Thursday, July 03, 2008

Columbus wants to improve team but MLS's hurt feelings might get in the way

The Columbus Crew want to improve their team by bringing in a quality player from Norway's first division. So what's the problem? The player is Pat Noonan.

Noonan left the New England Revolution after the team decided not to offer him a respectable contract extension at the end of last season (they offered him less money then he made in 2007). Because he was out of contract, Noonan was able to move to Norway without a transfer fee, which means the Revs retained his MLS rights.

For their part, the Crew are willing to pay Noonan a salary similar to what he was earning previously in the US, plus pay a transfer fee to his current club and give the Revs something for his rights, however MLS is not happy. Why? Coach Sigi Schmid has the answer:
"A player that can turn down an offer from the league, go overseas on their own volition and then we as a league have to buy them back," Schmid said. "That's bad business and MLS doesn't want to be in the habit of doing bad business. That's completely understandable."
Schmid is playing the good sport here because really the only thing bad about this whole situation is that New England tried to hardball him in the first place (they would not trade him, thus he had to take their deal or get out of the country).

Noonan is a quality American striker who wants to be treated with respect. The fact that the league and the Revolution failed to do so should not be held against him or the Crew.

Instead the league should get past the hurt feelings caused by someone calling their bluff and do what is best for the sport.

The idea that a team can hold back a player that they no longer have under contract is one that must change or we can expect to see more young American players skip over their domestic league in favor of third tier competition overseas.

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