Skip to content

Let’s discuss Juan Agudelo, MLS doctrine and the slippery slope of skewing contracts

Jan 14, 2013, 7:20 PM EDT

San Jose Earthquakes v Chivas USA Getty Images

A piece today from Goal.com wonders about Juan Agudelo’s (impending?) transfer to Celtic.

More specifically, Alex Labidou wonders about this business of Major League Soccer losing its young, marketable stars and the potential dent in TV numbers that already look fairly battered. Agudelo, Labidou reckons, is one of the few faces who dwell in the sweet spot of domestic commercialization potential: he’s good enough, savvy enough, young enough and recognizable enough.

True enough that there are not many like the Chivas USA man in MLS, so precious few ready and able to take the baton of domestic marketability from Landon Donovan.

So it’s a fair question, wondering if this move will dim a couple of bulbs that should be shining on MLS?

But there are lots of moving parts here. And they are squeaky parts, too.

First, this is only Major League Soccer’s call to a certain point. If a player is determined to test himself overseas, at some point he’s leaving the MLS nest, like it or not. At some point, the league and club suits can only shrug, get over it and then examine the months or years remaining on contract to gauge the best timing of a sale.

I know where the debate goes from there: “Pay them more and they will stay!”  Again, it’s a fair point, but it’s not that simple.

If you create a system where the best American players understand they can squeeze more than market value from MLS – because they have the league over the marketing and endorsement barrel – you are effectively steering the league down a very dangerous alley.

Don’t forget, MLS tried to do this once before. Everyone got all hot and bothered nine or ten years ago and launched a half-baked initiative to keep the top American talent at home.  (Mostly, they were watching Donovan languish on the Leverkusen bench in Germany and wondering how to keep such a thing from happening again.) That’s why Eddie Johnson was on an $800,000 deal in 2005, following a year where he hit a respectable-but-not-sensational 12 goals. That’s more than double what Chris Wondolowski makes today – and the Earthquakes’ scorer usually gets to the quarter pole of 12 goals before breakfast!

Other contracts for American players got similarly skewed. So, it’s dangerous to dangle too much money on a young player who simply has not proven enough yet. Again, it’s a tough case.

Besides all that, there’s a certain German-born manager in a very, very influential position telling these guys to constantly test themselves.

And isn’t that what most U.S. Soccer supporters want, too?

Like I said, lots of moving parts. There really are no perfect solutions here.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS transfers: Didier Drogba mulling move, Andrea Pirlo “received offer”

    May 25, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    article-1202950-05D61EA7000005DC-689_468x357 Reuters

    MLS is reportedly pursing the signatures of Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba.

  2. Serie A roundup: Fiorentina qualify for Europa League, Sampdoria fall short

    May 24, 2015, 11:32 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-FIORENTINA-TRAINING Getty Images

    Roundup of Serie A’s final Sunday of the 2014-15 campaign.

  3. MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Orlando City SC

    May 24, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT

    Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes Getty Images

    Final: San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Orlando City SC

  4. West Brom manager Tony Pulis unsure of his team’s possible sale

    May 24, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Pulis on chairman Jeremy Peace selling West Brom: “I think he wants to get an investor in or someone who can financially take the club onto another level.”

  5. WATCH: Crystal Palace’s top-10 finish “unbelievable”, says Pardew

    May 24, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace FC Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace FC

    Alan Pardew has seen Crystal Palace rise to snag a 10th place Premier League finish.

  6. Manuel Pellegrini on speculation of his firing: “I never had any doubt all season”

    May 24, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City FC Getty Images

    Manchester City ended its Premier League season in second place, and manager Manuel Pellegrini is optimistic about his job safety.

  7. Championship playoff final preview: Middlesbrough and Norwich eye Premier League dream

    May 24, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    NorwichMiddlesbrough Getty Images

    With 90 minutes at Wembley to prove they’re worthy of the Premier League, the third and fourth place finishers in the Championship do battle with promotion on the line.

  8. Premier League final day roundup: 2014-15 season finishes with a flourish

    May 24, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    In case you missed anything, here’s what happened on the final day of the PL season.

  9. Report: Schalke has fired Roberto Di Matteo after failing to earn Champions League play

    May 24, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    DiMatteo Getty Images

    The club won just three of its final 14 matches, nosediving out of a Champions League position and leaving the manager without a job.

  10. Newcastle’s owner gives rare interview: “From this day forward we will be making our own luck.”

    May 24, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT

    Newcastle United's English owner Mike Ashley (L) smiles with managing director Lee Charnley (R) as he waits for the kick off in the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and West Ham United at St James Park, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, north east England on May 24, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOL

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR LIVE SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS.        (Photo credit should read Ian MacNicol/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    This summer will be key, especially if Middlesbrough brings another set of Northeast Derbies to the Premier League. What’s next for Newcastle?

  11. VIDEO: Arsene Wenger pleased after big season-ending win

    May 24, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT

    Wenger Getty Images

    Arsenal finished the season in third place and put on a good showing in their final match of the season.

  12. Brendan Rodgers takes “full responsibility” for Liverpool’s season-ending disaster

    May 24, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT

    Rodgers Getty Images

    The Liverpool manager knows he could have hurt his position today with a 6-1 thumping at the hands of Stoke City on the season’s final day.

  13. VIDEO: John Terry lifts Premier League title as Chelsea’s celebrations begin

    May 24, 2015, 1:03 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The Blues hoist the trophy in front of their own fans in west London.

  14. ‘Exhausted’ Bruce after Hull relegation: “My future is for others to decide”

    May 24, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Manchester United at KC Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Hull, England. Getty Images

    Hull spent on Abel Hernandez and others in a relatively splashy summer, but still sink into the second tier.

  15. Newcastle’s Carver: “I want a summer where I can bring in the players I want”

    May 24, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT

    Newcastle United's Argentinian midfielder Jonas Gutierrez (R) celebrates after he scores with Newcastle United's English head coach John Carver (L) during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and West Ham United at St James Park, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, north east England on May 24, 2015. Newcastle won the game 2-0 to avoid relegation. AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOL

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR LIVE SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS.        (Photo credit should read Ian MacNicol/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A resilient John Carver, buoyed by Newcastle United avoiding the drop, has reiterated his desire to lead the Premier League club.

Featured video

Chelsea lift the 2014-15 PL trophy