On Carlos Bocanegra: Time for MLS Corporate To Show Its Maturity

On Carlos Bocanegra….

This may be an unpopular piece.


Lyle Yorks

A few months ago, TSG named Lyle Yorks, player agent to many Americans earning paychecks aboard, as “MLS Player of the Week.”

The agent–much to his credit mind you–successfully negotiated a lucrative contract for Benny Feilhaber with the New England Revolution, despite all the data suggesting that MLS was, in fact, negotiating against themselves for the services of the California-raised attacking midfielder.

Feilhaber–concluding his time playing for AGF Arhaus in the second division–was rumored to be on the move out of the Danish side on a number of occasions (to second division La Liga sides as well as the Mexican Primera among others.)

When the dust–less smoke–settled though, it appeared that his only plausible destination–unconfirmed–was the New England Revolution (after an MLS Allocation draft) of MLS. Feilhaber earned a non-designated player contract at $375000 in Year 1 (nearly identical to his Aarhus salary) and premium of almost $450,000 in Year 2.

Just who did MLS need to beat out for the right to sign Feilhaber? Aarhus–likely–wasn’t re-upping at the same or comparable rate next year or Feilhaber likely would have stayed in Europe–the proximity to Europe makes it an intra-transfer more plausible.

Now another Lyle Yorks agent Carlos Bocanegra is being hyped for a move to MLS, but here’s the question:

Would it in fact be a coup….for MLS? for Bocanegra? for Yorks? for perhaps the Revs or the Whitecaps (two rumored teams) if “Boca” signs with the league?

It all depends upon the price; the answer will give you a read on the maturity level of the MLS front office proper.

Captain Carlos at Rennes…

There are many narratives to Bocanegra’s last two years of his playing career, but one could go like this.

Bocanegra moves from Rennes to St. Etienne (July 2010) to retain as much playing time as possible in Ligue 1. The left-footer was a star at Rennes, but once hamstring and abdominal injuries hit, his nova began to wane at the club.

With Bocanegra’s contract running out with St. Etienne, there appears to be a choice.

Let his contract expire with the Ligue 1 mid-table side or take a contract offer from Glasgow Rangers, a team already clearly deep in financial trouble and with a dicey ownership situation already public.

It seemed a curious move at the time, but the unchecked media spin on it was that Bocanegra was moving to a side so he could play in the pinnacle of Euro competition, the Champion’s League.

It’s a peculiar weight–that is a goal of Champion’s League play–to pair as a variable with Bocanegra and Rangers. The Rangers are at best these days a fringe player in Europe’s toughest tourney and Bocanegra was likely attempting to secure his final big European payday.

What is a more probable justification of Bocanegra’s move is the following:

Faced with few (at best) or no (at worst) suitors in continental Europe, Lyle Yorks did what was necessary to maintain the “illusion” of demand by placing Bocanegra at Rangers, a team where he–through James Grant Management–enjoyed a good working relationship and recently steered two others in his stable, Alejandro Bedoya, most recently, and Maurice Edu, firstly.

Yorks had to comprehend the Rangers financial difficulties and tumultuous struggle to remain solvent in SPL.

Further the outcome that is being witnessed today, one where Bocanegra is faced with a choice to somehow salvage a contract at Rangers in some Scottish division or go free, had to be one that was a serious consideration. In short, that Yorks directed his client there at all tells you something of Bocanegra player value overseas or at minimum how much he was re-marketed.

DeMerit: Failed parlay?

Bocanegra’s plight over the last campaign is not one that US fans hadn’t seen before. In fact, a nearly identical one existed a year ago with a very similar comp: Jay DeMerit, another US national, World Cup veteran and a player a year younger than Bocanegra.

The tactics of DeMerit’s situational management were vastly different though.

DeMerit, unlike Bocanegra at St. Etienne, elected to play out his contract at Watford and hoping to capitalize on a strong World Cup and earn one more glory ride in UEFA. Names like Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen & Everton were bandied about as potential suitors and destinations for an unchained DeMerit post summer 2010.

However, DeMerit–after six months of relocation search–found himself without a contract and European dance partner and, in a move that seemed incredulous when first leaked, ended up as the first designated player for MLS’s new franchise in Vancouver.

DeMerit will make $350,000 in guaranteed compensation this year. He’s been excellent and made the All-Star game, but is he worth more three times the amount of money as 30-year-old Victor Bernardez ($100K) in San Jose? How about 33% more than 26-year-old Aurélien Collin in Sporting KC ($216K guaranteed) who may be able to be sold on? Or what about roughly 25% more than 82-times-capped German national teamer and veteran of two World Cups Arne Freidrich ($230,000) now in Chicago? It’s kind of hard to make that case.

Now back to Carlos Bocanegra.

With Europe seeming a non-option (communication to Bocanegra’s management at James Grant went unreturned) and Rangers likely unable to pay Bocanegra’s current wage demands, will the league agains negotiate against itself for a centerback on the wrong side of 33?

(This is to say nothing of the player’s continued ability, his gritty style of play or his leadership qualities. Removing any emotionality, it’s merely looking at a player profile.)

Is the ability to market the US national team captain that vital to the league or, in fact, that lucrative to break the bank to a sign a player that would appear to have few other suitors? Will MLS break the bank?

MLS is now a viable league.

One that, in fact, is a plausible alternative, clearly for Central Americans (Colombians, Hondurans) looking to step up in compensation and exposure and exceedingly more Europeans who can’t cut their teeth in their continental home leagues (Eric Hassli, Chris Birchall respectfully).

It’s also becoming more of a viable option for developing talent–though not at the level it needs to be a top league just yet–with the likes of Stu Holden and soon Geoff Cameron moving abroad.

Nesta: Here to play?

It’s a league where its fans lament stars like Alessandro Nesta and Rafa Marquez considering it a retirement destination.

It’s also a league that needs to show it’s grown up at the front office level and pay fair value, not a premium, for it’s US stars as well.

Wouldn’t the Players Union appreciate that in the interest of the greater good?

There is nothing wrong with bringing a recognizable face into the fold in MLS–fans clamor for that all the time, but the league should be prudent on what they need to pay for those services. It’s merely fair value, not over-inflated value. (Note: Benny Feilhaber added no more than a trickle on the Revs attendance number upon his signing last year)

National status

What does a Bocanegra move to MLS–a league that Jurgen Klinsmann has indirectly slammed–do to his national team stature? Does it say something about Klinsmann perhaps or Bocanegra’s agent that the captain of the US national team perhaps can’t find a club in Europe?

This is a player that is so highly regarded that upon his move to Rangers that he was immediately made a captain. That’s a heady stuff for such a storied club to pick a newcomer, non-Scot to lead its squad. There is no anti-American bias on the field in Scotland, but might that, in fact, be the overarching storyline here?

88 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John on 2012/07/10 at 11:17 PM

    Two things:
    One, Glasgow Rangers were never a franchise of the Scottish Football Leagues. They were a club. Two, there is most definitely anti-American sentiment in Scotland. Re: “Go home yank” signs that Glasgow Rangers supporters held up when that American businessman was attempting to buy the club.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/10 at 11:20 PM

      Franchise was a language choice — I have edited to club.

      In regards to Americans at the club, the insinuation was *on the pitch. Given your commentary, that makes Bocanegra’s achievement that much more impressive.


  2. It’s kind of funny to talk about ‘fair market value’ in MLS — that doesn’t really exist when it comes to player salaries: MLS won’t have to pay him his fair market value because, thanks to its radical ‘single entity’ structure, the teams of the league won’t be competing for his services. Teams get to collude in setting player salaries. (Just because the courts have found this to be legal – for now – doesn’t make it right)

    With a player like Boca, who a lot of US fans recognize and like, there would likely be multiple teams interested in him. In a fair market situation, he would sign for whomever gave him the best offer. He would be paid for what he’s worth. Instead, if he gets an offer, it will be from the _league_ on behalf of all teams, which inevitably will be a lower amount. Lucky for them they get to act as a monopoly employer. It’s a one company town, and if Boca don’t like it, he can leave town (actually, the country). All MLS needs to offer is one dollar higher than the minimum amount Boca would accept to play in MLS, and he’ll sign.

    So yeah, if he lacks potential jobs outside the US to leverage a better deal, or if he just wants to work and live *in his own goddamn country again*, they might be able to force him to accept a lot less than $350K. Hurray?!

    Why all the concern for these billionaires that have nearly all the power at the expense of our own American players? I don’t get it.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/10 at 11:51 PM

      The single entity is what is. In this case, it’s the environment where Bocanegra will likely negotiate.

      Sure, there will be multiple teams interested in Bocanegra. That’s a fair point, but it is erroneous to say that a single entity league bid will be lower than all other teams. How many teams have the ability to bid for Bocanegra’s service and outbid others at a whim.

      LA? Houston? Who else?

      “All MLS needs to offer is one dollar higher than the minimum amount Boca would accept to play in MLS, and he’ll sign.”
      – That’s in fact another statement without foundation.

      Why all the concern for these billionaires that have nearly all the power at the expense of our own American players?
      – No concern.
      Here’s the crux: It is curious to me why player like Feilhaber, Bocanegra and DeMerit have such premium contracts when they (DeMerit and Feilhaber for certain) had no other offer in hand. That’s bad business. That’s my point.


      • Posted by NoNoNo on 2012/07/11 at 4:28 AM

        Was this really the case? I find it hard to believe — and slightly depressing — that a former Prem capt and USMNT stalwart and a highly creative midfielder who was on a scoring tear (albeit in the second div) couldn’t find work anywhere better than MLS. Maybe there weren’t any other hard offers in hand because both Jay and Benny wanted back in MLS and the price was already right?

        I’m not necessarily saying you’re wrong, I just hope you are.


      • It doesn’t matter how many teams are interested in Boca in MLS, he will just get one offer from the league. And the means of determining who gets first dibs on him if the league is successful at signing him will not be based on who offers to pay him the most; the league will conduct the negotiations and he will face a choice of playing in the league or not — not which team’s offer he prefers.

        So, since teams won’t be making independent offers and risk being outbid by other MLS teams, it is GUARANTEED that what MLS offers will be less than the highest bid in a competitive situation; by definition, then, the MLS offer would be a below fair market price one. The team that gets his rights will be happy to benefit from MLS’ negotiating power to receive him for much less than they would have been willing to offer to sign him over other MLS clubs, if they had to compete for his services..

        Since Boca is lucky enough to credibly threaten to sign abroad (most American players are not that lucky), then he’s got some leverage to negotiate them to go higher. The league can only jam down the salary so far before a guy like Boca says forget it, I’ll go back abroad. For Americans who have limited or no ability to get work permits abroad or no connections to get there, it’s MLS or nothing. And I really feel for those guys.


        • Posted by wides on 2012/07/11 at 8:51 AM

          Clearly, you have an axe to grind about MLS’ single entity structure and your belief that it ends up low balling offers in a non competitive way. This piece, and it’s postulation (which I believe to be correct) that MLS is OVER-paying for aging (or at least slightly unwanted) USMNT players doesn’t seem to be the place to grind that axe.

          Benny is a good player, but is he worth 450K next year ? I don’t know. He’s not dominating the league, and he’s not drawing at the gate, to me that seems like bad business. Especially given that they’re not likely to get a transfer out of him in the future.


          • Posted by Eric on 2012/07/11 at 9:09 AM

            I agree. The league has seemingly overpaid (and by overpaid I mean removing the fact that they are well-loved and respected US national team players) for these returning American players despite the fact that they probably could have been gotten for less.


          • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 9:13 AM

            Benny has always been a player that had trouble with the direct ballgame. That’s largely the reason why he appeared inconsistently for Bob Bradley. Bradley’s more defensive style only had room for a creative CAM like Benston in narrow situations (ie when he already had robust defensive cover in Edu/Clark/Bradley/etc over a strong CB line).

            As I mention in my comment below, imagine if his playing style were somehow taken into account (not saying it should or that it’s organizationally feasible, but bear with me) and Benfel were dropped into a more attacking, creative team like SKC or RSL — I seriously believe that he’d be in the national team picture right now.

            Even beside tactics, it’s hard to fault Feilhappy with not being a dominant player with the Revs, given their organizational and coaching backwardness (all respect to Revs fans, who are possibly the most patient in the league).


            • Posted by Eric on 2012/07/11 at 9:15 AM

              I agree about Benny’s playing style but I will point out that JK has called up Benny before already and it appears his attitude has had a lot to do with his lack of call-ups recently as well.

          • Posted by Hal on 2012/07/16 at 12:02 AM

            i think without free agency and a player market you will end up over paying and under paying. But the overpaying will be much rarer. There’s not one player in MLS who gets his market value. They get their value to MLS.

            I don’t think he has an axe to grind. He’s just pointing out the obvious harm of not having free agency.


  3. Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/11 at 1:55 AM

    Was the Rangers financial situation as widely known as the article made it seem at the time of Boca’s transfer? A number of teams run huge deficits every year. The only ones that have had issues that I am aware of is those that had a precipitous fall (Leeds going from CL to second division, Portsmith being relegated) that left them without a large chunk of expected income. This never happened with Rangers.

    The reason I ask is it seems to make a difference in the article as you paint the move to Rangers as one of desperation. When it happened I looked at Rangers as at most a small step down from a midtable Ligue 1 side. I maybe wrong but if Edu was to go to a team like Brest of Sochaux I would not think of it as a huge step up in competition it would be more of a lateral move. Other than PSG not sure I would think of any of those teams as a huge step up from Rangers. I tend to think of Ligue 1 as a large step behind EPL, La Liga, Italy, and Germany.


    • Posted by msg24365 on 2012/07/11 at 5:42 AM

      Rangers’ financial issues were well known. The tax issue that was the true impetus of its current adminstration status has been known since at least June 2010. When the club was sold at a bargain basement price to Whyte in 2011, the price itself spoke of the precarious financial situation.


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/07/11 at 6:56 AM

      You are doing Ligue 1 a large disservice with the comparison to the SPL. It is behind the Big 4 leagues but not by much and is much more competitive than the SPL. France’s current coefficient in UEFA (the formula used to calculate spots in the European competitions) is 48.583 (6th), Italy is in 4th with 51.064 and Scotland is in 27th at 10.891. France also has recently had several different teams win the title rather than just the duopoly of Rangers and Celtic in Scotland. So even if Edu or Boca moved to France for a midtable team there would be much more competition.


      • Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/11 at 5:19 PM

        Coefficients are very inaccurate in this case. They look at the whole league. I agree the SPL is way below Ligue 1. That is like saying though that Man City is the same as QPR.

        Everyone knows that the Celtics and Rangers were head and shoulders above the rest of the league. If Boca went to Hearts then that would be a huge step down. Rangers and Celtic were much better than the SPL as a whole, same as Benfica and Porto are better than the Portuguese League as a whole, Ajax and PSV, etc.


        • Posted by dth on 2012/07/11 at 6:35 PM

          Rangers and Celtic wouldn’t dominate MLS, by any means–so in this case, I think coefficients have the league pegged.

          And coefficients don’t look at the whole league. They judge leagues by their representatives in European competition. In other words, they’re judging Rangers and Celtic by the rest of the continent’s standard and finding it wanting, unsurprisingly.


          • Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/11 at 7:11 PM

            Thanks I didn’t realize that the coefficients worked that way. Seems sort of useless to look at only the leagues euro competition as many of the “lesser” leagues are top 2 teams heavy.


          • Posted by Hal on 2012/07/16 at 12:11 AM

            define dominate? Prior to Rangers liquidation I would put both them and Celtic miles above any MLS team. The problem in the SPL is the drop off after Rangers and Celtic


  4. Posted by NoNoNo on 2012/07/11 at 4:15 AM

    Ligue 1 is definitely more of a second tier side, but it’s appreciably better competition than the SPL, save for the Old Firm or the odd European match. However, in terms of branding, Ligue 1 — save for PSG and (maybe?) Montpellier — is definitely a step down from Rangers.

    Still, it’s hard to say that the Glasgow move was definitely motivated by desperation. Yorks’ ties to Rangers just tells me that he’d built an agent-player pipeline to that club, not that he was necessarily able to pull favors to take the aging Bocanegra and give him one last payday. That he was made captain, to me, supports the notion that Boca was and is just simply well regarded there. And rightfully so — he’s played well for them.

    All that said, I actually really hope that Bocanegra won’t be going back to MLS. He’s proven that he can still play at a high European level and can probably do so for at least another 2-3 years. Going to MLS, to me, WOULD smack of some desperation. I find it hard to believe that he — who is much more recognizable than Jay Demerit — couldn’t find and hold down a job in a strong 2nd tier European league like Portugal or Turkey (Besikas could use him!). Or, hell, if he’s going to be cynical and cash out in a retirement home, the UAE or China seem like credible destinations.

    Part of this is because I think Bocanegra can do better than MLS. But it’s also because I think MLS can do better, too. They should be rattling their purse at promising young players rather than being an unwritten pension plan for USMNTers. Though Demerit has been solid, Benny somewhat less so (though NE has done him no favors, developmentally), they probably aren’t worth the money, either on the pitch or in terms of marketability. Neither Vancouver or New England are strong enough [American] MLS brands to really profit from a national team player (though when they signed, both Jay and Benny were fading from the USMNT picture, anyway). Of course, if Lando is going to Everton, I suppose Boca as their “Captain America” to fill in might make sense — from a branding perspective if not tactically.


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/07/11 at 7:01 AM

      I agree that MLS can do better especially at those salaries. At least with Feilhaber he was still entering his prime (27 now). Boca would be a retirement guy not very different from Nesta or Marquez (at least we know Boca wouldn’t quit on MLS the way Rafa has). I don’t think these older USMNT defenders are particularly marketable either. I’ve never gone to see a game because a USMNT defender was playing in it. It’s the flair players that bring in the marketing not a solid defender. If we’re talking about Dempsey coming back in 4 years then the marketing would be there.

      I don’t think the UAE or China would really want him as part of their retirement home recruitment. He’s not a big enough name or from South America.


      • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 8:45 AM

        I don’t know — when was the last time a US-based MLS team tried marketing itself with a USMNT defender? Danny Califf doesn’t exactly count (although he did become a fan favorite). Heath Pearce was/is already MLS-based. Omar Gonzalez still hasn’t cracked the game day 18 … I can’t think of anyone. My god, Alexi Lalas (gasp)!?

        My point is that a USMNT regular very well could bring people through the gates, but it’s hard to say since we don’t have much of a track record to look back on. I don’t know about you, but I think its fair to say that USMNT fans that are on the fence about MLS (maybe because of geography/tv availability) might be more willing to make the trek from Richmond to DC or Connecticut to NY to see someone they recognize as a national team stalwart (or formerly so).

        That said, MLS should consider carefully how and where USMNT players like Boca are employed. I think they wasted a major opportunity with Feilhaber not because he was/is paid too much (again, I find it incredibly hard to believe that Benny couldn’t have found a job in a middling Scandinavian or Central European league), but that he was lashed to a v1.0 MLS club with crap ownership, an embarrassing stadium situation, and an affinity for negative, longball tactics. Imagine if Benny were sent to RSL or SKC or (Olsen-era) DC — I have a feeling he’d still be in the USMNT mix.

        But MLS doesn’t — and maybe for good reason, with allocation orders and such — but that’s bad for certain players. Without a little more sensitivity from the league, I’d easily prefer Bocanegra to find a club situation abroad than put his USMNT berth in jeopardy because Toronto happened to be on the top of the list or something.


        • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 8:46 AM

          btw, when I say “my point,” it’s because “NoNoNo” is also me, but on a different computer. 🙂


  5. Posted by atwooder on 2012/07/11 at 6:51 AM

    I hate to rain on the parade here, this was a good read, but “Alexander” Nesta? Come on, you are better than that! Try Alessandro*


  6. Posted by KM on 2012/07/11 at 6:56 AM

    Please, please, please take a writing class. I love the site and the coverage, but the quality of the writing doesn’t measure up. You don’t need what I’m assuming are meant to be em-dashes in every sentence.

    It’s bad business for MLS to bid against itself for Bocanegra or anyone else. At the same time, it’s good for American soccer’s image overall to have its marquee players making significant salaries at home. It’s a matter of perspective as to which is more important.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/11 at 7:26 AM

      No disrespect, but you are welcome not to read. Best we can do without an editor.


      • Just for the record, your lack of an editor is your choice. I emailed y’all and volunteered my services as an editor, and nobody ever responded. (As I said in that email, don’t take that to mean that I don’t love the site — I read it religiously. And I wouldn’t volunteer to spend hours editing something I didn’t love. I just think you have the potential to make an even bigger impact on soccer journalism.)


        • Posted by KickinNames.. on 2012/07/12 at 1:37 PM

          Mattieboy- Time to spray for grammar trolls again!
          The price of success I guess. On the record, love the content and grown up dialogue without malice. Thanks for your giving of your time and energy and giving us far more than we contribute.


    • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 8:31 AM

      Yeah, good lord, KM. Take a pill. We come here for the great content and conversation, not for the active voice or grammar. Complain when you start paying a subscription, jack.


    • Posted by ZG on 2012/07/11 at 10:47 AM

    • Posted by 4now on 2012/07/11 at 2:12 PM

      Thank you TG.

      p.s. KM—you’re a prick. “Em dashes” don’t have hyphens.


      • Posted by Gregorio on 2012/07/11 at 6:45 PM

        Matt dont go changin to try to please me, I love TSG just the way u are!
        As a person who frequently mangles the written word, I think its silly to judge such trivial matters.Its a classic conundrum I and others of the same ilk have faced, is content or syntax? I’l take substance over kelsy grammar for a hundred Alex.


  7. Posted by Spiritof76 on 2012/07/11 at 7:13 AM

    The USMNT Captain can’t find a spot on the bench in all of Europe, but Johan Djourou can start 30 games a season for Arsenal?


    Something is definitely wrong here.


  8. Posted by Smitty on 2012/07/11 at 7:28 AM

    Seems to me like the MLS is following the NFL model, in which the stars of the league get fat contracts while the rest of the players get minimum contracts. I like your example of Feilhaber and how it must be true that he personally brought very few additional fans through the turnstiles. However, in order for MLS to gain prestige as a whole, additional recognizable names will need to continue to be brought on board. I certainly don’t begrudge Boca for getting this payday, and I think that MLS will ultimately feel that he is worth the investment.


  9. Posted by buckyball77 on 2012/07/11 at 7:44 AM

    Don’t get too crazy with this MLS as monolith stuff. The MLS is a single entity organization in terms of who holds the actual contracts and sets the rules for salary cap and player drafting order/eligibility.

    But individual team owners still choose who they buy and how close to the team’s financial ceiling they want to get. The league is littered with disappointing players who were offered too sweet a deal for their services. Are club owners really saying to themselves, “Well, I didn’t want to offer ___ that much, but the league’s representative threw money at him!”

    Of course the MLS puts in contract clauses about sell-on arrangements, etc. for the league’s benefit. But they don’t override good or bad judgement by clubs for players. No team is going to be forced to take on a player like Bocanegra for the good of MLS.

    Do I think conversations occur between MLS and owners (and agents) as to player finances and certain players’ true worth? Sure. Do I think that MLS dictates who goes where? The evidence is that owners do silly sh*t all the time – on their own.


  10. Posted by SteveD on 2012/07/11 at 8:09 AM

    2 things- I understood MLS polled all the teams asking how much they would be willing to pay X. They then use this to negotiate deal. Also, seems to me that player would not sign unless they knew fairly well were they could end up. MLS does a lot of shady things and would not be surpirsed if player says, I will only play for these 3 teams, that allocation order be dammed- he somehow ends up on one of those teams.


  11. The content and depth of both the articles and commentary on this site never ceases to impress me. We’ve got some damn smart people here. Keep up the good work, guys.


  12. Posted by Eric on 2012/07/11 at 9:06 AM

    This is always going to be a tricky situation because it’s going to be tough to remove any semblance of emotion from this. Personally, I have trouble just looking at Boca as a player profile given he’s the US captain and he’s been such a class player for the Nats for so many years.

    That said, I first find it difficult to believe that Boca can’t find another offer in Europe even if it’s in the Championship of England (Honestly, I would love to see my Reading Royals pick him up as cover in their first Premiership season) or even in Turkey. As such, I don’t think we’ll see Carlos back in MLS just yet. If anything, I think Yorke is using MLS to kind of check the waters in the league, knowing that the league would contact him and allow him to see what the offers were like. Also, this would allow him to go to some of these other European clubs and say, “I’ve already got an MLS offer on the table and Carlos would like to live at home again unless you up your offer just a little more.” I don’t think Carlos is opposed to MLS right now by any means but I’m sure he’s wondering if heading there would hurt his status as the Nats captain (not that I think it’s an issue no matter where he’s playing given our problems at centerback).

    Maybe I’m just being optimistic that our National Team Captain isn’t being frozen out of Europe though.


    • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 9:15 AM

      Totally agree with this. At least, I really want to.


    • Yeah I just have a difficult time believing Bocanegra couldn’t find a starting gig in a top 15 European league. Even a move to the English Championship wouldn’t be terrible for him. The level of play there is at worst on-par with but probably still higher than what MLS can offer.

      Fun fact: was anyone aware the league in Cyprus is ranked 15th in terms of UEFA coefficient? APOEL doing well in Europe the past couple years really must’ve brought them up.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/11 at 9:22 AM

        Quick point here. Thought the same thing of Jay DeMerit two years ago coming of a decent World Cup.

        Also, the trend has been to get younger at CB, not older as was the historic trend.


        • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 9:31 AM

          What if Demerit was the outlier, instead of the rule? Maybe he did just really want to come back to North America/MLS? Or if that’s not necessarily the case, maybe he just got the best tabled offer from MLS vs unofficial offers from other clubs. Do you have any inside info to share on that transaction?

          You’re right about younger CBs, though Demerit was a known quantity with a solid resume. There must have been some serious conversations outside of MLS (I hope!). Someone call Greg Seltzer!

          BTW, Matt, keep up the great work!


      • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 9:23 AM

        Yeah. Frankly, if a recovering Onyewu could land a gig at Sporting CP, it’s incredible difficult to believe that Boca — who has done very well at Rangers and in Ligue 1 — couldn’t do similarly well unless his representation is truly bad.


        • Posted by Eric on 2012/07/11 at 9:26 AM

          True, but Onyewu has always been a physical specimen while Boca has been solid but not always spectacular for whatever club. Remember how high Gooch’s stock was after the confederations cup? Boca’s has never been that high. Besides, we don’t know how much Sporting is paying him. They probably looked at Gooch and said, “He’s worth a flyer. Either we cut him if he doesn’t return well or we get a dominant centerback on the cheap who we might be able to sell on again.”


          • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 9:36 AM

            Onyewu was spectacular for … whom? Standard Liege? A good team in a decent league, but not exactly a world beater, either. And yeah, he’s more physically imposing, but Boca’s a pretty strong guy and certainly has better positional awareness and distribution than Gooch has ever had. Could be better, sure, but I’d wager that Carlos is probably a less risky package for many teams than Gooch. The same “why not” approach that you say could have landed Gooch at Sporting almost certainly applies just as well, if not more, to Boca.


        • Posted by Jared on 2012/07/11 at 9:50 AM

          The big difference was that Gooch was only 29 at the time and had played well with Twente at the end of the season. Boca is 33. It’s impossible to ignore that for most players 33 is the year when clubs start cutting players loose if they can rather than bring them in.


          • Ding ding ding, we have a winner. We can knock ourselves silly trying to figure this out or just admit the obvious: Bocanegra is finding suitors difficult because he’s 33 years old. Four years ago he was in the top league in France, just coming off a few seasons in the EPL. I’d take either league over the Portuguese one in a cocaine heartbeat.


  13. Posted by Eric on 2012/07/11 at 9:13 AM

    This is just another thought that suddenly came to me. Does anyone have any thoughts on how this relates to the inflation of the prices of English players? In England, we see relatively average to above average players (Carroll, Henderson, Downing, etc…) go for prices that are likely well over market value given their skill based on the fact that they’re English. It’s usually been painted as the fact that English internationals help attendance (questionable in MLS concerning US internationals although the sample size has been small) and that they need strong homegrown players (English/Scottish/Welsh).

    I agree with the idea of the article but I am somewhat wondering if it’s a natural tendency of domestic leagues to overpay for their own National team players. I don’t know much outside of the English leagues but I wonder if it happens in say the Turkish league as well.


    • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 9:18 AM

      It’s harder to assess in Turkey, I think, because they place some very strong restrictions on international signings to encourage developing local talent.


      • Posted by Eric on 2012/07/11 at 9:22 AM

        That may be true but that wouldn’t necessarily affect them signing a returning Turkish international, which is what I’m referring to. Turkish teams overpaying for a returning Turkish nat, English teams overpaying for an English international (let’s face it, English players don’t really leave England which is a whole other discussion), MLS signing returning American/Canadian internationals.


        • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 9:25 AM

          I suppose, although I think the issue of scarcity probably contributes to a English player’s salary significantly. So few native players actually ply their trade in the EPL (well, relatively speaking) that a good or promising one is sure to command a premium.


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/07/11 at 10:03 AM

      It’s not due to an attendance boost as much as it to UEFA’s rules regarding homegrown players. 8 English players are required for every 25 man squad submitted at the beginning of the year for European competitions. That and the fact that the big English clubs have silly money to throw around.

      If you look at Spain or Germany for example the premiums are not there to the same degree. Just look at Jordi Alba’s transfer to Barca for 14 million Euros or Mario Gomez to Bayern for 30 million Euros (only about 25 million GBP). If either of them were English the prices would be much higher just compare Gomez’s stats prior to the move to those of Andy Carroll.


      • Posted by dth on 2012/07/11 at 11:06 AM

        Are you sure about those rules?

        I would guess such rules are illegal under EU law.


        • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 11:21 AM

          hahahaha since when has a football fed ever worried about silly things like “laws.” Laws are only for the little people (and i dont mean leprechauns) 🙂


        • as DTH noted:

          “clubs must have eight ‘homegrown’ players in their squads of 25”

          Homegrown, not nationality. Cesc Fabregas was homegrown for Arsenal.


          • Posted by Jared on 2012/07/11 at 11:48 AM

            My mistake. Point still stands as to why English players are more expensive considering with the exception of Arsenal they are the majority of homegrown players at most English clubs.


  14. I didn’t have time to read all the comments, so maybe this has already been said, but are we really putting Benny (or even Jay) in the same category as Carlos as far as name recognition and crowd draw? Don’t get me wrong; I love Benny, and Jay is my single favorite soccer player ever, but I don’t think they’re anywhere near as well known in the US (and, more importantly, in the pool of people who don’t currently watch the MLS but might be swayed into it by a name they know) as Bocanegra. Pointing to their relatively small impact on crowd numbers doesn’t seem like a justification to call Bocanegra overvalued.


    • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/11 at 11:53 AM

      I’ve suggested, more or less, the same thing above, as have a couple of others. I also challenged the idea that a defender wouldn’t be a draw, considering that one can’t expect Jay to draw more fans by playing home games for a Canadian crowd.



      “I don’t know — when was the last time a US-based MLS team tried marketing itself with a USMNT defender? Danny Califf doesn’t exactly count (although he did become a fan favorite). Heath Pearce was/is already MLS-based. Omar Gonzalez still hasn’t cracked the game day 18 … I can’t think of anyone. My god, Alexi Lalas (gasp)!?

      “My point is that a USMNT regular very well could bring people through the gates, but it’s hard to say since we don’t have much of a track record to look back on. I don’t know about you, but I think its fair to say that USMNT fans that are on the fence about MLS (maybe because of geography/tv availability) might be more willing to make the trek from Richmond to DC or Connecticut to NY to see someone they recognize as a national team stalwart (or formerly so).

      “That said, MLS should consider carefully how and where USMNT players like Boca are employed. I think they wasted a major opportunity with Feilhaber not because he was/is paid too much (again, I find it incredibly hard to believe that Benny couldn’t have found a job in a middling Scandinavian or Central European league), but that he was lashed to a v1.0 MLS club with crap ownership, an embarrassing stadium situation, and an affinity for negative, longball tactics. Imagine if Benny were sent to RSL or SKC or (Olsen-era) DC — I have a feeling he’d still be in the USMNT mix.

      “But MLS doesn’t — and maybe for good reason, with allocation orders and such — but that’s bad for certain players. Without a little more sensitivity from the league, I’d easily prefer Bocanegra to find a club situation abroad than put his USMNT berth in jeopardy because Toronto happened to be on the top of the list or something.”


      • Excellent points, all around. The Jay/Canada aspect hadn’t even occurred to me. And I definitely agree that Captain America having a good club situation is a higher priority than having him in the MLS (as happy as that would make me).


  15. Posted by Dan on 2012/07/11 at 2:11 PM

    Good, thoughtful article. One thing I’d add here, insofar as it applies to Feilhaber, DeMerit and potentially Bocanegra, is that it may not have been a lack of offers altogether that drove (or is driving) their decisions. It may have been a lack of GOOD offers.

    I find it hard to believe DeMerit couldn’t have found work with another team in the Championship or, at worst, League 1 in England. But did he want it? What’s the point? He thought he’d played his way into the Premier League. What’s more attractive: Doing that, or signing to play in a great city like Vancouver? Feilhaber may have had a similar situation, although few (including probably him) expected him to end up with New England. Bocanegra could have a similar scenario. He’s a good player who’s already at his peak, so any team looking at him knows what they’re going to get. And for him, would you rather go to a middling French club and fight for time, or would you rather come home?


    • Exactly. Jay DeMerit said that exact thing in interviews about leaving Watford — he’d played in the Championship already. He knew he could do that, and he didn’t see the challenge in doing it again. He wanted a new challenge, and none of the offers he was getting in Europe (some of them better than Vancouver’s financially) were giving him that. Being a leader at Vancouver gave him that opportunity, and that’s why he took it.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/11 at 3:19 PM

      Apologies for the “pulling rank” feel. I have confirmed that DeMerit did not have “substantial” offers in Europe. More come tryout or 10-day contract stuff.

      That is a known and now public knowledge in the soccer media.

      Matt, TSG.


      • Posted by Dan on 2012/07/12 at 3:40 PM

        That’s along the lines of what I was trying to convey, though admittedly I’d forgotten (or didn’t know) the specifics to that degree. Thanks for the info, Matt! Again, great piece, great insights.


  16. Posted by 4now on 2012/07/11 at 2:14 PM

    Excellent, out-of-the-box piece.


  17. What we don’t know here is what the clients have been saying to the agent about what they want out of the move, besides the obvious staples like more money, regular playing time and playing in the Champions League . As I recall Jay D has a number of interests outside of the game and at his age,maybe Vancouver fit that bill. I’d move there in a heart beat if I had a great job like Jay does,

    If this is all on the mark, and it appears to be, then we should all be so lucky as to have Lyle Yorks for an agent.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/07/11 at 9:31 PM

      Don’t agree with that last statement. Where have Edu, Bedoya, Boca landed early in this transfer season?


  18. Posted by BernieBernier on 2012/07/11 at 5:31 PM

    Not being a huge MLS fan, I am wondering how much of the rabid fan base overlaps with the local USMNT fan base. Ie what portion of Uncle Ben’s Army are also AO members?

    The reason why I ask is that you will always pay more for players your fans recognize. Sene may be having a better year than Benny but when they got Benny I was excited thinking about him against Ghana at the WC. When they got Sene my immediate reaction was cheap ****ers The Revs needed a good scorer and have a DP slot open.

    I may be in the minority but I can’t be the only one that thinks like that.


  19. Posted by Gregorio on 2012/07/11 at 7:04 PM

    Food for thought, in persuing many sites about the Rangers situation and Carlos Bocanegra, some have criticized him for supporting the Rangers, whose fans’ abhorrant behaviors & sectarianism has been well documented. They torched RunDMB’s car & racially harrassed Edu. I don’t know Boca’s religious affliation but some question how can a catholic play for Rangers, given their history.
    But I, as an American who doesn’t know all the world teams histories & origins, this maybe a stupid point to bring up but I guess I got influenced by all the hype on these sites.


  20. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/07/11 at 7:23 PM

    I think some people are being a little be hypocritical and one-dimensional**. There have been numerous comments over the years about not wanting a foreign player in MLS past his peak taking up a valuable spot from a youth or domestic player (obviously not talking about marque signings, who in the short run, help put bums on seats / sell merchandise, help the MLS grow). Couldn’t perhaps Portuguese Liga, Eredivisie or Super Lig fans say that about Bocanegra, a player with clearly his best years behind him, and probably on a decent contract / looking for $X?

    **Will I get fined by the hyphen / em dash police?


    • Posted by dth on 2012/07/11 at 7:40 PM

      No, not really. Sports are zero-sum, and we’re mostly rooting USA. I think we understand why people from those nations would want to keep domestic players, but ultimately we want what’s best for our guys–which means taking spots from theirs.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/07/12 at 4:51 AM

        Erm, comments with the theme of “cannot believe he cannot find a European club” do not support your statement, Sir.


        • Posted by Hal on 2012/07/15 at 9:45 PM

          i think the difference is that many of us would rather see MLS be an exporter instead of an importer. MLS is a very young league and really doesn’t get bang for its buck by importing over the hill euro stars for millions.

          Most of your European leagues have been around forever. And most of them are importer-exporters because their imports do not hinder their development or their exports. Germany does this very well. They are the Art Vandaley of soccer.

          i’d much rather see us be like Brazil. Develop players, export them, and then use those millions to develop more. Repeat the cycle for a couple decades then as a league we can reach an importer-exporter status that won’t hinder our development.


    • I don’t think the issue is older foreign players stealing roster spots. You’d be hard-pressed to find American MLS fans pissed about Henry and Beckham playing in the league; for the most part, they’ve been fabulous players. The issue is players like Rafa Marquez and Denilson, guys who are past their prime and think they can come to the league and walk over everyone. And end-up playing like crap. I’ll be interested to see how Nesta turns out.

      Those other leagues you mentioned don’t have the same problem as MLS: they’re already the top sports leagues in their respective countries. They’re going to have rabid support regardless and they don’t need to worry about putting bums in seats with ‘marquee’ players.


      • Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/12 at 11:45 AM

        Yep. Also, Europe is a big place with many leagues, most of which are at least serviceable. Boca’s strong career, and coming off a strong season with the Gers, should give him at least some ability to find something somewhere. It may be a Championship club or the top flight in Ireland, Greece, or Austria, but it’s quite believable that he could find something.


      • Posted by dth on 2012/07/12 at 11:49 AM

        The problem is less Marquez and Denilson than guys like Alex, for the Chicago Fire. Alex was signed from the Swiss second division; no one knows who Alex is. But Alex is taking what should be the spot for the Fire’s two homegrown players.

        What’s worst about this is that when you look specifically at Alex, his skillset–running really fast–is not exactly something that Americans have been deficient at.


  21. Posted by schmutzdeck on 2012/07/11 at 8:41 PM

    Americans, especially USMNT fans, are never hypocritical.
    Foreigners come here to take our money under false pretenses but our guys would never do that. Unless they were Jozy, EJ, Bornstein, Robbie Rogers and Findlay, Giuseppe Rossi, or Tim Chandler.


  22. Posted by Nelsonaoatl on 2012/07/11 at 11:18 PM

    Geoff Cameron to Stoke City 2.7m pending work permit


  23. I totally understand why MLS have the single entity. It has kept the league financially sound and running for over a decade and a half.

    However, I still cannot understand the genuflecting to foreign players over hard-working and stalwart Americans who wish to play in their own country.

    I was aghast at Freddy Ljungberg earning $3 million while Kasey Keller was offered only $300,000 to play for Seattle. Who was more vital to the 3 trophies the Sounders have won in the past 3 years – and who has represent the club through and though even after retirement ?


  24. Posted by Sir Alex on 2012/07/12 at 9:43 AM

    You can’t use salary comparisons to make your point.

    Is Beckham worth gazillions times over ?


  25. Posted by Gregorio on 2012/07/12 at 11:27 AM

    Beckham brought enormous press, Ljungberg? not too much. but sometimes you have to overpay initially to get fans.better players in then gradually when you get a decent market share, you can be more discerning. I know this isn’t a favorable comparison but its similar to Mark Hughes over at Man city, overpaying for Roque Santa cruz, Wayne Bridge, etc., look what the teams are doing in China with ageing stars.
    No one goes to the games to see a hard working no name American playing, they want a name or a link to some other established team/league.
    When the MLS gets more established & more credible (which it is), and the fan base become more soccer knowledgable(ots getting better) to appreciate our hard working lunch pail players, we will still have the pay disparities and have the percieved notions that some foriegn players are better inherently.
    In my not so humble opinion, the more players who are exported will only increase the brand of American players,which can translate hopefully into a better domestic fan who will start to realize that other teams & countries covet our players that we sometimes tend to overlook; love him or hate him but ricardo clark is still getting a paycheck as is Frank Smicek, Matt Taylor, Jonathan Spector, etc…


  26. Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/12 at 11:48 AM

    By the way, it seems Rangers has a strong case for holding onto their players’ contracts: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/jul/11/rangers-charles-green-players-contracts

    Boca may end up staying put. And even if he does go, it will be to cash out.


  27. Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/07/12 at 2:11 PM

    Also, Alexi Lalas said on Twitter that Boca has strong interest from Olympiacos in Greece. A good enough lateral move. http://bit.ly/PPWFQt


  28. Posted by Hal on 2012/07/15 at 8:49 PM

    i just don’t understand why there can’t be free agency in MLS. We need rid of this single entity BS. It doesn’t help the game at all.

    Bocanegra (any player) should be allowed to shop his services to any MLS team that wants him and should be able to negotiate a contract for his market value.

    do we really think allowing free agency is going to lead to MLS teams over paying players and breaking the bank? That is absurd. The international market is already set for players. There is no way MLS teams are going to bid themselves up for the services of any player to the point that the wage will be higher than the international market value of said player.

    If Bocanegra is worth 500k in Europe he’s not going to get 2 million in MLS.

    i just don’t know why we put up with this.

    the argument that free agency would lead to the destruction of MLS is laughable.


  29. Posted by Jon on 2012/07/16 at 12:10 PM

    NYRB ought to dump Marquez and bring in Boca – it’d free up plenty of money to pay Boca, and still save the RB a bunch of money in aquiring a true defender.


  30. […] The Shin Guardian says a possible move to MLS by Carlos Bocanegra will provide the league with the opportunity to demonstrate it has the maturity not to negotiate against itself. […]


  31. […] Would a Boca return to MLS be worth the investment? – theshinguardian.com […]


  32. […] On Bocanegra: Time For MLS To Show Its Corporate Maturity […]


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