Toronto FC sign Clement Simonin. MLS gonna MLS.
Given the Team Americaness of this year’s Toronto FC, international absences was always going to be something that would cause a problem sporadically throughout the year. Given the age and/or injury history of some of the more important TFC players, injuries were always going to be something that would randomly cause problems throughout the year. There’s a lot of money spent on a few key players, and a definite top heavy feel to the squad, success this year is probably going to be largely contingent on luck, and the inevitable injuries being evenly spread out and not coinciding with international breaks. It took 3 games for it to go wrong. sigh.
Yes, this Saturday’s game will be the first where TFC’s much vaunted depth and improved squad gets put to the test, especially in defence where Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow won’t be available. Tough times for the first team, and add in injuries to Eriq Zavaleta and Mark Bloom as well, with Marky Delgado off with the US under 23s, and the defensive depth vanishes as well, the bench looks threadbare, today we got the necessary bandaid.
Clement Simonin, picked up in this year’s draft and previously signed to a USL contract with Wunderland AFC is that solution, as reporters at training were told he’d be flying out to Sandy Utah with the team, and eventually they announced his signing at 5:10 on a Friday night, at the same time as Canada were beating Guatemala. He’ll be the only natural defender on the bench as the squad gets stretched to the limits, before no doubt being loaned back to TFC II to get plenty of playing time as per the presumed original plan.
The timing of it was curious though, obviously this was going to be necessary and he’d only be travelling with the team is he was going to play some kind of role and thus would need to be officially signed up, so why the delay in announcing it? Young kid getting his first team contract is a natural feel good story anyone can like, why bury it?
Well, to avoid awkward questions that’s why. Signing Simonin took the roster up to 29 players, or to put it another way, one over the limit. Something was going to have to give, either releasing a player, or as most assumed, a loan of someone to TFC II. Rules on this sort of thing are hazy at best (there’s no mention of this kind of situation in the ‘roster rules and regulations‘ part of the website, oh hang on, that’s from 2014, the 2015 version? Why would anyone need to see that?) but seemingly there must be some kind of season long loan to USL that would actually stop the player from counting towards the first team squad despite him being on a first team contract. Seems shady, but hey it’s MLS so I guess it’s about as good as you could expect really, wrong but closeish to right. Obviously the simple loans we’d previously seen announced, Ashtone Morgan, Jordan Hamilton and a few others don’t do that, as even those that haven’t been called back are very much there on the website, and counting towards the 28 man limit, that would be a giant loophole if not. So, if this was a thing, Quillan Roberts seemed an obvious choice to be sacrificed, or perhaps Chris Manella, being named captain suggests the plan is for him to be there all year. So we waited for the answer to arrive.
Then, instead of such an announcement, we got this:
Been told by #TFC that because they’ve loaned players to USL club they have cleared up roster space on senior team to sign Clément Simonin.
— John Molinaro (@JohnMolinaro) March 27, 2015
Apparently having players down in USL means they’re not counted towards the MLS roster. Which kinda sorta brings up some interesting questions doesn’t it?
Firstly, if loaning a player down to the USL team means they’re no longer counting towards the MLS roster, then that seems like a massive hole any enterprising club willing to spend the extra money on MLS contracts rather than USL ones could drive a truck through. TFC now have 29 players on MLS contracts, but apparently it’s legal as the loans to USL make players not count. But even with bringing Simonin, Chapman, Morgan and Hamilton back up to the big club this week, there’s still Manny Aparicio, Chris Manella, Quillan Roberts and Alex Bono with the FieldMarlies. Molinaro’s tweet suggests that the recalled players don’t even count, which sounds too remarkably wrong even for MLS, but let’s say that they do actually count, that’d still leave 4 players down there, which would take the 29 down to 25. Why not sign 3 more players to MLS contracts? What’s stopping TFC or other teams with USL teams from blatantly circumventing the rules and building themselves a much bigger squad than the clubs without that option? I mean, that’s kind of what these junior teams allow anyway, it just hadn’t been so thoroughly exposed until today, why not really take advantage? And given this possibility, and the fact that TFC are actually taking advantage if only by one player, why aren’t other MLS teams complaining and forcing us to play by the rules?
Another angle to this, if players down with the USL team don’t count towards the MLS roster, then Jonathan Osorio was the only Canadian in our squad last week (and if we don’t give them the benefit of the doubt and instead go with the interpretation in Molinaro’s tweet, this week as well) which is another blatant breach of the rules, there should always be at least 3.
So which is it? Which rule are TFC actually breaking? If these guys do count towards the MLS roster, we have too many of them, if they don’t count, then we don’t have enough Canadians. One way or another, TFC are very illegal right now, making an obvious and open mockery of the idea that MLS cares about, or even really has, rules that have to be adhered to. Ah well, MLS gonna MLS.
It was only yesterday, on a completely different topic, I wrote this tweet. I should just save it and use it whenever needed. It’ll make thing easier.
anyway, this has been ‘Duncan thinks too hard about things that simply require a shrug and ‘that’s MLS for you’ ‘ thanks for reading.
— Duncan Fletcher (@DuncanDFletcher) March 26, 2015
Anyway, welcome Clement. Best of luck to you.