The subtext of today’s surprise trade between Toronto and Portland was confusion, into which always steps speculation. This time, however, that speculation was aided by reports from The Canadian Press, who reported that a new “league designated player” category now exists, with MLS wanting such players to be playing regularly. Speculation elsewhere held Urruti, limited to 37 minutes during his time in Toronto, may have had his path steered to Portland.
That news was first published around noon Eastern. Five hours later, Major League Soccer was holding a conference call with a small group of reporters, wherein MLS Vice President of Competition and Player Relations Lino DiCuollo denied the report.
Here’s what we DiCuollo had to say:
- There’s no such thing as a “league designated player.” The league denied The Canadian Press’s report in that regard.
- Max Urruti is not a Designated Player. He was not a Designated Player when he came into the league, either.
- The league had no hand in steering Urruti to Portland. Toronto had multiple offers, MLS understands, and made their own choice. The league does not become involved in trade discussions beyond guidance on and enforcing rules.
- MLS did not pay Urruti’s transfer fee from Newell’s Old Boys. In fact, Urruti didn’t have a transfer free at all. DiCuollo confirmed Urruti moved on a free from Argentina.
All of which leaves the same confusion that arose this morning: Why would Toronto do this deal?
The pieces seemed to fit when League DPs were a thing and Major League Soccer had an interest in finding playing time for them. But with Major League Soccer denying today’s reports, we’re left wondering what went down between Toronto and Portland. Maybe this really was about getting rid of one of Kevin Payne’s signings?
Don’t expect speculation to die down entirely. For too many, this will be a smoke and fire scenario. Particularly after the Clint Dempsey signing, there’s a certain level of distrust of MLS’s guidelines. Some fans see the league office as willing to bending the rules as needed. If Dempsey needs to come in and wants to go to Seattle, how do they make the story fit? The creation of a “League DP” for the Urruti situation fit that narrative.
Regardless of whether that speculation’s true, it’s a growing perception. The Urruti deal and the short life of a “league designated player” won’t calm concerns.