This past Sunday afternoon, during halftime of ESPN's broadcast of their MLS Game Of The Week (Chicago Fire vs. Sporting Kansas City), commentators (and Revs alum) Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman got into a bit of a dispute. It was a friendly dispute, but the two talking heads disagreed about the topic nonetheless. The topic at hand was Major League Soccer's newest (and perhaps most secret) wrinkle to the league pay structure: the Retention Fund.
Leading up to this broadcast, there were plenty of whispers circulating around the internet about this "Retention Fund", mostly in light of the Graham Zusi contract extension at Sporting Kansas City last month. According to Lalas, each team has a pool of money (not real money, as far as I know, just more imaginary "funny money") that they can tap into in order to sign up to three players currently on their roster to new, longer contracts so that the player stays in the league rather than move abroad. With $225,000 at their disposal, teams can use this towards a player's new deal without having to declare them a Designated Player.
Lalas went on to reveal that Zusi was not the first player to be signed onto an extended contract using the Retention Fund cash. Chris Pontius, Juninho (of the Galaxy, of course), Dax McCarty, and Matt Besler are all part of the Retention Fund Club as well, it turns out.
The disagreement between Lalas and Twellman was routed in whether or not this new device was kept secret on purpose by the league and, if it was, whether that is a shady move on behalf of MLS from a fan's perspective. Now, I don't really intend to take a side in this debate, because, frankly, I don't really care. However, what I do want to explore are four different scenarios that pertain or could pertain to the New England Revolution regarding this new Retention Fund.
Scenario 1: Diego Fagundez - Fagundez signed a contract extension in mid-March this season, inking a new deal that would extend his current contract with the Revs "for the foreseeable future". A New England Soccer Today article article by Brian O'Connell mentioned (in the comments section) that it was not revealed who approached who first on this deal, but that a deal was worked out in two days time. O'Connell speculates that Diego and his agent approached the Revs first.
So, this got me wondering: did Diego's agent know about the Retention Fund and push for an extension move thinking that the Revs would use this extra money they suddenly had this season? This is of course pure speculation on my part, but one has to wonder regardless. Perhaps the Retention Fund was completely a non-factor in the deal. We may never know. But, food for thought. (Side note: Bobby Shuttleworth also signed a contract extension this season, but I just can't really see the Revs using Retention Fund monies in that extension... but, hey, you never know.)
Scenario 2: Lee Nguyen - Regardless of whether the Revs used some of the Retention Fund cash on Fagundez or not, Lee Nguyen is arguably one of MLS's most under-paid talents. The most recent MLS Player Salaries that were released by the Players Union in May have Nguyen as making just over $80,000 in guaranteed compensation this year. Nguyen, last year's team MVP, has been a revelation since coming to the Revs last year and though he saw a significant pay increase in 2013 (about $30k by my math), that still may not be enough to keep the 26-year-old in Foxborough for very long. Simply put, Nguyen is too important to this team to let go anytime soon and he would be an ideal candidate to ink to a new deal using some fresh new Retention Fund cashola.
Scenario 3: Jose Goncalves - The Revolution's newest permanent captain, Jose Goncalves, has been arguably the greatest addition to this New England squad under the Jay Heaps regime if not before then as well. There's just one problem: he's only here on loan. Yes, the bittersweet truth about Goncalves is that, technically, he belongs to FC Sion, at least for now. Having recently been named both Soccer By Ives and ESPN FC's MLS Mid-Season Defender of the Year, Goncalves has staked his claim as one of the league's most stalwart defenders. Revs fans have begun taking to social media to rally behind the notion of turning Goncalves' loan deal into a permanent one. Thus far, the Revolution Front Office has remained mum on the subject, for the most part. But I can't possibly think of a better way for the Revs to spend some (or, hell, ALL) of their MLS Retention Fund, could you?
Scenario 4: Juan Agudelo - We all know the story with Agudelo. He's on the final year of his MLS contract and his future is uncertain. Word is that he's been drawing interest from European teams such as Celtic and West Ham United. If he chose to leave MLS after this season with the Revs, he likely would not have a shortage of potential suitors. However, there are also reports that Agudelo would consider staying in MLS if offered a low-end Designated Player deal. Now, I don't know the specifics on using the Retention Fund towards making a player a DP (to be honest, there probably isn't a specific guideline in the books, but one would likely just be made up once the need for it presents itself), but if it were possible then New England would certainly find it that much easier to pen Agudelo to his desired DP deal and keep him in Navy Blue for the foreseeable future.
So, those are just four scenarios regarding the Revolution and the newest MLS craze, the Retention Fund. In my opinion, the full $225k is probably untouched thus far, as I do believe that Fagundez approached the Front Office about extending because he truly wanted to stay with New England for longer than his current deal at the time. My understanding is that the Fund is to be used to approach players so entice them to stay, which is why I believe that the Revs should seriously consider options 2 through 4.
What do you think? Who would you like to see the Revs spend their Retention Fund on this season? Think they've already used some or all of it on Fagundez back in March? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!