Don to Cosmos: Not So Fast

For a long time now I've been commenting on the way MLS issues those "Second Coming of Christ" style bulletins which are not announcements in and of themselves but rather announcements of impending announcements (eg. "MLS Will Have a Major Announcement on Thursday") and that in most cases everybody already knows - or quickly figures out - what the big news is and so by the time this stupendous event finally occurs it's already old news.

Thus, as the announcement is being made there are already four or five 10 page threads on BigSoccer discussing it, every blogger and journo across the fruited plain has dissected it and the announcement event, to coin a phrase, is about as enlightening as sitting in your dentists' office reading Highlights for Children. From two years ago.

This past week, however, they managed to pull off a mild surprise: they announced an announcement and pretty much everyone was in the dark.

Adding to the anticipation - and ginning up the tea leaf reading - was the news that both Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan would be participating. Trying to connect those particular dots was a challenge and not many people that I saw pegged it.

So along comes the hotly anticipated day and - wonder of wonders - it's an announcement that the 2011 All Star Game will be held in RedBull Arena. "We'll now take questions from guys we like and who can be trusted not to ask stupid stuff about relegation and promotion or mention David Beckham".

So while I got my wish and the news really was something of a surprise - and my hat is off to them for that, truly - it's unfortunate that they chose a topic which wasn't particularly momentous.

Blocking out an hour of time on a midweek afternoon so that you can huddle around your computer and hear the Commissioner talk about a stadium booking is kind of a letdown.

Still, something noteworthy did indeed come out of the event itself, and although it didn't get a lot of attention it was intriguing in it's own right:

Don Garber PUT SOME DISTANCE between MLS - and by extension, himself - and the New York Cosmos media circus.

In the aftermath of the Cantona announcement - has he even set foot in New York yet, or is he still in France trying to bring down the banking system? - news articles, opinion columns and blog posts on both sides of the Atlantic had quickly moved from speculation on the possibility of the Cosmos eventually making an MLS bid to the assumption - which was treated more like a near certainty - that they were hitting the field in 2013.

Which was, of course, exactly the impression that Anomaly intended for people to get. With "David Beckhams' best friend Terry Byrne" (he should just have that added to his legal name at this point) saying that the Cosmos are in "high level discussions with MLS" - as opposed, I guess, to meeting with a couple interns after hours - the "MLS = Cosmos" meme was becoming more like a done deal than the hypothetical it truly is.

So when asked, Don had this to say:

"We're in discussions with the Cosmos but also with other ownership groups.

"While I have lots of respect and admiration for the guys that have relaunched that great brand and have done a good job from a marketing perspective, and they've made certainly a lot of noise, we've got to continue to ensure that any group we speak to seriously about MLS expansion needs to have the financial capabilities, long-term vision, the capability to get a stadium built and developed."

That hissing sound you heard was some air - not all, certainly, but some - escaping from the blimp with "Welcome to MLS, New York Cosmos" stenciled on the side that's been hovering over the island of Manhattan like the gargantuan mother ship in one of those "Aliens Take Over Earth" movies, blocking out the sun with it's overwhelmingness.

"Marketing". Relaunched brand". "Noise".

Note to the Cosmos Braintrust (a term which, by definition, leaves Cantona, Chinaglia and Jones out in the lobby): Don Garber knows a thing or three about sports marketing too; he's not just another pretty face covered with scraggly whiskers and the Cosmo Crew isn't the first tarted-up bunch of floozies who've shown Donny the G a little leg and expected him to fall into their arms.

To him, until he's seen the money you're just Jeff Cooper with a bit too much French aftershave.

In advance of tomorrows' Do or Die vote at the USSF AGM in Las Vegas on whether to sanction the neo-NASL, there are some items of note:

The Montreal Impact, MLS bound and damned glad of it - Joey Saputo decided to stop badmouthing MLS as "an inferior league" just in time, didn't he? - opened training camp this week.

And they seem to be hedging their bets.

Currently, they only have 14 players under contract after shedding 9 guys who finished last season on their roster. And two of the 14 - MLS veterans Adam Braz and David Testo - are recuperating from serious surgeries which may or may not put their futures in doubt but who cannot be cut until they are healthy which won't be for months if at all this season.

It is, the team dryly notes, "the fewest players Montreal has ever started a season with". I would add that 12 healthy players is probably the fewest that anyone has ever started a season with.

They do of course have a number of holdovers and a handful of trialists working out with the team, but it seems to the casual observer that until they know for certain whether they're going to have a league to play in they aren't going to commit to paying a bunch of guys to hang around practices all summer.

The guys they have under contract look a lot like the group they intend to hold over into 2012 while the others look like strictly Division 2 players looking for a 2011 paycheck.

Come Monday, I'd look for either a flurry of signings or an equivalent flurry of players packing up their cars.

Finally, it's of note that the last time the neo-NASL was discussed in this space any number of commenters complained bitterly about my characterization of the league in general, and the Carolina Railhawks in particular, as pretty much run, lock stock and barrel, by Traffic Sports USA.

People wanted to let me know that in fact Traffic only "owns" Miami FC. They were simply minor investors in teams like Carolina.

Duly noted.

I would beg to point out however that former Carolina owner Selby Wellman was so disgusted with the whole affair that not only did he totally disband the team rather than sit down with Traffic Sports, he went so far as to list the team name, logos, symbols, designs, slogans, internet domain name - even the damn mascot - ON eBAY.

In order to make it look like the Railhawks had not folded - and thus provide the required 8th team - Traffic had to register a name with eBay and bid on the Railhawks' trademarks like a housewife bidding on a used sewing machine.

It's got to be the first time anyone has ever purchased a soccer team using PayPal.

Indeed, this entire incident was DECRIED IN PRINT by neo-NASL CEO Aaron Davidson.

And he should know, since when he's not busy running a league which doesn't exist he's the President of:

Traffic Sports USA.

Which, just for the record, does NOT run the neo-NASL.

Like I said: duly noted.