Twitter is all up in arms thanks to a report from Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated. His latest piece tracks the events that led to Clint Dempsey returning to MLS and signing for the Seattle Sounders. In the report Wahl mentions that Dempsey was interested in joining Seattle, the LA Galaxy, and Toronto FC. That list conveniently includes the three clubs that would be the most likely to meet his massive salary demands.
The problem is that Wahl's report suggests that despite having interest in making a bid for the player Toronto FC decided not to do so. That may be in part due to the fact that the club is currently pursuing other Designated Player targets but that is not the reasoning that Wahl provides for Toronto not making a serious run for Deuce.
Los Angeles and Toronto were also interested in ponying up for Dempsey, multiple sources said, but Toronto (which is working on its own Designated Player deals) accepted that it was better for the league if Dempsey were playing in a U.S. city. Moreover, Los Angeles is expected to announce soon that it has filled its maximum three DP slots with the extension of Omar González's contract.
That will not likely sit well with many TFC fans who will be wondering just what the league has done that was in the best interest of Toronto FC. The reaction would be justified when you consider the fact that last summer TFC wanted to bring in Olof Mellberg but the deal was reportedly blocked by MLS since they seem to be against teams signing big name defenders to DP deals.
Wahl brings up another issue though in that paragraph which is that LA are set to award Gonzalez a DP level contract which goes against the precedent that the league seemingly set by blocking the Mellberg deal. On the surface there are plenty of things for TFC fans to be frustrated by in the way MLS handled this deal.
Fans of other clubs in the league are also annoyed by the deal because Wahl is reporting that the league is covering the cost of Dempsey's transfer from Tottenham. While Seattle will end up paying him $24 million in salary the league is on the hook for the $9 million transfer fee. It may be something that is allowed within the league's rules but the problem many fans have is that the rules are so hard to figure out that it often seems that the league does what it wants to help whatever teams they want.
There is clearly plenty of things that a fan could be frustrated about but I find it hard to get angry over any of this because I find it hard to imagine that Toronto FC would decide not to make an offer for Dempsey solely based on the fact that they felt "it was better for the league if Dempsey were playing in a U.S. city". It seems far more likely that the league told them they would prefer to have Dempsey wind up in a US city and that TFC were offered something in return.
If the league asked Toronto not to go after Dempsey so that Seattle could that is fine with me. Part of being a single entity is not allowing clubs to compete for the same player to prevent prices being driven up. So the league was never going to let all three clubs offer for Dempsey so with Seattle willing to meet his wage demands, having such a large fan base, and being American the move just made sense for everyone involved.
That is where this becomes pure speculation on my part though to try and explain why TFC might be willing to bow out of the running without putting up a fight. The league has now set a precedent with the Dempsey signing by helping to cover the cost and paying the transfer fee. That hopefully means that at some point down the road when TFC find the big name DP they want so badly the league will pony up several million dollars to help them seal the deal. After all, it would be in the best interest of the league to have the buzz back around Toronto FC and have the team winning.
LA could very well have gotten permission to sign Omar Gonzalez to a DP contract in return for not bidding on Dempsey but again that is speculation on my part. The point is that before you get angry about Clint Dempsey not pulling on Toronto colours next weekend remember that this is the way MLS works as a single entity. Chances are this move will come around to help out TFC at some point down the road making it a win-win for all parties involved.
Now the pressure is on MLS to have TFC's back and help them land a big fish because TFC apparently were good little soldiers in helping the league's cause with Dempsey and I for one am fine with it.