Say you're a young American footballer plying his trade abroad and you aren't getting as many minutes of real playing time as you'd like. So you have a sit down with the manager and tell him that you're thinking about pursuing opportunities abroad. The manager expresses a little bit of disappointment, he'd hope that he can keep you happy, but understands you're really trying to cut your teeth and your career would be better served if you looked at other options.
So the manager looks out there and sees an opportunity for you back in your home country: there's a club where he's got a personal relationship with the front office and they recently had an exchange program where some of the club's players trained together with your team. You liked what you saw in those players, and maybe liked what you heard about the league and the club. The manager thinks it's a great idea for you to maybe try to crack the starting 11 back home, so they set up a trail for you at the American club.
It's been a few weeks now and you're feeling quite good. The American club has expressed interest in signing you to a loan deal. The coach likes what he sees and thinks there's a spot for you on a very competitive roster. You've been training with the team for a few weeks so you know what's expected of you--you know what the coach is looking for and you're prepared to make a challenge for the starting 11. You've been hearing positive things from the Technical Director, even the Club President has stepped in a few times to say how happy he is that this relationship is bearing fruit. Everyone is very excited you're here. We've certainly got you in our plans. You're feeling pretty good about yourself and the club feels pretty good about you.
Then you get sent to a completely different club who you've heard of but never heard from. A completely different coach who has never called to express interest or declare his intent to get you competing for a shot at a starting spot. A team whose system you're entirely unfamiliar with, and a coach whose expectations are entirely unknown to you. A front office who doesn't know you from Adam. Who just knows that another team showed interest in you and possibly read your Wikipidia entry before deciding: well, if we can't use if for trade bait, maybe he can get a spot on the team.
This, ladies and gentleman, is the story of what it's like for many young American footballers who are thinking of coming back to this country. And while this is entirely imaginative and entirely a work of fiction, it's not entirely too far from the truth of what happened to one Conor Doyle--a young American striker on loan to DC United from Derby County.
So... who benefits from this deal? Who is happy?
DC United could be happy, but they are DC United so I can't ever imagine anyone at that club being happy right now with anything. They've had, and most likely will continue to have, one of the worst seasons a club has had in the history of Major League Soccer. A coach who is known not only for his poor record and terrible on field product, but also for hyperbolically calling for his own job and getting huge fines for criticizing the referee. I can't imagine that they are quite happy at this.
Is Nigel Clough, manager of Derby County, happy? I suppose he could be. He gets an easier time balancing his books, but insofar as Clough is concerned with the development of his player, is he to concerned with the environment in which his player finds himself? Would Clough be happy to know that his player is playing for DC United? Would he be happy with the set up they have there? Would he be pleased to note their table position and their style of football to match? Would he be happy that his forward is walking into one of the more famously toxic dressing rooms in Major League Soccer currently? I can't imagine, considering all of these questions, that Clough is happy with how this transaction has happened.
Is Conor Doyle happy? That's to be seen. He could be happy, if he gets playing time with a team. If he scored buckets and buckets of goals and gets to develop further as a player. But is he as happy as he could be playing for a team that for sure had him in their plans? Who trained with him and worked to get the deal done for him? Look, it's not that hard: if you had a choice of where you wanted to work, would you pick the place where you felt wanted and comfortable, or a place you just heard of recently? No brainer.
Are the Colorado Rapids happy? If they aren't, they are keeping very quiet about it, which could speak to the depth of their frustration this year. This is the second time they have fallen victim to the rules of the league. The first was with regards to the reportedly real Charles Eloundou, who has yet to set foot on American soil, and the second is this. Because of Eloundou's selection, they lose out on the opportunity to sign Conor Doyle. Because the Rapids showed initiative and interest in young players, they have now lost out twice. I have to wonder at this point how much hair Paul Bravo has left.
Is MLS happy?
Of course. Their rules have been enforced and parity has been preserved for another day. Thank goodness that we get to preserve a false notion of parity at the expense of the experience of young American players whose only fault is that they looked for an opportunity back in their home country.