New England Soccer Today

50/50 Friday: Will the Revolution sign a designated player before First Kick 2011?

Every Friday, New England Soccer Today will tackle a pressing issue in the world of soccer. Each topic will be argued by a different writer each week, with guest writers periodically appearing to add some flavor to the mix.

This week, our writers debate the the following topic: “With Revolution COO Brian Bilello recently announcing that the Revolution will actively search for one or more designated players for next season, will they sign a designated player before First Kick 2011?” Arguing in the affirmative is Brian O’Connell, while Sean Donahue presents the dissenting view.

YES. In previous years, the question of whether the team would sign a designated player was always met with the a stock “if its the right player and he fits well with the team” reply. A standard non-answer, if you will. And we all knew why: the club’s philosophy had always been “buy low, sell high” when it came to roster management. A designated player obviously didn’t meet that criteria.

But when Bilello openly stated that the Revolution were no longer going to stand back on the designated player front, it wasn’t just a promise. It was declaration. It was a bold statement that, yes, the club had suffered through a tough season this year. The product just wasn’t up to snuff. The ownership group had noticed, and was not pleased at all. Something had to be done. And thus, after dodging the DPA question as best as he could for nearly four years, Bilello finally announced that the club was ready to step up and spend some cash and become a player in this league.

Now, some will say that this is simply a ploy to keep the season ticket holders from leaving en masse after many had openly voiced their disappointment with the product on the pitch. And with good reason. In this economy, every cent of discretionary spending is examined that much closer. The fear of losing a huge chunk of loyal customers was a very real possibility unless something changed. Some will contend that the DPA proclamation was an olive branch to those customers. That could be true. I can’t say for sure that wasn’t a motivating factor for making such a statement.

But, if this were a straight marketing tactic, the news would have been leaked anonymously and disseminated by the media with no name attached to it.  By publicly announcing the that “our goal would be to find a designated player before the 2011 season kicks off,” Bilello put the onus on himself that he’ll do whatever he can to bring in a player before next season. And you know what? I believe him.

NO. Expecting the Revs to sign a designated player by the start of the season is simply unrealistic for many reasons. At the most basic level, it seems unlikely the Revs will be able to find the player (or players) they need, that would warrant DP pay, while most leagues are in midseason. Signing a player before the MLS season would likely require one of four things:

1. The Revs pay a transfer fee to bring in a player while the top European leagues have their international transfer window in January.

2. The Revs sign someone who has recently been released from their team.

3. The Revs sign someone who hasn’t been able to find a team this season.

4. The Revs sign someone who is playing in a league with a summer schedule.

Options 2 or 3 seem unlikely, simply because in most cases it would be hard to justify giving DP money to a player that couldn’t find a team for such a long period or at midseason was no longer deemed useful enough to warrant a spot on a team’s roster. The same could be said of a player who plays in one of the lesser European leagues or elsewhere, option 4. It also seems unlikely based on the Revs past history, that the team would be willing to pay a significant transfer fee to get a player they want.

That’s not to say it’s impossible. The Revs did bring in Marko Perovic before the season started while he was playing for FC Basel. Basel reportedly agreed to a free transfer and Marko has become a key player on the team. However, Perovic is making only $190,000, far short of DP money and it’s hard to envision too many other scenarios in which a player with enough proven quality would be allowed to leave his current team on a free or relatively cheap transfer.

Top European leagues have contracts that expire in the summer and as such it seems much more likely the Revs may land an out of contract player as a DP in the summer. Look at all the designated players signed this season: Henry, Marquez, Mista, Nkufo, Castillo, etc. Big names or lesser known, all of them joined their teams midseason and that has been the case for the vast majority of DPs throughout the years.

All of that is saying nothing of the Revs’ general past inability to sign any proven international player by the start of the season. Even if they have truly changed the mentality and will be putting more efforts into scouting, the history of other MLS teams and designated players make one thing clear: signing a designated player in the offseason is about as rare as a Revs road victory these days.

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