A few really disturbing stories caught my eye yesterday. Maybe each of them separately don’t matter, but the three of them together paint a very, very troubling picture. It tells me that Don Garber has lost control of the league, and it’s time for a serious housecleaning. Kei Kamara isn’t the first former MLS player to try his luck abroad and fail, but for Kamara and Norwich to give up on such a ballyhooed loan after barely more than a month? It’s almost completely unbelievable.
Having this come a week after MLS took credit for tying the Mexican national team in Azteca – that has to be a blow. If we’re going to talk about all the bright young stars who became successful, then we also need to own our failures. Especially since, according to Kamara’s tweet, Kansas City is welcoming back with open arms.
Well, Peter Vermes and Sporting need to really consider whether this is a good idea. Having a player come back under a cloud can really affect a team’s chemistry. And Kansas City is one of those young, talented teams that think they can go way beyond Open Cup wins. Now is not to time to rock the boat, even with a nominally familiar face. Maybe Kamara couldn’t handle the pressure of the EPL, and Kansas City is more his speed – but then, what does that say about MLS? Why does it produce players capable of manning up in Mexico City, but not in Norwich? Is MLS doing as good a job grooming players as they’re claiming?
Kamara’s an isolated incident, you say. Look at David Beckham, after all. It took years, but Bruce Arena turned a spoiled, selfish celebrity into a useful and dedicated teammate. When he came to Los Angeles, it was “me, me, me.” Then, it was “we, we, we.” And now in Paris, it’s “oui, oui, oui!”
Okay, enough humor. Forget about Kamara. What about Herculez Gomez? One minute he was preparing for a Champions League game at Santos, then completely out of nowhere he returns to MLS. What happened here, exactly?
This isn’t about Chivas USA signing a Latino player. This is about the allocation process. Herculez Gomez is a national team star, and there are rules for such players. I’ve checked every inch of MLSnet.com, and I haven’t seen anything about Chivas USA trading cash, or players, or draft picks, or anything, to move up in the order. In fact, it seems like the league is just trying to bury the story in the hopes that we won’t notice.
“Oh, hey, we’re just going to send this game-changing, popular player here arbitrarily, never mind, Portland, Philadelphia, etc. etc. We’ll make it up to you.” That’s what the league told Dallas when they were deprived of Freddy Adu. And the league is still up to its same old tricks.
And from what I can tell, Chivas USA fans aren’t even happy about Herculez joining their team! Take a look at the comments on those tweets – CUSA fans are furious! And rightly so – Gomez is a former Galaxy player and current US national team player! That irritates both long-time Chivas USA fans, and potential Guadalajara fans. Don Garber should have known this, and never permitted this signing.
But the worst news was the announcement of the new MLS franchise.
The author of this article shares a lot of my snarky reaction – yes, I’m sure it was literally minutes of negotiation. The ramshackle nature of this announcement reeks of unprofessionalism – for example, exactly where in Kentucky? One assumes Louisville, but there’s no divining that from the story, or (naturally) anywhere on MLSnet.com.
It’s not because Louisville is necessarily a doomed market. The university doesn’t dominate the sports landscape quite as brutally as OhioState does Columbus, and there aren’t even as many major league professional teams in competition as there are in Portland or Salt Lake City. Kentucky FC will be the state’s only major league team in any sport. You could say the same about Vermont FC or North Dakota FC or Alaska FC, but there’s still at least some potential. It’s possible the South will embrace Kentucky as “their” team, but it’s not likely – at least Houston and Dallas were actually in the Confederacy.
But what did happen with Orlando and Miami? Why did MLS spend months talking about a second team in New York, and then immediately turn around and pick another city?
Especially a city that’s had no buildup, from what I can tell. Even the timing is mysterious – why make this announcement in early April? Why not the All-Star Game, or MLS Cup?
What’s even worse is the marketing. “Kentucky FC.” Think about it.
That’s right – it’s obviously going to be confused with the University of Kentucky! Which is the kiss of death for a team playing in Louisville. (They certainly can’t call themselves “Kentucky” while playing in Lexington.) The marketing miscalculation here is just monumental. MLS has been on a winning streak of new, successful expansion teams, so it's awful to see Don Garber lose the plot like this.
Put together, yesterday was a troubling, troubling day for the league. We as fans demand answers. I’ve sent several emails to Mr. Garber asking for comment, and gotten nothing. So I’ve written the league’s owners, Sunil Gulati, and Sepp Blatter. Don Garber can run, but he can’t hide.