Robbie Rogers: Getting a Deal Done

Dear Robbie: Why not wear Fire red? (photo: guardian.co.uk)

Dear Robbie: Why not wear Fire red? (photo: guardian.co.uk)

Will he or won’t he? OTF Editor Scott Fenwick discusses what the future may hold in the ongoing Robbie Rogers saga… 

Chicago Fire is making a big push to sign Robbie Rogers.

Club executives will meet with Rogers and his agent this week in Los Angeles to talk about his future and try to convince him to sign with the Fire. Odds are though, Rogers will make his case for wanting to stay in Los Angeles. He’ll be a tough nut to crack.

Given the circumstances, Rogers shouldn’t be faulted for wanting to be in LA. He’s a California guy and his family and close friends are there. After coming out, it’s reasonable to believe Rogers would feel safer at home among his loved ones. They’d offer him irreplaceable personal attention and support during his brave attempt to return to the pitch as soccer’s first openly gay professional.

rogers

Despite long odds, Chicago is working all available angles to bring Rogers into its fold. Rogers’s good friend, U.S. Men’s National Team and Anderlecht man Sacha Kljestan, may be able to aid the Fire’s effort to sign Rogers. Frank Klopas has a close relationship with Kljestan and his family and Sasha has agreed to put in the good word for Frank and the organization.

Despite his declaration that he doesn’t want to play in Chicago, Rogers also said he’s “not closing the doors or saying no to anyone else [read: aside from the Galaxy] that [he’s] talked to.” Certainly, with the way things look at the moment, it’s unlikely Robbie Rogers will don Fire red. That said, Rogers hinted a window of opportunity still exists.

If the Fire puts its best foot forward and is still unable to convince Rogers to sign, its front office must be careful and shrewd during negotiations to deal his MLS rights. LA is not the only team interested in Rogers, and it appears Seattle’s in the market too. As Rogers’s return to professional soccer becomes more likely, other suitors may appear. Certainly, interest from other clubs helps Chicago’s leverage and perhaps makes a multilateral deal all the more possible.

If Chicago does wind up looking to trade Rogers’s rights bilaterally, it would be smart to use the 2008 Brian McBride deal as precedent at the bargaining table. That would involve asking for a starting player, a prospect or a first-round draft pick, and allocation cash.

McBride was at the tail end of his career when he returned to MLS from the Premier League’s Fulham. Rogers, however, has quite a few productive years ahead of him. Granted, Rogers is no McBride, but he’s got other intangibles that are valuable in the short-run. After all, we’re on the verge of a postmodern Jackie Robinson moment here, and the club that gets Rogers will come out of this saga smelling like roses.

Interestingly, it’s still unclear whether the Galaxy’s initial dealings with Rogers and his agent were above-board. If they weren’t, the Fire would have the right to file a tampering grievance with the league. That said, such a move might be perceived negatively, so Chicago must have a contingency plan in place if they feel compelled to involve the league. 

If a grievance delays Rogers’s return to soccer, the PR game might not favor Chicago. The Fire certainly wouldn’t want to be regarded as the team that prevented the heroic Rogers from returning to the pitch. On the other hand, the rules are the rules, and precedent shows that when players return to MLS from abroad, teams follow protocol with respect to the right of first refusal rule.

So far, all evidence points to the fact that Chicago has not only followed the rules, but has also shown a great deal of respect to Rogers as he figures things out. As much as he doesn’t like the way MLS operates, Robbie Rogers and his agent must reciprocate and play by the rules too.

If negotiations reach an impasse, and it’s found that LA did indeed tamper, those who understand and respect the rules will realize that the Fire acted professionally and properly. If such a scenario plays out, it will be imperative for Chicago to convince folks that they’ve been hard done by LA Galaxy, that America’s “super club,” not the Fire, has perhaps spoiled MLS’s opportunity to be the global pioneer of tolerance in soccer.

If the above scenario develops, and the league steps in to mediate and facilitate a productive dialogue, precedent should favor Chicago. The type of compensation teams have given up in the past for a player of stature who decided he wanted to dictate where he’d go has been substantial – especially when the team that holds the player’s rights wants him. Case in point is the McBride deal, where the Fire sent a young, 23-year-old starting forward (Chad Barrett), a first-round pick, and a significant amount of allocation money to Toronto FC for McBride’s MLS rights.

LA Galaxy may try its best to argue that Rogers is rusty, injury-prone, and unfit. But the reality is that Robbie Rogers is a 25-year-old player who won a championship with Columbus when he was arguably their second-best offensive player a few years back. He’s played for the U.S. Men’s National Team and could find himself back in the international fold if he winds up playing to his potential in MLS.

If it’s unable to convince the young man that the Windy City would be his best choice, Chicago Fire should look to get real, tangible compensation for Robbie Rogers’s MLS rights. After all, he’s a player Fire Nation would love to have. And if we can’t have him, we deserve to be compensated justly.

ADDENDUM

This from Rogers on Tuesday night:

robbie tweet

13 thoughts on “Robbie Rogers: Getting a Deal Done

  1. Good points, after a week or so of talk, I’ve been waiting for someone to point out that MLS-wise Rogers is at least equal in value and probably more valuable now than McBride was when Chicago traded for him. I don’t know what value there is in end of the round picks, Fire should see if they can get one of those Academy kids (Villareal, McBean, Gyasi).

  2. Interesting article and great insight. Can’t blame Robbie for the situation, but it shouldn’t be solved at the Fire’s expense either. Hopefully we end up with Robbie willingly giving the Fire a chance. If he cannot do that then it should be settled with tact, and respect for Robbie and appropriate compensation to the Fire. That is assuming there was no tampering or rules violations on the part of the Galaxie.

  3. If I’m looking at this from a Galaxy Perspective, there is no way I give up one of the homegrown players on my own accord. While Rodgers would be a proven commodity in a MLS sense, it might take him some time to gel with a team, and He wouldn’t be able to contribute meaningful minutes for at least a few weeks. I don’t see them really “Needing him” so why give up the highly rated young ‘uns?

    • In the short run, I see your point. However, once Rogers gets up to speed, there’s no reason to think he won’t be a starting-caliber player for the Galaxy by the time the playoff push comes around. Also, think about how many jerseys this guy’s going to sell. He’s a PR dream. Rogers brings economic value right now that stretches beyond the game itself.

      Regarding LA’s homegrown players, I see your point as well, particularly because they don’t hit the salary cap (maximum two). But LA’s academy system has momentum and seems to have no problem pumping out prospects these days. The Galaxy should certainly be able to part with one and not have it hurt.

      Finally, at the end of the day, we’ve got to look at precedent. If Robbie’s going to get his way, the Galaxy must pay. Fair is fair.

  4. What Do you guys think the possibilities are for a 3-way trade with the Galaxy, Union, and Fire, where the Fire get Bakary Soumare as part of the deal?

  5. hey, how does it feel to know that you’re all soccer-loving losers in a country that can’t stand such a boring, useless, foreign sport, and that the entire city of Chicago has full-on Bulls and Blackhawks fever, and doesn’t even know you exist? lol, you people are pathetic, and you do a disservice to the city of Chicago by rooting for a horrible sport like this! you should be ashamed! soccer iss a game that is played by children and women! REAL MEN play games like football, basketball, baseball, and hockey! Soccer is un-American and sad, and so are the lot of you for liking it! Have fun knowing that Chicagoans and Americans look at you and laugh, laugh, laugh for liking such a pathetic sport! ROFL!

  6. i am having a fun time laughing at you Orkutno. I assume the only reason you dont like soccer is because you probably are so bad at it. real men also admit their flaws. try it sometime

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