“We want a league where ev­ery fan feels their team has got a re­al­is­tic chance”

FourFourTwo - - MLS SUPERDRAFT -

topped last year’s reg­u­lar-sea­son stand­ings. Most of that group will prob­a­bly be moved straight to the Red Bulls II team – just as top clubs in Spain and Ger­many play B teams in lower leagues, MLS re­cently part­nered with the United Soc­cer League (USL) to field sides in that com­pe­ti­tion, and add an­other vi­able path to the first team for young play­ers who may never par­tic­i­pate in the draft.

But for those who do take part, it’s a nerve-wrack­ing wait to see where they will get their shot. The would-be draftees and their fam­i­lies all sit in a sec­tion to the right of the main stage that is ef­fec­tively a de­par­ture lounge. Many of the fringe play­ers, of course, will also be won­der­ing whether they will re­main seated through­out the en­tire af­ter­noon, un­til the lights come up with­out them ever mak­ing it to stage left.

It would be even more nerve-wrack­ing if they were aware of the scene on the other side of the black cur­tain, as Durbin and his team work out whether teams ac­tu­ally have the where­withal within the strict rules to back up their trade pro­pos­als.

The mech­a­nism grinds on, and that “most com­pli­cated deal ever” ends up with LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids and Seat­tle Sounders en­act­ing a four-way trade around the 12th and 15th spots that re­sults in Chicago get­ting the 12th pick, but giv­ing up the num­ber one pick in the al­lo­ca­tion or­der for re­turn­ing US in­ter­na­tion­als. There’s a player on the move in the midst of it all as well (be­yond Jonathan Camp­bell and Em­manuel Ap­piah, the two play­ers picked in the 12th and 15th spots, when the dust fi­nally set­tles), along with var­i­ous bits of al­lo­ca­tion money, and the fu­ture draft picks that tend to dec­o­rate th­ese trade agree­ments. The draft cer­tainly helps pre­pare young play­ers for the re­al­ity of life as a po­ten­tial makeweight in deals that can shut­tle them to new lives on the other side of the con­ti­nent at a mo­ment’s no­tice.

With the word­ing fi­nally agreed on the an­nounce­ment of the lat­est trade deal, Com­mis­sioner Gar­ber is dis­patched on­stage to break down the com­plex­ity of it all, and does so gamely be­fore re­turn­ing back­stage to flop into the seat be­side FFT, po­litely smil­ing at our lame joke that he may just have an­nounced he is play­ing for Colorado next year. “It is com­pli­cated,” he ad­mits, “but when you think it through, it makes sense, be­cause now Colorado are free to move for a [Tim] Howard or [Ale­jan­dro] Be­doya when they come back, and…” For a se­cond he sounds as en­thused as any fan ob­sess­ing on the minu­tiae of their club, but we are in an en­vi­ron­ment where the mo­ments for such in­dul­gences are fleet­ing.

With a glance at the re­main­ing time on the count­down clock, Gar­ber breaks off his ex­pla­na­tion to deal with a make-up artist pow­der­ing him for the lights again, and bounds back to his feet to check on the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the next pick’s name with se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions co­or­di­na­tor Jane Sex­ton. But there’s still a mo­ment for him to turn back from the wings one more time and say: “Gets the adrenaline go­ing though, right?”

Then he slips through the cur­tain again to an­nounce the start of an­other young player’s pro­fes­sional dream. And to set the clock run­ning on the next one.

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