The effect of a designated player

The cloud constantly hovering around the Sounders FC is whether they will sign a designated player, and if so, who it will be. 5 teams in MLS currently have DP's on their roster; DC United has two. How are those teams doing?

Chicago Fire. DP: Cuahtemoc Blanco. Points: 32. Rank: 3rd (of 14).
DC United. DP: Luciano Emilio, Marcelo Gallardo. Points: 28. Rank: T5th.
Kansas City Wizards. DP: Claudio Lopez. Points: 25. Rank: T8th.
LA Galaxy. DP: That Beckham guy. Points: 24. Rank: T11th.
NY Red Bulls. DP: Juan Pablo Angel. Points: 25. Rank: T8th.

Honestly, there's not a lot to be made here because there's so much parity in MLS this year. Just 13 points separate the best team from the worst. But clearly, having a designated player does not immediately translate to wins. Just look at the MLS Cup finalists of last year, New England and Houston, and the top teams in each conference this year, which are... uh, New England and Houston.

Obviously, the purpose of a DP is not just to win, but also to 'sell' the team, locally and nationally. And in this case, the rule (and those players added under it) has been working quite well. Los Angeles leads the league in attendance by a wide margin, with DC and Chicago in 3rd and 4th respectively. If you're watching SportsCenter for some unfathomable reason and you see an MLS highlight, chances are it's a Marcello Gallardo wonder strike or a Blanco bomb. And if you by chance see someone wearing an MLS jersey, there's a 75% chance of a Los Angeles kit, number 23. Roth and Hanauer know this, and will surely be looking for someone to rival the appeal of the aforementioned three players.

Appeal, obviously, isn't everything. Remember Denilson, the aging Brazilian star FC Dallas picked up last summer? If you don't, here's a recap: he was out to make a quick buck, was out of form, and his team crashed out of the first round of the playoffs before he was sent out of Dallas altogether. If used improperly, the DP can have huge negative effects, like tying up a ton of money in one player and possibly unbalancing team chemistry. So when the Sounders front office men tell us that they are in no hurry to add their one superstar player, and are waiting for the perfect player to come along, believe them and be thankful. It's the biggest decision this franchise has left to make for 2009.

(But Adrian, if you want to go ahead and ink Thierry Henry, just go ahead and do it.)

No comments: