Friday, April 1, 2011

Gotta Give to Get: Breaking Down the DeRo Trade

Is De Rosario the Missing Piece to the Puzzle?
What an incredible April Fools Day! When rumors began circulating around noon that there was an agreement in place to send Toronto FC's Dwayne De Rosario to the Red Bulls for Tony Tchani, Danleigh Borman and a first round draft pick, the curious timing made it easy to dismiss it as nothing more than a prank. Working against that was the fact that all of the reports - both from Canadian sources and American ones - were at pains to point out that the rumored trade was not a hoax.

After a few hours of uncertainty, when it looked as though the blockbuster deal might be scuttled by technicalities, word came late this afternoon that the transaction had gone through. In fact, De Rosario should arrive in New York in time to be considered for selection against Houston on Saturday. So how should we view the trade? In building one of the most formidable lineups in MLS, has Erik Solér mortgaged the club's future for near term success?

According to my Talking Bull colleague and Once a Metro editor Ben Schneider the answer is a resounding yes. He, like a few other Red Bulls fans I've spoken with today, has visions of Tony Tchani bossing the midfield in Europe three years from now while the Red Bulls are plunged back once again into rebuilding mode. That's certainly a legitimate point of view, but on the other side of the coin let's consider a few things:
  1. De Rosario, whether you like his attitude in Toronto or not, in indisputably one of the top midfielders in MLS and, at 32, still has quite a bit of gas in the tank. Scoring 15 goals for a putrid TFC last season is no mean feat.
  2. Mehdi Ballouchy was never going to get it done in the #10 role. You might argue that the Red Bulls should have considered other, cheaper options as Ballouchy's replacement, but who are you going to go with - a player who knows the league like the back of his hand or one who will require a period of adjustment and may face language barriers?
  3. The Red Bulls are already stacked at defensive midfield. With the additions of Teemu Tainio and Jan Gunnar Solli it was always going to be difficult for Tchani to make the DM role his own. If you watched Tchani against Columbus on Saturday you saw some of the bad and some of the good. He's a player with considerable upside and the potential to make it to Europe some day. But is he close to that yet - or is he likely to be there in the next year or two? Probably not.
  4. De Rosario gives Hans Backe a lot more flexibility in the way he sets out his team. Whether he sits at the top of the diamond in a 4-4-2 or plays slightly behind the forwards in a 4-3-1-2, the Canadian makes the RBNY attack a lot more unpredictable and should cause opponents major headaches.
  5. The Red Bulls have a limited window in which to win trophies. Let's face it - Henry is no spring chicken and Rafa Marquez is a few years past his best. Solér and the Red Bull brain trust may not feel they are in a position to wait years for younger players to develop.
  6. If the Red Bulls have the kind of season most expect, the draft pick surrendered to TFC should be somewhere in the teens in the first round. With academy systems beginning to supplant college programs - and the the Red Bulls boasting a strong one - surrendering a late first round selection in next year's Superdraft will probably not be much of a lost opportunity.
There is, of course, no guarantee that the De Rosario trade works out as planned. We've see countless examples across all sports of "super teams" falling on their faces. And of course Tchani's absence could be acutely felt during the Gold Cup, when RBNY could without the services of a half dozen starters. But, in my estimation at least, the Red Bulls should be applauded for making a very bold move here and committing themselves to win now.

As one Red Bull fan said on Twitter this afternoon, we've been rebuilding mode for 16 years. Let's win now!

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