Bruce Arena had some harsh words about Major League Soccer's league offices. You've probably read them. Everyone seems to be praising them, and that's OK. They come down to two incidents really. Arena really wanted Sacha Kljestan on this loan thing that wouldn't be as a DP. The league nixed it.
"Because they are children and there have to be adults in the process, and we didn't have enough of them. I think we are back into the old days in the league when the rules are somewhat arbitrary. Hopefully we will get that straightened out in the offseason."
It's a really powerful statement from one of the league's elder statesmen. It's also quite hypocritical.
The Bruce took advantage of several arbitrary rules. He acquired Juan Pablo Angel in the RED, but later they really wanted Keane. The rules said that they had to get rid of JPA before signing Keane. They didn't. They weren't allowed to play all four DPs so traded JPA, while paying enough of his contract that he wasn't a DP for Chivas USA. Nifty trick, that. Jose Villareal hardly spent a hot minute with the LA Galaxy Academy system. He didn't meet the standards to be signed as an HGP. The league signed him through that method anyway because a foreign club was on the verge of signing that hot prospect out from under them. There was this odd rule that Villareal had to play Academy soccer for at least a year prior to being allowed to play as a pro. Bruce didn't care.
Hypocrisy is often seen as a high crime in modern America. In this case it is not. Bruce quite possibly cared about the arbitrary nature of the rules, but that didn't mean he wasn't going to take advantage of them. That's basically what Seattle and Toronto did with the "above a certain threshold decision."
Bruce soft-pedals near the end of his general MLS discussion with Goff.
Going forward, I imagine you would like to see changes ...
"Owners can run the league any way they want to run it. If they want it to be transparent, not transparent, have rules that are arbitrary - that is all their business. They are allowed to do those things."
There is a lot of discussion about how the league needs to change, to line up more with what is more common throughout the soccer playing world. Most of those ideas ignore the fundamental nature of MLS as single-entity. Some of them say that Americans can't understand complex rule sets and those things will turn off common sports fans.
Does the taxi squad, 3rd QB, veteran minimum and rookie slotting turn off average fans to the NFL?
Does the Rule V draft, Super-2 arbitration and the non-waiver trade deadline make MLB impossible to follow?
Does a trade involving a retired player to open up cap space in the NBA diminish its popularity?
No. No. No.
The rules can be complex. They can be uniquely American. They can be understood.
At this point from the fans, to players, to coaches, to GMs, no one understands MLS' player acquisition rule set, because there isn't any rule set. They're making it up on the fly. At one point that was necessary - maybe. There may be valid reasons why Allocation Order matters, why Discovery Lists are important and why a "certain threshold" throws everything else out the door.
MLS has never explained it. They don't need to do so. But they should.
Bruce Arena is confused why he couldn't sign his shiny thing. He knows there are certain rules and he tried to follow them. In the past he's gotten exceptions to those rules because he's in LA. Sounders FC get those exceptions at times too.
I am Bruce Arena. I loved getting Clint Dempsey with the justification essentially being that Clint wanted to be in one of the three most marketable soccer cities in the US.
I am Bruce Arena. I didn't like having to trade Alvaro Fernandez for nothing because Adrian couldn't loan him somewhere and still control his rights.
I am Bruce Arena because I don't care that I'm a hypocrite.
I am Bruce Arena because I want an MLS with a rule set and I don't really care what those rules are. It could be the big free spending nearly lasseiz faire system in most of Europe or it could be something as complicated as the NBA with Bird Exceptions, swappable veteran exceptions, drafts, lotteries, D-Leagues, dead money and a cap avoided through luxury taxes.
I don't care.
Just find a rule set that a reasonably intelligent man can understand and stick to it for a few years.
I am also Bruce Arena, because no matter the rules and the spreadsheets the thing I care about the most is the soccer. And maybe that's part of the problem.