The Philadelphia Union have been very good defensively. But their success has masked a real lack of proven depth on the back line. Both Farfan brothers and Keon Daniel have deputized on the outside while Sheanon Williams had to slide into the middle when Califf couldn’t go in Portland.
The depth issue is why reaction to the Jordan Harvey trade has been a strange mix of “whatev,” “how could they,” and “he wasn’t great but he was a real left back.”
Harvey himself said, ““At the end of the day, Philly got an offer they couldn’t refuse, from what I’m understanding.”
The offer Philly got was allocation money for a starting member of their league-best defense. Allocation money is sort of like a gift card from MLS. You can spend it like cash, but there are restrictions on where, when, why and how.
According to the Whitecaps press release on the Harvey trade:
Allocation money does not count against a club’s salary budget and can be used:
– To sign players new to MLS (that is, a player who did not play in MLS during the previous season).
– To re-sign an existing MLS player, subject to League approval.
– To “buy-down” a player’s salary budget charge below the League maximum of $335,000.
– In connection with the exercise of an option to purchase a player’s rights or the extension of a player’s contract for the second year provided the player was new to MLS in the immediately prior year.
So allocation money is an extra bit of pocket change you can use for just about anything player-related, provided the league OKs it. But short of trading your starting fullback, how do you get your hands on this sweet, sweet cash?
(1) failure to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs;
(2) the transfer of a player to a club outside of MLS for value;
(3) expansion status;
(4) qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League;
In short, the MLS Competition Committee goes into a secret room filled with Papa John’s Pizzas and posters of Landon Donovan and comes out with a list that tells each team how much allocation money they get that year. And the criteria are: a) You suck, b) You sold players outside of MLS, c) You’re new to the party, d) You totally didn’t suck.
Allocation money became more attractive when it became a backdoor method of acquiring extra DPs after the 2009 season. Designated Player salaries, which tend to absolutely munch on cap space, can be paid down with allocation funds. While a DP or that spiffy new Feilhaber will normally cost up to $335,000 against the cap, allocation cash can be used to knock that number down to a cool $150,000.
Basically, if there was a fancy, oh-I-don’t-know, left back or attacking midfielder or Jonathan Spector hanging out in Europe, allocation money lets you bring him in without making it feel like an expensive splurge.
If Philly really did get an offer they couldn’t refuse, that should mean that they had someone special in mind when Vancouver came a-knocking about a veteran defender. Someone that they valued highly but were unwilling to pay for.
Either that or they’ve already asked league approval to extend Ruiz’s contract and want to make sure they can afford to give him a hefty raise. Guessing has long ceased to be useful with this team.
Photo: Paul Rudderow