The Los Angeles Galaxy have finally gotten their man. Keane’s future at Tottenham was in doubt over the last few months. The Galaxy however were not rumored to be acquiring Keane until the last few days. Before the transfer could take place, the Galaxy would have to trade one of their “designated players” in order to create room for Keane’s transfer.
The Galaxy had David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel as designated players. Angel, the newcomer of the group, was brought in at the start of the season because of his prowess in front of goal, found himself as the odd man out. Angel has scored three goals thus far this season yet the Galaxy were seeking more production from the forward position.
The designated player rule was created in order to allow MLS teams to compete for star players in the international soccer market. In reality players in the twilight of their career have made the move to MLS. This was not what MLS had intended when the rule was created. Perhaps it is naïve for MLS to think the league could attract young stars at the height of their career when money, endorsements and competition is significantly better in Europe. Foreign players and coaches have been at odds with “salary caps” and “designated player rules” upon arrival in the United States.
The root of the issue comes from the failings in the past. In the last 100 years, twice has soccer come into the national spotlight only to have the sport take a step backwards when spending on player wages ran afoul. In the 1920s and 1930s the sport was rising along with European counterparts sometimes even offering more in terms of player wages and benefits for players who made the move from Europe. This increase in exposure came with an eventual downfall. Promoters saw money to be made at the gate and couldn’t come together to pool their resources together for the good of the sport. After decades of lying dormant, the NASL was next to try their luck at soccer in America. Names like Pele, Best, Banks, Muller, Beckenbauer all made the move to the States to take part in the fledging league. Astronomical wages were paid, the fans came but there was loyalty to star power more than to soccer itself. The game simply had not been given enough time to take root. Owners and promoters would go bankrupt and the formula was deemed a failure. When MLS took the pitch in 1996, the scars of the past were still in the minds of executives, league officials and team owners. The progress of MLS has moved at a snail’s pace but 15 years on the league is still around and making progress. TV viewership amongst English speaking viewers is still quite low but when combined with Spanish speaking viewers the numbers are not great but somewhat respectable.
So what now of Angel? The former Aston Villa man had moved his family from New York to Los Angeles in the off-season and was not seeking a move back to the East Coast. The Philadelphia Union were reported to be interested in the experienced striker who had scored 58 goals in 102 appearances for Red Bull from 2007 – 2010. The Galaxy took less compensation from Chivas USA in order to appease Angel and keep him in Southern California. Both clubs and MLS have kept quiet about what was given to the Galaxy for Angel. Pundits have already argued the purchase of 31 year-old striker for 1.8 million pounds as a piece of bad business for the league who insists it is having difficulty in making a profit.
Worries of a return to the old days of the original NASL seem to be far-fetched for now. No doubt we will be hearing more about this move and others in the near future.