It's difficult to keep track of the silly season of soccer, but with all the rumors swirling about United States international midfielder Sacha Kljestan's return to MLS and possible links to the Los Angeles Galaxy it brings up one very large question:
How will a team with three Designated Players and a payroll of over $13 million dollars maneuver to acquire the former Chivas USA player? And no, I did not spend valuable battery life on my cell phone Wednesday researching this in between work appointments...OK, maybe I did. I'm a glutton for single-entity punishment.
First things first, Chivas USA did sell Kljestan to Belgian club Anderlecht so they do not hold his MLS rights, which means he would have to enter the league through the Allocation Process or as a Designated Player. Of course this is assuming that I know anything about the MLS and single-entity.
The other problem is that Kljestan could be included in Jurgen Klinsmann's 30-man roster for before the World Cup and if he makes the roster to Brazil then his return to MLS would be pushed back even further. LA is being rumored as a possible landing spot and LAG Confidential, our sister site for the Galaxy, also have rumors that USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez could be on the move as well this summer, which would open up a DP spot for the Galaxy to acquire Kljestan without going through allocation provided they made him a DP and/or traded up to the top of the allocation order like the Philadelphia Union did with Maurice Edu.
My guess is that Kljestan probably makes above the $500K DP salary threshold in Belgium and a quick Google search, which shows a $700K+ salary (although I have no idea where this number comes from) and his current deal in Belgium expires in 2016 after Kljestan signed an extension in 2013. The most likely option for Kljestan's return to MLS will probably be as a DP and I certainly think he would warrant a DP salary but it will lag behind his United States counterparts like Dempsey and Bradley.
Again, how Kljestan gets to LA is a story for later in the summer, either after the World Cup or after Klinsmann selects his 23-man roster. He is from California, was drafted and played for Chivas USA, should be allowed to play for whatever MLS team he wants and I have no idea if he would even want to play for the New England Revolution.
But would Kljestan have filled that holding midfield role fans were clamoring to fill prior to the start of the season? Absolutely. A two-way playmaker occupying a holding midfield role linking up with players like Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez in the midfield? Yes, I would have been first in line in the offseason upon hearing this idea.
But with Andy Dorman continuing his good form from the end of last year combined with Daigo Kobayashi's solid play with Rowe struggling with a injury and Scott Caldwell's contributing good minutes off the bench it seems those early season questions have been answered. GM Mike Burns clearly is getting everything he can out the the 18th-highest payroll in MLS and deserves a lot of credit for the moves he made in the offseason. Jay Heaps is still tinkering with his starting lineup and key players are still out but the Revs are playing well two months into the season.
Finances and feelings about the Revs spending habits aside, I think this would have been a very manageable move for the Revs to make. This Business of Soccer article is a nice read and really shows the impact of returning USMNT players like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley have had on MLS and player salaries. Yes, there is an even larger gap from the Toronto FC's and Seattle Sounders at the top to the Revs and Chivas USA's at the bottom, but that's also for a different day.
While Kljestan would not demand millions in salary, he is a versatile midfielder who could've shined in the Revs current system, at least in my opinion. And at the beginning of the year, Kljestan would have answered a rather large question about the starting midfield role in the Revs lineup. That question has been answered now, but two or three months ago it was probably the most pressing question about the Revs lineup that wasn't striker.
Still, timing is everything in player acquisitions and even if Kljestan is coming back to MLS, these are just rumors, the Revs probably don't need Sacha Kljestan right now. That's not to say he wouldn't make the Revs better, a player of Kljestan's caliber would improve most teams in MLS. But given the solid start of Dorman, who's also been acting captain with Jose Goncalves on the mend, as well as Kobayashi, this is a mid-season move even I don't think I would make.
I think that the recent trend of USMNT players returning to MLS and/or staying in MLS is a great thing for the league especially with this summer's World Cup. It gives the league and it's clubs a chance to promote not only their product but the World Cup and international game as well. I would expect Kljestan's return to MLS, even without a trip to Brazil, would be regarded highly by the league overall as the versatile midfielder has been a fairly constant member of Klinsmann's squads recently.
Certainly at some point, there will be an opportune time for the Revolution to join in with the signing of a returning US or other international player to MLS. Right now, I think most fans are awaiting the call ups of youngsters like Rowe and Andrew Farrell and hoping to see the get their first international caps with the USMNT.
So while I can think happy thoughts of Sacha Kljestan linking up with Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe, I will instead settle for Andy Dorman and Nguyen shutting down Kljestan has he attempts to link up Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.
You know, assuming those rumors about him coming back to MLS are true and the Galaxy have a DP slot available to sign him and/or trade up to the top allocation spot to acquire Kljestan.