A View from Afar

Five thoughts: Union and MLS

Photo: Earl Gardner

Five thoughts, Union/MLS edition.



The Union get new investment

We have no idea how much money Mercator Advisors head man David Seltzer is dumping into Philadelphia Union, but any time the Union pick up a new investor, it’s worth paying attention.

Seltzer is well connected, as chairman of Philadelphia Gas Works and a board member at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Starfinder Foundation, the Manayunk-based youth soccer organization with that great indoor soccer field that, like everything else in Manayunk, costs way too much to rent.

The Union have quietly added some investors — did you ever hear of Joseph Greco before looking here? — and potentially lost others that we don’t know about. The investment arrangements for the Union have always been murky. For example, did you know before this month that Richie Graham is the Union’s second largest investor? Neither did I. Considering he’s most known for his soccer pursuits, the former Dartmouth all-conference soccer player probably doesn’t bring the same financial clout to the table as say, the secondary investor at Los Angeles FC.

Seeing the long list of investors that LAFC recently rolled out, you can’t help but think that the model for a team like Philadelphia needs to be — and probably is — the inclusion of as many minority investors as possible. Sugarman may be rich for the average Joe, but he is not Toronto FC or New York City FC rich, certainly not after the real estate market crash of the last decade.

Allocation money changes the expansion draft

The league office recently revealed that teams will be compensated with allocation money for players lost in the expansion draft. That’s the first time this has happened, and it’s a fascinating idea.

Because of that, the loss of these draftees becomes not merely a loss of a player, but an additional opportunity to bring in new blood. A team not only clears the player’s salary from the ledger, but it adds money to the bank for a replacement signing.

The keys are how much money becomes available, something MLS is unlikely to reveal, and whether there will be a tiered system that provides more allocation money for certain players determined to be more valuable, either by virtue of salary, performance or some other factor.

This change could dramatically alter teams’ calculations on who to protect. For example, if you know that you will be compensated more for the loss of a designated player than a regular player, might that make a team more willing to expose a DP in the draft? Is that how someone like Maurice Edu becomes available, for example?

The expansion draft just got more interesting.

The Chivas USA dispersal draft: Philly may sit this one out

Don’t expect the Union to pick anyone in the Chivas USA dispersal draft. By the time they pick at No. 17, there may be nobody worth taking left on the board.

Somehow, the Union drew the worst pick of any non-playoff team, which is significant because all non-playoff teams had two envelopes to choose from in a blind, weighted lottery, whereas every playoff team only had one.

So the Union won’t get Dan Kennedy. Oh well. You can’t even trade up in this draft.

A new rival to hate

New York City FC was calling to me. I can’t help it. I was born in New York City, raised in New Jersey, come from a family of New Yorkers, grew up rooting for the traditional New York teams, and hated the idea of a team named after a corporation (Red Bull). Add to that the backdrop of the Yankees, and I was envisioning a team in light blue with pinstripes playing in a grand soccer cathedral yet to be built. Big names. New York glamor. There was a potential romance about this team. An American superclub in the making.

That went out the window once I saw the new Manchester City — errr, I mean New York City — uniforms.

Are you kidding me?

New York City, the greatest city in the world according to New Yorkers, a place so important that anyone from the area only has to call it “the city” and everyone knows which city you’re talking about — a team in this place needs to copy Manchester City almost exactly? Manchester? Where the hell is Manchester anyway? If you aren’t a music fan, the only reason you’ve even heard of the city, a former industrial giant long past its prime, is because of Man United and now a rich shiek with his plaything.

Yes, obviously both teams have the same owner. And clearly, he’s looking to market a brand.

But this is New York we’re talking about. New York. New York! If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But this … this? This is not New York. This is Manchester City II. This is … bah!

Philadelphia fans, you now have another team that is perfectly acceptable for anyone to hate, even if you’re not the sort predisposed to hate New York teams. (But you’re Philly, so you are, and now you have more reason to hate them.)

The conference championships: So worth watching

It isn’t every year that the MLS conference championships are worth watching, but they definitely are this year.

In the east, you have perhaps the league’s hottest team and certainly one of its most entertaining in New England. They take on New York, who are peaking at the right time as Thierry Henry seems to want to go out on a high note.

On the other coast, you have two west coast giants in Seattle and Los Angeles, both of which are just flat out good squads.

In other leagues, I often have less interest seeing the big teams face off, but in MLS, it’s different. You want to see a great team win the playoffs, rather than some team just get hot and cheapen the regular season. This year, you have that chance, although New York could crack that. Then again, if it puts Thierry Henry on the big stage with the way he’s playing, that’s perfectly fine.


  1. Yup, I’m interested in all these playoff games, and unlike last year I’m going to root East in the chip game. Lee Nguyen is playing lights out.

  2. Alexander Schaefer says:

    Edu for 650k is great value, I wonder if Maidana wouldnt be made available.

    • I can’t see Maidana being exposed in the draft. He has a pretty rare playmaking skill set for MLS, and I’m not sure what they’d replace him with (Ribeiro in a couple years maybe).

      • I really don’t understand the fascination with Ribeiro as a CAM. Yes, he was able to play there in college, but do we really think he has the speed, technical skills, and craft to play there in MLS?

        After what I saw last season, even as a forward, I really don’t think he’s a solution in MLS. Maybe in USL, sure, but not in MLS.

        Personally, I think he actually projects better as a target forward, but not one ready for MLS yet.

        I’m really hoping he can prove me wrong but I don’t think that’s something to rely on happening in the future.

    • Great value?
      That makes him what, second highest paid defender in MLS? There were games when he was the second best CB on the team. That money could upgrade a few roles and better spent elsewhere.

      Also,$650K is only the Union subsidized part of his deal. Stoke paid the rest. Either way, exposing him is a smart bet. His loan deal expires in January anyway and his overall deal is up next June. Better to sign him on a free in Jan to a lower contract and bring him in during the summer.

  3. Ha ha. Agree on NYCFC, though not so much on the kits. Could care less. (to be honest, pinstripes on a soccer kit might have been pretty bizarre.) Just eager to hate another NY team (and I fear they’re going to earn my enmity by playing really well right off the bat).

    I’m cautiously optimistic about the new investor news and the Meulensteen hiring. At the least, it means the owners are paying attention and that they care.

    • The Union had pinstripes on the back of their primary jersey this year.

    • Packed With Goodness, Baked With Love says:

      I’m optimistic, too. It’s a step in the right direction and an acknowledgement of past mistakes. That, or a panicky attempt to hold onto as many season ticket holders as they can for 2015. Either way, I’ll take it.

      All will be forgiven if the Union figure out a way to get Jordan Harvey back to PPL Park. We still need a left-footed left back who isn’t named Fabinho.

  4. Dan. Absolutely regarding the uniforms- a total farce. commented on this last week and was surprised more people didn’t either blow me out of the water or agree. I get the blue. I was expecting hoops or stripes as well but no it is a total clone uniform– or Man City East. If it was a lesser city I would just shrug but it’s NYC for hells sake.
    Son of Jurel. Kneel before Zod.

    • Wouldn’t it actually be Man City West? 😉

    • i’ve no problems with City looking like City. Melbourne City and NYCFC are continuing a brand that’s not an energy drink. if anything, Red Bull has started a trend that the sheik is continuing.
      i am a Manchester City fan. i am biased. but this is year 1 for a team in MLS. it’ll take time for personality and possibly originality to form.

      i will tell you this: when i go to Yankee stadium for a U match i’ll be sporting the blue and gold.

  5. Why is anyone surprised about Manchester City USA? Everything pointed to it. They’re doing a great job of saturating NYC with NYCFC/ Manchester City propaganda up here. They should have just done a Yankee soccer kit and called it a day!
    Meanwhile this transplanted Philadelphian is hoping the Union will finally step it up and represent its own great market and fanbase with a big off season of change with skill, talent and depth.

  6. Here’s an intriguing name that I forgot in this (and an earlier) post regarding the Chivas USA dispersal draft: Donny Toia. Converted to left back, 22 years old. Probably won’t be around when the Union pick, but if he is, he’d be worth considering.

  7. regarding the investors, famous investors get you press, but cash and helpful business advice are all that really matters. there are many, many more very, very rich people who are not famous (usually on purpose), who’s source of wealth is less obvious, and who usually bring much more to the table in terms of business experience and investment than the famous.

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