspired to delay the roster compliance deadline this year.
It's never really been clear why it's so early anyway; March 1 is almost four weeks before most teams will kick a ball in anger. I'll bet that there's more than one player who'll end the day on a roster who would not have been there if his team had had to pull the trigger three weeks ago.
Obviously the rationale is that by releasing players earlier they have the opportunity to try out (and possibly catch on) someplace else, but of course that's a luxury that's not available in 2010.
Normally when you get the bad news your first call is to your agent who then starts working his Rolodex like a man possessed trying to drum up some interest someplace else but I'm not sure that's going to do a lot of good this week.
Of course there are still a lot of non-guaranteed contracts remaining and some guys will get a chance down the road but it'll have to be after opening day, which is a pretty hard hit for a guy who was still on a team 24 hours ago.
On the other hand, there will be a whole bunch of young players walking around with bigass smiles today, not just because they made an MLS roster but because a week ago there were scores of them who were looking at a $20k contract, a beater car and a mattress on the floor of an apartment they shared with five other guys.
All of a sudden they're looking at $40,000 (plus a shot at some nice creature comforts, see below) which not only might get them a car loan from someplace other than the local Buy Here Pay Here lot, but also a couple pieces of furniture not made out of milk crates, their own room and - maybe best of all - an actual social life.
If anyone won really, really big last Saturday, it was the kids, and it's impossible not to be happy for them.
Of course there will also be some sad, even bewildering cases, such as the news that Pat Noonan is out at Colorado.
Here's a guy whose future could not have looked brighter just a few years ago. He had tied for the league scoring title, was drawing raves from Arena for his play with the national team and ended up signing a $225,000 a year deal with the Revolution.
But after a sub-par 2007 New England asked him to "restructure" his contract, he refused and they declined to pick up his option. He ended up signing on a free transfer with Aalesund for a whopping $400k and appeared to have landed on his feet, but six months later he was back, getting spot time with Columbus and, in 2009, the Rapids, for about half of what he'd been making before he left.
Now he's out and it would seem unlikely that another MLS side will want to go on the hook for even that kind of money. It's one hell of a fall for a guy - still only 29 - who was once considered one of the true rising stars of American soccer.
Don Garber talked very tough in response to a question about DC Uniteds' stadium situation yesterday::
“I just can’t understand why we can’t make progress in D.C. and what more do we need to do to have politicians in that community understand the relevance of that club, and deep commitment to the community, the diversity of our players, and the commitment that we have had… with no commitment in return.
“And I’m tired of going down to meetings and getting, you know, my back slapped, and faux press conferences, with mayors, and local city officials, to have them backtrack on that because they can’t get out of their own way. And quite frankly it’s frustrating. And at some point we’re going to have to do something about it".
He was doing great, right up until the end there: "at some point" he says, "we're going to have to do something about it".
And therein lies the problem: since it appears highly unlikely that DC's City Fathers (and, to be correct, Mothers) have the slightest intention of doing anything at all, it would seem to be well past time "to do something about it".
Make all the threats you want, Don; they've made it clear they don't give a damn.
Whether it's because of the debacle surrounding the Nationals' new park or whether it's the economy or apathy towards soccer or lack of the kind of bribes usually required to move brick one in most large urban areas is, in the end, irrelevant. They're not coming out to play and it's time to face facts.
DC is a cornerstone team in Major League Soccer and moving it away from The District is inconceivable. Let's take that off the table right now.
If the problem is getting some bonds guaranteed, then maybe it's time that MLS take the extraordinary, unheard-of step of offering to shoulder some of the load. After all, this is a "single entity league" right? Mi casa es su casa and all of that.
MLS has to come up with a DC solution, and the time to do it is now. If the operative MLS strategy is sitting around waiting for the local government to change their minds while Cohiba Don issues empty threats, then it's time to come up with a new strategy; that one is not working,
Garber also announced that RedBull Arena will not host the Cup this year, which is a disappointment, I think, for most everyone.
That might normally seem to push Philadelphia to the front of the line but they're making a lot of noise up North about holding it in BEEMO now that they've installed real cow-food grass in the place.
Of course, having artificial turf didn't seem to be a problem in 2009, but in any case, Toronto would seem to be due, no doubt about it, as long as they promise not to boo during the Star Spangled Banner, like they did at the All Star Game up there.
* UPDATE: Goff is linking to a piece in the Globe & Mail that claims Toronto has been chosen.
In the "Worst Kept Secret" Department, Don said he "hopes" to announce Montreal "soon".
Of course, if we're committed to bunking up with Canada in all of this, then it's a logical and smart step, no question.
I just wish we weren't going to have to put up with the insufferable Joey Saputo with his long history of MLS bashing and his crackerbox High School stadium and his lack of respect, shall we say, for telling the truth.
On the other hand, holding your nose over the ownership is a reasonable price to pay for a yearly road trip to one of the truly unique and fun places in North America. The only down side will be that your wife and/or significant other will demand to come along to sample the local amenities, meaning that one of those very amenities, the best strip joints anywhere (or so I hear, I would certainly have no way of knowing, none at all) will be off limits.
Still, it is usually a mistake to underestimate Joey's ability to screw stuff up, so there's an outside chance it won't happen, but the momentum seems irresistible.
Finally, some more details were released yesterday in regard to the CBA, and it's a veritable cornucopia of delights:
A more generous per diem, better road hotels (there are several cities that the players routinely complain about), a formula which ties game appearances to salary boosts (10% or 12% for playing in 2/3rd or 3/4ths of a teams' game, respectively), bonuses for wins, bonuses for winning international tournaments, extra money for appearing in exhibitions with foreign teams, increased 401k payments, increased relocation reimbursement, full family health and dental, etc.
It's a long ways from the days when DC United flew something like 20 hours to appear in a tournament in Mexico (I think - someone help me with the details) and each player's share was something like $27, and the league told them they were lucky to get it since their contracts said they didn't have to pay them a dime.
I love progress.