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Costs of MLS leadership changes evident in Berry, Laba, Moffat deals

Feb 26, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT

Chicago Fire v Sporting Kansas City Getty Images

When ESPN analyst and United States Men’s National Team legend Alexi Lalas revealed Austin Berry cost Philadelphia only $100,000 in allocation money, fans across the league would have been right to ask why their favorite team didn’t get in on the action. A more direct question: How could Frank Yallop, handed the keys to the Chicago Fire this offseason, make that deal?

The obvious answer is probably the right one. Citing defense as an area of need when he traded for former Sounders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni, Yallop didn’t appear to value Berry as highly as his predecessors. Add in the constraints of the league’s salary cap and the need to get players off the books, and Yallop may have just decided to let go. He might have wanted more for the 2012 Rookie of the Year, but with Kennedy, Bakary Soumaré, and Ianni in his squad, the desire to free up a roster spot as soon as possible may have won out.

In an ideal situation, Chicago would have planned ahead for Berry’s departure, knowing he was not a part of their long-term plan. They could have picked a time in the MLS calendar that maximized his value and gotten more than $100,000 worth of allocation. A long-term vision for not only their team but the value they could get for assets would have paid off.

But those kind of plans go out the window when a team’s decision-makers change, and while the Fire undoubtedly had a series of persuasive reasons for moving on from Frank Klopas, those types of changes don’t come without costs. Not only are you embracing the risk that your new hire won’t work, but you’re also accepting the fact that even successful transitions come with inefficiencies.

Berry represents one of those inefficiencies, something Philadelphia took advantage of with this week’s trade. Whereas the Union got a 25-year-old center back they hope can slot in beside Amobi Okugo in their starting lineup, Chicago had to accept a poor return on a player who, five months ago, appeared to be a part of their long-term plan.

source:  Then again, Chicago’s not the only team that’s had to embrace with these types of inefficiencies this winter:

  • Earlier today, Vancouver sent Daigo Kobayashi to New England, a trade that garnered a fourth round pick for a player that was on track to do little more than take up one of the team’s international slots. Under Martin Rennie, however, Kobayashi played 30 games in 2013, and while he failed to live up to the expectations cast on him when he arrived last winter, Vancouver’s willingness to accept a fourth round pick speaks to their sharp change in opinion about the Japanese midfielder.
  • In Frisco, an early offseason trade saw FC Dallas swap Kenny Cooper for Seattle’s Adam Moffat (right), a player that had been sent to the Pacific Northwest from Houston midseason in a cost-cutting move. On Jan. 10, however, Dallas hired Óscar Pareja as their new head coach, a move the precipitated this month’s trade for former Rapids destroyer Hendry Thomas. Now Moffat, thought to be making in the high $100,000-range this season, is an inefficiency, one that may not have been acquired if Pareja had been hired a month earlier.
  • And in Toronto, the transition from Kevin Payne to Tim Bezbatchenko temporarily left Argentine Matías Laba in limbo, with the Argentine midfielder becoming the fourth of three Designated Players after the Reds signed Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley, and Brazilian striker Gilberto. On Tuesday, Laba was sent to Vancouver, forced to leave Toronto less than one year after Payne signed the 22-year-old.

The potential benefits to changing coaches, general managers, or chief executives tend to be huge, mostly because teams prone to making those moves are failing on some level. But big transitions are rarely smooth ones, and while Chicago, Dallas, Toronto and Vancouver may see themselves in better hands than they did when the 2013 season ended, their winters have featured the types of inefficiencies that come with a change in approach.

  1. Jordan - Feb 27, 2014 at 12:29 AM

    Ditching Kobayashi for a bag of peanuts isn’t inefficient. It’s wise squad management. It’s not like he’s young or a former rookie of the year, or even a former draft pick!

  2. crossmlk - Feb 27, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Richard, good analysis on the cost of changing leadership. Helps explain why some things happen in MLS that on the surface don’t seem to make sense. Stability in leadership has long been a hallmark of successful sports franchises and in MLS you can get a sense why that (with the caveat that you have the right people in place) is so important.

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