As we knock around the possibilities of loans for MLS men, something gets lost in the discourse: What, exactly, does this do for MLS clubs?
I know it’s exciting for supporters to see their club’s main men linked, if only for 6 or 8 weeks, to storied clubs with 120 of history and such, teams playing in Euro leagues of plenty. Heck, we get a little spring in our step just to hear that someone is training at one of these spots for two weeks.
It serves as some sort of validation, I suppose. “They want our guy? Ooh, how cool!”
I get that.
But when we all take a step back, it’s fair to wonder how the MLS club benefits here?
Younger men on training assignment do get a compressed dose of “something different,” and that’s a good thing. They live and breathe the varied training methods and absorb a feel for the serious professionalism about which pros in other lands go about their daily soccer chores. That makes sense.
But loan deals for veterans? Case-by-case, these might occasionally make sense. Landon Donovan to Everton two years ago? Thumbs up. Then en route to becoming the U.S. national team’s all-time leading scorer, Donovan got a lot out of his time at Goodison Park, if only in confidence and self-validation that he could pass muster at the very highest level.
The next year’s loan back to the same place? Nah, not so much. Donovan has since said that a second bite off the Everton loan apple was probably ill advised – and there is a perfect illustration of how the value of these things must be measured carefully, individually.
Did Arsenal get something from Thierry Henry’s loan last year? Yes.
Did the Red Bulls? Highly doubtful, beyond a brief PR spike, perhaps.
MLS and the clubs do own the players’ contracts, so they have a right to wonder what benefits may fall their way.
Players do need their rest, after all. Perhaps Jurgen Klinsmann disagrees in the case of players seeking to climb the international rungs, and fair enough. But let’s take a guy like Vancouver Whitecaps and Scottish international striker Kenny Miller, who is what he is at age 32.
So, good on Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie for re-grounding this on-going loan chitchat. In talking about Miller as a potential loan target in January, Rennie essentially said, “What are we getting out of it?”
No one has discussed it with me. If there was a case where we were presented with then we would consider that at the time, but generally speaking I don’t really see too much benefit in it.”