At the crossroads of history, waiting for the light to change

All right already.  Listen, Chicago Fire, Los Angeles Galaxy, Don, Phil, Andrew, and not least Robbie - get off the thinking couch and get this the freak over with already.  Some of us have blogs to write. I suppose I could just predict what will happen at this point, but...I’ve gotten really shy about predictions.  Remember my MLS preview this year?  That’s right, I punted it, because even now the season is over two months old and I got no idea who will finish where.  (I would have badly overrated Chicago and DC, for one thing.  And I would have picked the Galaxy to win it all again, and who wants to read that crap again?  Not you.)

And the Robbie Rogers to Wherever saga will mean two very, very different things depending on where he ends up.  (Or three.  Have we ruled out a return to Stevenage?)

Option one is that LA, MLS, and/or Rogers force a trade where the Fire get nothing.  (Let alone the Crew, the team he actually played for.)

Not completely unprecedented, but said precedents are worrisome.  Three jump to mind.  Doug Logan - you know, the guy who made track and field America’s number one pastime - re-assigned Carlos Valderrama to the Tampa Bay Mutiny from the Miami Fusion, a move that helped make MLS in Florida what it is today.  Dallas was obliged to trade the Freddy Adu draft pick to DC United in exchange for a player allocation - and for all I know, Dallas still has that allocation.  Of course, whatever rights the San Jose Earthquakes had over Landon Donovan were effectively vetoed by Landon himself, causing an allocation shuffling that made the Adu mess a year earlier look positively straightforward.  (Or you can believe the official story, that San Jose traded Donovan for an allocation to the Galaxy, who then had to trade Carlos Ruiz to Dallas for a different allocation.  I want to say that the Quakes ended up with Danny Califf for their trouble, but at this point it’s just choosing the right color for a relief map of Narnia.)

Much much much more common is where the club that holds the rights, for whatever silly reason, pulls the strings.  Brian McBride’s rights were held by a club that didn’t exist when he left Columbus, and Toronto got a starting forward, a first round pick, and “future considerations.”  In the hands of a club that knew what it was doing, that would have been enough right there to build a contender.  Just because Toronto FC could screw up the recipe for a glass of water doesn’t mean that the MLS reserve system didn’t triumph.

What is it with the Columbus Crew being completely left out of conversations about their most famous players, anyway?  If Brad Friedel came back to MLS today, his rights would probably go to Chivas USA.  Maybe the Crew will get Carlos Bocanegra when he comes back, because things fall apart, the center cannot hold.

Anyway.  I say this flying in the teeth of Grant Wahl’s update today, saying it would be an embarrassment for the league if Rogers were kept out of Los Angeles, but I think Chicago Fire brass meeting cordially with Robbie is more indicative than his tweet mocking the idea they held his rights. 

The other reason I think it’s more likely that Rogers “stays” with Chicago is that the Galaxy are still owned by Phil Anschutz.  The ramifications of Mr. Anschutz becoming the first team owner to cut a check to an openly gay male player are, well, numerous.  Because of Anschutz, I thought the Galaxy would be the last MLS team, not the first, to field a gay player.  And they may still be.

There’s also the awkwardness of how much he will be paid, and how much he is worth.  He is approaching, chronologically, his physical peak…but so is Danny Szetela.  I’m going to take Galaxy and Fire leadership at their words that Rogers is a high-quality option.  Which raises the question of whether either team will shell out Designated Player money for him…or just shy of that, which then becomes a cap issue.  The reason Rogers differs from nearly every other player is that there is now positive publicity around him aside from his skillset.  The Galaxy have a reputation these days of seeing Designated Players through a marketing lens, and Rogers now fits that profile excellently well. 

But he’s not the only one.  In fact, I think that’s why we’re still waiting. 

Which will make for a pretty terrible scene in the eventual movie.  Picture Branch Rickey telling Jackie Robinson “Sorry, we’re waiting to see if Frank Lampard is going to re-up with Chelsea.”