Unless you have been away from social media for the last day and change, you have probably heard/read/seen/cried to the news that Yamil Asad will be joining D.C. United.
It was pretty sizable news for MLS and a D.C. club that has desperately needed to approach the corner – much less turn it – over the last season or so.
For Atlanta, it was the second time they have been able to make money from a player who did not have to be purchased, and it might not be the last time this happens.
If Atlanta’s academy grows and develops players at the rate that it is expected, more players may travel to MLS for time with Atlanta and find that any future in the United States might not be with The Five Stripes. Not every player that Atlanta brings in will turn into Miguel Almiron, a young star with wide eyes turned across the Atlantic Ocean and a ticket all but punched. There will be players who are fantastic and find their groove in MLS, then – whether they reach this conclusion on their own or not – end up making careers for themselves here. This situation becomes increasingly likely as the quality of MLS continues to improve and the likelihood of both competitive play and salaries become a reality.
At a local level, this will always be a possibility when you attempt to make a playoff-quality team better. There will be improvements at areas that are not bad by any means, and that talent that is out the door has to go somewhere.
It is not strictly an Atlanta United issue though, nor is it necessarily a new one. Plenty of players have jumped around the league over the years, but the increased exposure of MLS, quality of players coming into the league and the 24-hour news cycle that we live in can contribute to the thrill-ride that is player movement in 2018. The league’s structure on player rights will always be a factor in these sagas (though that would be a fascinating topic to see discussed the next time the Collective Bargaining Agreement is discussed).
On top of that, social media has made it much easier for fans to develop that emotional attachment to players. Asad, for instance, is incredibly active on social media and made it’s easy for fans to follow along his journey, including trips home and back to America where Atlanta fans could hold their breath hoping his return included a plan to put pen to paper for a new contract.
Setting aside the emotion for a moment, this was good business for Atlanta. Fantastic, even. They took a player on loan who was talented but inconsistent, won with him, made what they feel was an upgrade, were unable to negotiate a purchase and still managed to rake in $500,000 in allocation money by selling his rights. That makes roughly $2 million this window that Atlanta has collected on players they never had to pay to transfer into the club.
None of this means you can not get attached to a player. Asad became what I expected Kenwyne Jones to be: a folk hero. A player that fans did not necessarily expect to love but more often than not developed an intense loyalty toward. He announced his presence with authority in Chattanooga, had some ups and downs as he matured and grew to become a terror for opposing teams.
Not every move is going to hurt like Asad’s for Atlanta United fans, but it probably will not be the last of its kind. Who knows, the next one might fall in Atlanta’s favor.