And you thought Real Salt Lake could be indignant about MLS and its — shall we say — intricacies. Bruce Arena takes the whole thing to another level when he's on his game, and as a result, is set to get a fine from Don Garber, head of state.
Or was that MLS commissioner?
Regardless, Garber might have a point about Arena: "He continually puts himself in a position where he acts unprofessionally and he emotionally misstates the facts," he told Sports Illustrated. Arena had told the Washington Post he was upset about the way the whole Sacha Kljestan deal unfolded, which, really, can you blame him? There have been a fair few inconsistencies in the stories, and it's all really devolved into a classic MLS-style dispute.
What's that mean for Real Salt Lake, though?
The short answer? Not a lot. We're not in the business of these decisions that some might call questionable — we've not looked to sign a player on a six-month deal, as Garber says was the case for Kljestan. (It's worth noting that Arena hasn't responded to that line.) We're trying our hardest to make things work under the current system, and while we've made it hard on ourselves once or twice (MLS Cup, US Open Cup allocation money, folks) we've done probably enough, generally.
We've signed players on sane, sustainable deals — we don't really have crazy money to throw around, after all. (Or if we do have that crazy money, we're spending it wisely, which is to say, on USL Pro) — and never really looked like we were going to sign anybody like Kljestan. (Sebastian Jaime is dreamier, anyway.)
The long answer, though, is that people like Bruce Arena have pull with their ownership groups, and that could play a role with things like the collective bargaining agreement that will need renewal at the end of the season. As it stands, Real Salt Lake manages to do very well every season, despite the odds being very much stacked against them. Being in the curious position of making the playoffs regularly and doing well in MLS Cup (but not winning the whole thing) means we're left in a position where we don't receive that allocation money bonus (ka-ching and all that) for finishing outside the playoffs, and we don't receive that allocation money bonus for winning a final. Parity, y'know?
It's all down to that single-entity stuff, and that's not going away. Not only is that pretty obviously the case, but Don Garber's reiterated it time and time again. So that's something. As long as we're in this single-entity structure, the owners will have a tremendous say over what the league does. Don Garber, as commissioner, only has a bit of say on these things. (You know, like fining Bruce Arena, organizing blind draws, things of that nature.)
What's it really mean for RSL, though?
Well, nothing, really. Business as usual. We're not going to start signing Kljestans or players like that, nor are we likely to sign anybody for a bucket of money on a six-month contract or a year-long contract. Real Salt Lake will have to soldier forward being the 'smart' team among the big players. That's why we're in the position we're in, and that's the only way we'll remain in a predominant position.
So when Real Monarchs (that name!) take shape, we'll be moving forward as best we know how: By being one of the teams that, while the biggest markets sign the biggest players they can, organizes better, makes smarter moves, and puts their teams in the best possible stances for winning through smart tactics and strategies.