New England's signing of the U.S. midfielder was a major coup for the Revolution, but the process MLS used to make it happen left a lot to be desired.Jermaine Jones signing a multi-million dollar contract after a successful World Cup to come play in Major League Soccer should be a feel-good story, but that isn’t the sentiment in MLS circles after Sunday’s announcement that the U.S. midfielder is joining the New England Revolution.
No, the feeling shared by many outside the New England area is one of confused befuddlement at the latest example of MLS apparently making up rules on the fly, and changing seemingly established regulations on a whim.
For those scoring at home, Jones was allocated to the Revolution after a blind draw was held, and what amounted to a coin flip ultimately determined where a U.S. World Cup hero would play.
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The list of problems with the process that led Jones to the Revs is a considerable one. Let’s start with the following:
— Jones was, according to MLS, made to sign with the league without an assurance on just which club he would be allocated to. It was the kind of arrangement no previous designated player has had to agree to, much less a U.S. World Cup star.
— Jones did not go through the regular MLS allocation order normally used for U.S. national team players coming to MLS, but then also wasn’t subject to the designated player allocation order (perhaps because neither team had thought to include Jones on a list before this recent tug-of-war broke out).
— There were rumblings in league circles that the Revolution badly wanted Jones and Revs management put serious pressure on MLS to bring Jones to New England, which made for some curious reactions when the Revs conveniently won the “blind draw.”
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— Lastly, and most certainly not least, the blind draw used to determine Jones’ next club was done in private, rather than publicly, which most certainly would have cut down on the conspiracy theories suggesting the draw was far from blind, and ultimately set up to hand-deliver Jones to the Revs.
MLS continues to fall into these controversies, many of which could be avoided if the league simply tried offering up some transparency in its activities, and if the league could make public even the most basic of rules on player transactions so that MLS fans (and players and officials) wouldn’t so often be left scratching their heads at moves that simply don’t pass the smell test.
The league went through a similar round of questions surrounding last year’s arrival of Clint Dempsey to the Sounders, and Michael Bradley’s move to Toronto FC, but it really doesn’t seem as if those major moves did much to help MLS establish guidelines that even team officials within the league could explain or recognize as established protocol.
As awkward and questionable as the process was that sent Jones to New England was, there’s no denying it is a bold and impressive move for a club with a notorious history as one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, team in MLS. In fact, Jones will earn more for the remainder of the 2014 season than the Revs ever paid in a single season for club legends Shalrie Joseph, Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston and Clint Dempsey combined.
By stepping up with the kind of financial commitment we have never seen from the Revs before, New England suddenly has to be seen as a legitimate contender in the East. Jones is exactly the kind of player the Revs need. A tough and dynamic central midfield presence who gives New England a sorely needed injection of toughness and experience on a team with some quality attacking options but a club that has lacked bite this season.
On the field, and in the locker room, Jones could be a difference-maker that helps push the Revs into the playoffs. Off the field, the Revs have to be hoping that signing Jones sends a signal to an apathetic fan base that the club is serious about building a winner, and serious about keeping up with the types of big moves teams throughout MLS have been pulling off in recent years.
And what of the Chicago Fire, the team that presumably saw its hopes of landing Jones disappear by the luck of the draw? The playoffs seemed a tough accomplishment even with Jones. Without him, the Fire will have an extremely difficult time passing the handful of teams currently above Chicago in the East standings (including the Revs).
You can already hear the predictable grumblings from Fire fans of an injustice being done to a Chicago team that was genuinely the first club to make a serious play for Jones (well before the Revs). The sentiment is understandable, and isn’t without merit, but any Fire fans believing MLS has done their team no favors need only look over at reigning MVP Mike Magee, who almost certainly would not be with the Fire if not for some involvement in the trade process by MLS.
Much like the Magee trade to the Fire, we will probably never know just how involved MLS was in delivering Jones to the Revs, and it may still be a while before MLS stops falling into these questionable situations that leave the league looking a bit amateurish and, to some, dishonest.
You can chalk it up to the growing pains of a league that is still just two decades old, and one growing at an extreme rate. But none of those excuses makes this latest high-profile player transaction feel any less questionable.
GOAL MLS WEEKLY AWARDS
Player of the Week: Obafemi Martins. The Seattle Sounders star came up big in the derby showdown with Portland, scoring two goals and delivering a beautiful assist in Seattle's 4-2 win in Portland.
Rookie of the Week: Adam Bedell. The tallest player in MLS scored the second goal in the Columbus Crew's 3-0 triumph against Houston.
Team of the Week: D.C. United. Few visiting teams ever win at Sporting Park, let alone blow out Sporting Kansas City there. D.C. did just that to move into first place in the Eastern Conference.