This blog has devoted quite a bit of space to the strange rules of Major League Soccer, and the ways they have directly harmed Toronto FC. Tight salary cap, limited rosters, games on international days, ridiculous limitations on signing home-grown academy prospects … you pretty much know the dance card by now.
So, in the interest of fairness, let us raise a glass and a giggle to a moment last year when MLS oddities gifted the team with a huge shot of something – for absolutely nada.
Happened, of course, when Fulham striker Brian McBride – a legitimate front-line contributor in the always-tough English Premier League – voiced his wish to return home and finish his playing days with the Chicago Fire.
“Not so fast,” the MLS rulebook proclaimed. Because the league, and not the teams, own players over here, McBride had some hoop-jumping-through to do before he could fetch up on the wind-swept Lake Michigan shore. When an established player enters the league from elsewhere, there is a claiming order based on the previous year’s final standings, modified by whatever other deals have been done in the meantime.
All of a sudden, Toronto FC general manager Mo Johnston was gifted with the playing rights to a legit goal-poacher he’d never scouted, drafted, signed or had even the tiniest little carbon atom’s chance of ever having in his lineup.
Chicago said “gimme,” and Mo dug in. Days and weeks went by, until the Fire finally coughed up youthful striker Chad Barrett, cash and the draft pick that turned into acclaimed goaltending prospect Stefan Frei.
And now, as Barrett and Frei report for training camp under the BMO Bubble, Brain McBride – is off back to Fulham. Seems the Cottagers suddenly rediscovered that the EPL uses goals-for as the only method of determining who wins the game. The loss of McBride, therefore, compromised their competitiveness.
Fulham, by the way, didn’t have to jump through any other hoops, or trade any prospects to Stoke City to seal the deal. Chicago is left with the possibility of having dealt Barrett and Frei for a late-season rent-a-player.
In fairness, this is a loan deal. Chicago still holds McBride’s MLS rights, and expect to get him back.
But will they? David Beckham has made it pretty clear he does not wish to end a productive run at AC Milan for another thrilling season of making Edson Buddle look good for the L.A. Galaxy. Fellow L.A. loan-out Landon Donovan may return from his loan spell with Bayern Munich – but not because he wants to. If McBride goes on a goal tear in West London, I’m sure the Cottagers have the wherewithal and whatwithwhich to make the deal permanent.
Were I a Fire fan, I’d be ticked. As a TFC supporter – well, I still don’t like the rules, but it’s hard not to giggle.