Friday, January 6, 2012
Omar Gonzalez Tears ACL, Loan Debate Rages On
Particularly troubling is that Gonzalez turned down his first call up to the national team under Jurgen Klinsmann. The injury brings to light the ongoing debate about whether or not so many MLS players should be going on loan to European. The questions raised by seeing the mecca of MLSers to Europe this off-season are valid ones, but perhaps not as crucial as some are making it out to be.
The truth of the matter is that yes, whenever a player goes on loan to another team, they risk injury. They also risk injury when they answer national team call ups, or play with their kids at the park.
The concerns for injury are valid ones. Landon Donovan, the leagues American gem, is likely to face a stiffer tackle in matches against Chelsea than he would in preseason matches to the LA Blues, but the point remains;
That the benefits to a player going on loan can also be very rewarding. Consider the opportunities presented by a player moving on loan, to any team.
First off the move is likely in place to give the player more playing time. Either to fit into an off-season or make up for minutes not being seen at their own club level. By default more time on the ball will make the player sharper and more fit. Additionally that time spent playing is a chance to be seen by more coaches, scouts and up the player value.
In the case of MLS players heading to Europe in the off-season, there are several benefits not only to the player but to the league as well. For so many players to be granted training stints, trials and loans, there must be some sense of credibility in Europe's eyes for Major League Soccer. More than ever, MLS is catching the attention of those in Europe. That has to be considered a positive, that players from here are able to travel abroad and immediately contribute.
Perhaps an interesting point of note would be Thierry Henry's loan to Arsenal. Henry is not a player who needs time, he is not training for a World Cup or to get noticed in Europe. He's only returning to help his club. Is New York wrong to be worried? No. Could they deny him the chance? No, that would look disastrous in publicity. It does say something though that Henry will return to Arsenal after two years in MLS and likely make an immediate impact.
Players going on loan are a reality of the business and in truth, the MLS business is good. Depth in the roster is becoming that much more important and the league recognizes that. Teams have insurance for a reason and their investments in top of the line medical treatment for players is a sign of that.
In the end, it would hurt the league more than help it to deny loan spells to players. Only in very specific circumstances should it be done. The fact that there is so much interest in MLSers is a good thing.