Parity Crashers

Photo: Earl Gardner

Zero games in and Los Angeles Football Club is already better than Philadelphia Union.

With well-traveled head coach Bob Bradley on-board and Mexican superstar Carlos Vela and Egyptian international Omar Gabel already on the books, LAFC has now hit the ground running in MLS’ silly-season. Since Toronto FC wrapped up their first MLS Cup title, LAFC has already acquired arguably the best centerback pairing in the league by nabbing defenders Walker Zimmerman from FC Dallas and Belgian international Laurent Ciman from Montreal. Rumors are swirling that Bradley is ready to rekindle his Egyptian connection with winger Mahmoud Hassan. Oh, and Wesley Sneijder could still be down for a SoCal adventure too.

Now, all signs indicate that the club is set to trade for the string-pulling Sacha Kljestan from New York Red Bulls.

The funny thing is it would be just the second blockbuster intra-league deal this week for a playmaking U.S. international midfielder. Fellow parity crashers Atlanta United just made their midfield even more terrifying by throwing a bunch of cash at Portland Timbers for Darlington Nagbe.

Go home, kids, the parity is over.

With Seattle and Toronto’s repeat MLS Cup matchup, all signs point to a new norm in MLS: There are now big clubs and middling minnows. Toronto, Atlanta, New York City FC, LAFC,  and Seattle are ready to bully the rest of the league around for the foreseeable future.

FC Dallas, the bastion of the frugal MLS model, which Earnie Stewart most certainly is looking toward, has won a supporter shield but no cup with their homegrown strategy. LA Galaxy’s superstar-plus-supporting-cast model landed them in last place this year. Chicago’s veterans-plus-draft-picks-and-Moneyball-dudes strategy saw a hot start fall flat by season’s end.

It’s haves and have-nots, and you can guess which side of the equation the Union are on.

With transfers, trades, GAMs, and TAMs already popping up like mad this week, the Union front office has stood pat. Surely, they’re working behind the scenes, but the ominous silence after another mediocre season certainly doesn’t bode well in a league where big spenders – and even those clubs wisely looking to the South American talent pipeline – are starting to not only sign big names, but actually reap the rewards on the field.

Maybe today is the day the Union make their first big splash for 2018. But will they ever be able to catch-up?

The parity crashers are here to stay.

(i.e., there’s no more parity in the U.S.A. [Sorry, couldn’t help myself.])


  1. FCD did win the USOC, but I feel like that’s the Union’s best hope of silverware and illustrates the author’s point.


    Teams are making big moves earlier and earlier each year. The Union start late, add lesser quality players, then stumble out of the gate. It’s our tradition.

  2. I don’t understand why we don’t try to work out more in-league trades. You have to pay such a premium to get even so-so foreign players, you’d think a team on a budget would focused on trying to stretch their limited dollars as much as possible by looking in-league. There you can use all your mls funny money to its fullest.

  3. Parity’s overrated.

    • Don’t disagree, just illuminating that the shift seems pretty permanent in the league now compared to just a few years ago.

      • Definitely. The big $$ is starting to get involved. Makes the entire Philadelphia Union story an anachronism, an utterly impossible scenario just under 10 years later.

  4. Matt McClain says:

    “Zero games in and Los Angeles Football Club is already better than Philadelphia Union.” Bang. Pulling no punches. Good stuff Steve.

    • Yup…and we said the same thing year ago about ATL, and we will be saying it again a year from now about Miami or whoever wins the expansion lottery. I am seeing a pattern developing.

      • In this era of Garber’s ‘bad metrics’, when will he demand Sugarman improve, move or be removed.
        fwiw Sugarman is on the expansion committee

  5. Update: LAFC went ahead and helped make my point today by signing Uruguayan striker Diego Rossi to a DP contract.

  6. el Pachyderm says:

    This model is the greatest!
    People have vehemently argued only a few teams can win La Liga or had the wherewithal to think Union were some kind of Leicester City at one point two years ago.
    Great article.

  7. “Surely, they’re working behind the scenes…” Ha. Ha. Ha, ha, heh, heh, chuckle, guffaw, gasp. That really is a good one. Please. How many times must you watch the same thing unfold before you give up believing something different will happen? For me, I guess the answer was about 5, maybe 6. No more. I’m an interested observer and still a hopeful fan, but not forking over any moolah towards the effort anymore.

  8. el Pachyderm says:

    Can you all—– for just a moment—– imagine the anti football…. Coach Curtin is going to employ against teams like this?
    I mean they basically do everything imaginable already that steers clear of any aesthetic… to search for a draw … now to try against teams with this much firepower.
    A punch line for Taylor Twellman.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I sincerely hope they don’t play LAFC at Talon next year so I don’t have to witness how bad the score is going to be. Or I’ll just get shit faced drunk and “enjoy” it. Really my only two options.

    • I think anti-football would demonstrate a flexibility in tactics Curtin doesn’t have. He’d run the same old same old, get carved up a good 7-0. Then say something afterwords about knives in gun fights.

  9. The Onion.

  10. I think Philadelphia Union needs a lot of fresh blood to come in to get decent results. Lets see who all they are able to draw in from other clubs.

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