Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Finlay, Meram Exploring Options

In the wake of MLS Cup Final at Mapfre Stadium Sunday, news drops that points towards Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay looking at offseason options outside of the comfortable confines of Columbus.

Both players were critical parts to Gregg Berhalter's success thus far in MLS. Not just with their play on the pitch but what they (knowingly or not) offered off the field as well.

Let me explain that second "off the field" part for a second.

When Anthony Precourt and Gregg Berhalter took full control of the team they had thousands of decisions to make about staff and players. There isn't time to make them all in a short period of time so you work off a couple major philosophies to drive the rest going forward. That way you keep things consistent and fair. Not saying that everyone does this. In fact, it's entirely possible that these guys didn't... but I think they did.

Here's a quick summary of the two philosophical approaches to leadership / management change:

1. BUILDING ON EXISTING FOUNDATION: By not flipping over the apple cart and retaining many of the players they inherited Precourt and Berhalter allowed the team to be successful. There is a risk to this approach in that you just might not have the people around to get you where you want to be.

2. TEAR IT ALL DOWN, REBUILD: The other side of taking control of an organization or business is to clear out all the voices and habits of the old guard. Slam the door open, set the bar impossibly high, hire your own staff, ride existing staff within an inch of their life and then tone it down, bring back smiles and go into build mode.

Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay are from the 'old guard.' Upon his arrival we saw Berhalter jettison a couple voices from the locker room (like Chad Marshall) and insert his own (Michael Parkhurst), but he kept most of the rest of the group. This decision turned out to be completely successful.

You don't realize how much easier things are when you have people around that know how to turn on the lights and let the cat out (so to speak).

It's completely understandable for players to get a little emotional after a big loss. It's also completely understandable for both these players to make a little noise at this time as well. You gotta make hay while the sun shines in sports. Your career is only so long. Guys entering their mid to late 20s start to realize this.

I would like to see Columbus have complete freedom, but MLS is so restrictive in what they can offer them. Not just with the cap but also on an individual player to player basis.

Per MLS rules; MLS raises have a max increase based on current salary...

+25%: make less than $100k
+20%: $100k-200k
+15%: if salary greater than $200k

So, if you are making in the $100k - 200k range (like both Finlay and Meram) your max increase is is only 20% greater than what they made last year. Because of single entity and lack of any form of real free agency, they are pretty much stuck unless they have outside of MLS options (or are a USMNT star like Graham Zusi or Matt Besler).

Whenever I hear about players wanting to move on, I think of all the MLS rules they are tangled up in and wish them to get out if they have the option. Same goes for Finlay and Meram. GET OUT. It'd be great to have them here in town for another year or two but they climbed the MLS moutain. Explore something new. A new city. Fall down, fail, get up, succeed. Grow as people. Meet new people. Have some fun!

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