The power of the #1 allocation slot
January 19, 2010
A day before last week's SuperDraft, a major MLS trade went down that had a huge impact on Metro. No, not our acquisition of Chris Albright; rather, expansion Philadelphia's trade of the top spot in the allocation order to DC Scum. DC signed Troy Perkins, meaning Metro, by virtue of owning the worst league record last year, are now sitting at the top. And sitting pretty.
For that spot holds a lot of power. Let us explain; if a player comes to MLS, but multiple teams lay claim on him, OR the player has been capped for the US national team, he has to go through the allocation process. There are two exceptions: players eligible for discovery slots (how MLS decided that is unclear, but no US national teamer has been acquired through a discovery in recent memory), and players whose rights belong to MLS clubs. (If a player leaves MLS on a free, while his last MLS team offers him a contract, they own his rights in perpetuity -- this is how Houston had Danny Califf's rights from when they were San Jose, meaning Philly couldn't use their then-#1 slot to sign Califf, and were forced to trade with Houston. Confused already?)
Two years ago, San Jose, by virtue of being a reborn expansion team, held that top slot. Idiotically, they used it on former Metro Jean-Philippe Peguero (or is it Peguero Jean-Philippe?) The striker, who was sold in 2006 to Denmark (hence Metro did not hold his rights), was coming off major injury problems. Still, the Earthquake brass decided to use their #1 slot. Peguero played in all of three games and called it a career.
Bad use of the slot? Terrible, considering what happened next. The slot now belonged to Toronto, just in time for Brian McBride to come back to MLS. He only wanted to play for Chicago, Chicago wanted him, so a bounty was worked out -- Toronto got Chad Barrett, a first-round draft pick and allocation money. San Jose left scratching their heads after making one of the most idiotic moves in MLS history.
By virtue of making the playoffs year after year, Metro never had a chance to climb up to the #1 slot. Until now. And with Philly setting the price (much like the McBride deal: a player, a first-round draft pick, and cash), Metro has a chance to either get a good player for free, or get a ransom from another team.
Unless they peguero the slot, that is.
Now, we don't know what players will come down the pipe this year (the slots reset after the season). Some have their fingers crossed for Carlos Bocanegra or DaMarcus Beasley; that might never happen. It is a World Cup year, usually rich with transfers, so one never knows.
There are two US national teamers widely mentioned as coming to MLS this year: Lee Nguyen and Michael Orozco. Nguyen is considered a failure and was most recently seen in the Vietnamese(!) league; Metro would be wise to pass. Orozco is an interesting case: a US Olympian with one senior cap to his name, he spent his entire career in the Mexican league and now supposedly wants to give MLS a shot. There are rumbles from the Mexican press that he is bound for Philly, so maybe it's all predestined.
But it can't be. For Orozco has to go through the allocation process, and Metro holds the key. Does Philly want him? Fine. Pay up, like you made DC pay. Does Metro want him, thinking that a bird in hand is better than two in the bush? Fine. You get a solid, if not spectacular player. Or is the best course of action to pass, waiting until later in the year to see who appears in the pipeline?
There are options, and Metro has an upper hand on everyone else in MLS. Let's just hope they don't peguero it.