Home NASL & USL More NASL & USL TFC claims the Boss, but no one in MLS will make offer for NASL’s Canadian CB star

TFC claims the Boss, but no one in MLS will make offer for NASL’s Canadian CB star

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If there is anything that shows the flaws in the relationship between NASL and MLS, it’s the lottery for former United States U-20 striker Gale “The Boss” Agbossoumonde.

Now out of his contract with Traffic, the massive Brazilian sports marketing firm that represents NASL as its agent, owns the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and has interests in the Carolina RailHawks and Atlanta Silverbacks, the Boss struck a deal with MLS. Toronto FC won his rights in a lottery held Thursday morning.

The Boss is a raw prospect, and he took his lumps last season while on loan to the RailHawks. He was a regular on the defence that tied for the worst goals-against mark in the league. In an 8-0 loss to San Antonio, The Boss endured arguably the worst game of any CB in NASL in 2012. And the book on The Boss is that while he has plenty of raw talent — and worked with Toronto FC’s Thomas Rongen while with the U.S. U-20s — he makes a lot of mental and positioning errors. He needs to be more assertive as a centre back.

As anyone who covers NASL will tell you, The Boss is a project player. He has the tools, but considering that he struggled at the Division-2 level last season, he will need lots of time before he’s ready for an MLS match.

But, the reason that there was a six-team lottery for a defender who wouldn’t be close to the NASL Best XI came about because, well, he was available and no longer under contract.

While we hear rumblings of USL and MLS working out some sort of player-development/ affiliation deal, the relations between MLS and NASL are not what they should be. NASL players have had mixed results when they’ve moved up to MLS (2011 NASL MVP Etienne Barbara is in limbo after being cut by the Whitecaps after an unproductive 2012 MLS season; but Matt Watson was very good in a Whitecaps shirt), and that’s no different than players moving up from NCAA or players coming in from lower European divisions. You win some, you lose some.

But, with MLS refusing to buy in on in-contract players, they miss out on the real elite players in the league. There’s an old stereotype that every player in NASL or USL is on a one-year deal. That’s getting less and less true by the year, as more and more teams protect their assets. FC Edmonton re-upped the team options on pretty well all of its core players.

And this is the crux of the argument. FCE has stated over and over it has no issue in its players moving up, as long as its interests are protected (i.e. transfer fees). FC Edmonton has one of the best centre backs, if not THE best centre back in NASL. Paul Hamilton is 24. And he’s Canadian. He was on NASL’s year-end Best XI. Unlike Boss, he could push for a position in Toronto FC’s starting XI. But Hamilton would cost MLS and TFC something — so he remains in Division 2.

That’s the real shame here. The best defensive option in Division-2 soccer, the guy who could most help a team like TFC, a Canadian player to boot, won’t get that chance.

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13 Comments

  1. BQ

    December 22, 2012 at 1:09 am

    As usual Steve, you badly overrate the talent in the NASL. There are no real “elite” players in the NASL. Most are players who already bombed in MLS and have poor skills. That is why they are in the minors. The gap between MLS and D2 is greater than it has ever been. And very few could hack it in MLS.

    If Hamilton is as good as you describe him, than why aren’t clubs around the world looking to buy him? Oh, they are not? So there goes your point. Why should MLS pay transfer fees to players Europe would never for?

    If Hamilton, or any other NASL player is stupid enough to sign a long term deal for peanuts, to play in the minors in front of 2,000 folks, than that tells you all about them. They only have themselves to blame for rotting. Players should always challenges themselves.

    BTW, Hamilton is only signed to a one year option deal. So he could be free at the end of the 2013 season. No player, unless he has no future, would sign a long term deal with a NASL club.

    And you should look into the rumored USL-MLS deal. It could spell major trouble for the NASL.

    • Steven Sandor

      December 22, 2012 at 1:42 am

      I have been looking into the deal. Right now, we know that USL-MLS cooperation hasn’t even crossed the desks of the Canadian Soccer Association yet, which would need to sanction such a move. From what I understand, those discussions won’t really bear fruit till the end of January.

    • Steven Sandor

      December 22, 2012 at 1:45 am

      I guess the question is this: If there are no “elite” players in NASL, why did six teams go in for a player who was in NASL last season? My point wasn’t that Hamilton is Omar Gonzalez or Chad Marshall, but that he is a far better prospect than the Boss — a player who created a feeding frenzy in MLS.

      • BQ

        December 22, 2012 at 7:23 pm

        Steve, there are no elite players in the NASL. Let me give you some background on Boss so you understand why your statement makes no sense.

        Boss was your typical over-hyped Yank prospect like Adu. He was suppose to be a future Euro superstar. He turned down MLS and some Euro offers and signed with Traffic Sports which was the worst possible move he could ever make. He ended up being a puppet and moved around to Traffic owned teams and getting poor coaching. His low point was ending up on another Traffic owned team in the NASL this season.

        MLS teams were after him because he is still a supremely talented American player who is only 21. He never should have been in the NASL. His career hit rock bottom.

        And Hamilton is a far better prospect? Oh Steve. Hamilton is a 24 year old CIS player who has never played for Canada at any level or played in any league better than the NASL. Boss is a 21 year old who has already been capped by the U.S. national team and has started for U-20 and U-23 teams. MLS teams were after him because of his talent. They didn’t give a bleep he was stuck in the NASL.

        And Hamilton is stuck in the NASL because being really good in the NASL doesn’t matter much to MLS clubs.

        • Steven Sandor

          December 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm

          BQ, I think you are illustrating the wide gap in how U.S. and Canadian fans see the game. (It’s interesting, BTW). We share leagues, but Canadians, unlike U.S. fans, tend to view our U-20 and U1-7 teams with a healthy dose of cynicism. In the past, a lot of Canadian players eligible for those teams are held back by politics or the fact that they came from areas that aren’t scouted as heavily as say, Toronto or Vancouver.

          We don’t view not playing OR playing on U17 or U20 as a major indicator of future talent. Or, at least, we have learned that some of our best prospects don’t play at the youth level. Junior Hoilett was never a Canadian U20 or U17 (his brother, Jaineil was… if Junior would have accepted it, well that’s another question). Nor was Di Chiara — the kid was playing in the Russian league but didn’t get called into our U-23 squad.

          • Rango

            January 5, 2013 at 1:58 am

            “Nor was Di Chiara — the kid was playing in the Russian league but didn’t get called into our U-23 squad.”

            Di Chara got a look at senior level during the opening minnow WCQ round, but in an interview Fonseca made it pretty clear that he didn’t rate him. That’s why he didn’t get the call for the U23s. Right now, he’s on the bench in Hungary: now that’s obscurity.

            Hamilton could be a late bloomer. Most CBs take awhile to develop and as mentioned he needs to be stronger against more physical strikers.

    • TrevB

      December 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Where are the International teams lining up for half of the players that MLS signed? Truth is the MLS is nowhere near good enough to compete with even the 2nd tier European leagues, so they must sign players that would not be in high demand there, or over pay for mediocre European talent.

      The other things is that there are so many quality players in Europe, they rarely cast an eye towards North America for young players unless they a) go over to Europe on their own dime to campaign for a job, or b).. well its mostly just a. NA does not have the rep for being able to develop the kind of talent that will catch European interest. The way that we do that is to try and promote the good talent that is here, and MLS’s refusal to pay teams for the work they did developing the players (via transfer fees for in-contract players) hinders that even further.

      A top NASL player is not that much different than an average MLS player. I don’t think that anyone is arguing an NASL star will star in MLS, or that an NASL journeyman will be a solid MLS player, but NASL is closer to MLS than they would like to admit.

      That said, I think Hamilton needs to put on some muscle as he does still have problems with larger forwards like Hassli, Salgado, and even Campos, as evidenced by the CCL last year.

      • BQ

        December 22, 2012 at 6:57 pm

        “Where are the International teams lining up for half of the players that MLS signed?”

        MLS has sold a number of players who play in the EPL and Championship. Most of their better players have Euro interest. Now where exactly has the NASL sold anyone? Have they sold anyone? No. Europe knows about MLS because of players like Dempsey, Howard, and Donovan. They have no idea what the minor league NASL is and wonder if Pele still plays there.

        “Truth is the MLS is nowhere near good enough to compete with even the 2nd tier European leagues, so they must sign players that would not be in high demand there, or over pay for mediocre European talent.”

        I love you are comparing a 17 year old league to leagues that have been around for a 100 years and have no real other competition. MLS is doing quite well for a very young league. And growing quite fast. Some NASL clubs will be part of MLS in the next 10 years.

        “A top NASL player is not that much different than an average MLS player”

        So you watch any of MLS and NASL? Pablo Campos is the best player in the NASL and was a terrible MLS player. Barbara was a god in the NASL and stunk in MLS. Most “top” NASL players were already in MLS and failed.

        “but NASL is closer to MLS than they would like to admit”

        Oh god no. It is the opposite actually. The divide between D1 and D2 is greater than it has every been. At one time, players moved from the old A-League to MLS quite easily.

        I sense you are a FCE/NASL fan. Instead of deluding yourself about the poor quality of your club and league, you should be worried about the NASL starting with 7 teams next year.

        • TrevB

          December 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm

          “MLS has sold a number of players who play in the EPL and Championship. Most of their better players have Euro interest.”

          You say this and mention Dempsey, Howard, and Donovan but those are the elite of MLS. I never said that an NASL player would be able to walk on to an MLS team and be the star. The journeyman MLS player does not garner interest from European Clubs unless they were from Europe originally (a la Chiumiento).

          “I love you are comparing a 17 year old league to leagues that have been around for a 100 years and have no real other competition. MLS is doing quite well for a very young league. And growing quite fast. Some NASL clubs will be part of MLS in the next 10 years. ”

          I am not arguing that MLS isn’t doing well for its age. All I am saying is that as much as some are talking about not signing a player because there is no “European interest”, MLS players will not yet get that interest because the quality is not there *yet*.

          “So you watch any of MLS and NASL? Pablo Campos is the best player in the NASL and was a terrible MLS player. Barbara was a god in the NASL and stunk in MLS. Most “top” NASL players were already in MLS and failed.”

          I haven’t seen Campos in MLS, and Barbara really didn’t get much of a shake with the other forwards they had, and the injuries that he has had. But Watson and Knighton are two players I can think of off hand that have made the transition from NASL to MLS regular. I am sure that Sandor or Lord Bob could name a few dozen more.

          I watch games from both MLS and NASL. I know that the average NASL player is not as good as the average MLS player. But to say the top players in NASL couldn’t crack any MLS roster and be a good addition is a little ludicrous. There are a number of players who play in NASL because the salary structure and player rules in MLS mean they can make significantly more money in NASL than they could in MLS.

          ““but NASL is closer to MLS than they would like to admit”

          Oh god no. It is the opposite actually. The divide between D1 and D2 is greater than it has every been. At one time, players moved from the old A-League to MLS quite easily. ”

          Look back just a few months to the US Open cup where there were many NASL teams beating, or losing close games with some mid-pack MLS teams. If the MLS bench and depth players were that much better then the NASL players, it shouldn’t have even mattered. And they weren’t all lucky penalty/corner wins either.

          “I sense you are a FCE/NASL fan. Instead of deluding yourself about the poor quality of your club and league, you should be worried about the NASL starting with 7 teams next year.”

          I am, unabashedly, an FCE fan. I cheer for my local teams. However, that does not prevent me from looking critically at my team and the league. As for starting with 7 teams, I am disappointed that PR dropped out of the spring half, but I don’t think that anyone really believes that they are going to fold. It can easily be spun the other way: “here is a league that is flexible to the needs of its team”. That can be an attractive thing to potential expansion, and ownerships.

  2. footy

    December 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Soccer is a worldwide sport. If there’s teams interested, they will pursue him. Obviously no team has done that. Not even TFC with their cash (if you can pay over a milion for JDG, you can miss the 100K to buy of the option).

    Maybe he’ll grow into a player that can play in bigger leagues, but someone’s CIS BIO doens’t tell anything about one’s capabilities as a pro soccer player. The whole University system is the reason why USA / CA soccer is still behind a lot of other countries. Playing games against peers is not the way to develop as a young player. Without the experienced and physically developed players you just don’t build the resistance you need to grow your playing level.

    I really hope this player will move on someday to perhaps the MLS but to say that he’s an immediate improvement for TFC right now is just not based on facts.

  3. Footy

    December 21, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Questioning the transfer-process? Yes, available players are more interesting then those for whom you have to pay. That makes perfect sense. In this case, it’s Hamiltons fault, as he signed that long-year contract. His manager should have explained that to him before signing.

    But I don’t know if Hamilton is that interesting for a club as Toronto FC. The fact of the matter is that 1. clubs don’t want to pay for players and 2. players will get picked-up eventually, IF they are good enough. Now there’s the if, because really there is no racism or nationalistic tendencies when it comes to soccer. Clubs want the best players, period. If Hamilton is good enough (which is left to be seen) he will get picked-up, sooner or later.

    • fc fan

      December 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Firstly Hamilton is only signed to the standard one year contract with one year option, same as most FCE players. Secondly which part of Hamilton’s game ” is left to be seen”. Try reading the guy’s bio for him from his university career and you’ll see he was a valued player from his rookie year to his last year when he was CIS National Player of the Year.
      I’m sure if you asked him, of course he’d want to further his career wether within the NASL or MLS or elsewhere.

  4. balputi

    December 21, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Very true, TFC would receive a better player in Hamilton! Maybe, the Whitecaps look at Hamilton as the future replacement for DeMerit.

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