Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Scrooge England Revolution?


It's a pretty unflattering term. But, in the past two weeks alone, I've received numerous e-mails from Revolution fans "commenting" (and I use the term advisedly, since there may be children reading this) on the transfer bid for Taylor Twellman, Andy Dorman's departure, and now, Pat Noonan's club option being declined. Despite the varying topics, there's one prevailing theme among the fan feedback:

The Revolution organization is cheap.

It's not a completely unfounded (or recent) argument if you consider the club's recent track record of contract negotiations with its own players. When given the chance, the club has repeatedly refused to shed its cheapskate label, despite the fact that an unused designated player allocation and some leftover cash from the Clint Dempsey transfer are beginning to attract moths.

That being said, let's take gander at the club's track record when it comes to player contracts.

Exhibit A: Taylor Twellman. The club’s all-time leading scorer signed a four-year contract that, on average, pays him close to $400,000 annually, which isn’t chump change by any means. However, when English side Preston North End reportedly offered as much a $2.5 million transfer fee for the Best XI striker last week, it was apparent that he was clearly worth much more. Twellman's value, in terms of both the club and the league, has greatly risen over the last year alone, and though he signed his contract extension prior to last season, a market adjustment would appear to be warranted for such a vital component of the Revolution machine.

Exhibit B: Shalrie Joseph. Another player at the center of a transfer bid - this one made by the illustrious Celtic FC. The Scottish club made multiple offers for everyone’s favorite Grenadian, and at one point, reportedly offered as much as $2 million for his contract. Naturally, the bids were rejected each time, though all parties involved stood to benefit greatly from the proposed transfer. Embittered by the proceedings, Joseph declined his appointment as club captain prior the start of the 2007 season, as the failed transfer and ensuing contract negations had soured him. After interest cooled, Joseph, perhaps seeing little other alternative, signed a contract extension in August for a figure that probably wasn't even close to the amount money he would have received abroad.

Exhibit C: Andy Dorman. Can you believe that the newly-baptized Buddie was making a schoolteacher's salary ($30,870 according to MLS Underground) last season? Neither can I. After a pretty good season during which he became the club's second leading scorer, you have to believe that the underrated attacking midfielder was due for a pay raise when his contract expired at the end of the year. Instead, the club balked at his requested figure (which, according to reports, wasn’t unreasonably high), then waved goodbye to another crucial piece of their successful playoff-caliber puzzle.

Exhibit D: Now comes Pat Noonan. The highly-regarded striker and childhood friend of Twellman has partnered up front with his old buddy for the past five seasons –all of which the Revs have clinched playoff berths. It’s hard to dispute that the attack is remarkably better when both are on the pitch. Granted, Noonan has had some difficulties staying healthy at times, but when he's fully fit and ready to go, there aren't many better forward lines in MLS. Plus, it’s safe to say that a certain Tecmo Bowl-playing pal would not be pleased if Noonan were to walk.

In hindsight, the recent streak of success of this club has enjoyed must be further appreciated given the organization's tightwad tactics. It's almost an aberration (albeit a fantastic one) that amid all of this player unrest, this club has still made it to three consecutive MLS Cups. But it would be foolish to think this trend will last forever, nevermind the foreseeable future.

This season has the potential be a big year for the Revs. But it also has equal chance to reek of a rebuilding year in which a playoff appearance would be impressive enough. Dorman's presence will be missed, and should Noonan go as well, no rookie or newcomer would be able to adequately fill the respective voids on such short notice.

In essence, Revolution fans are tired of it all. Tired of having their talent club come up short. Tired of seeing management failing to extend itself beyond the “we gave it our best effort” excuse in terms of signing new players. Tired of shortchanging its better players. Tired of reading about the Red Sox and Celtics doling out the necessary cash for big names to improve their teams while the local XI continues to ride the backseat of the New England sports bus.

Most importantly, they’re tired of the organization not doing enough to not only make their club better, but by extension, not doing enough to promote the game of soccer in a region jam-packed with sports fans.

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