The Portland Timbers announced yesterday that they have released midfielder Franck Songo’o.
This move wasn’t entirely unexpected. The fact that Franck’s signing wasn’t announced with those of the other players resigned from the 2012 season suggested that his place on the side was, at least, still in question.
And from a player personnel angle the move also doesn’t seem shocking. From being one of the two great weaknesses of the past two seasons (the fullbacks being the other) the Timbers Front Office has moved quickly to shore up the midfield before the start of the coming season. From being – as one of the best comments on the post discussing this move over at Stumptown Footy put it – a bright candle in a dark room Songo’o had become just another dim part of the candelabra that will be this season’s midfield. And not a very bright candle in the view of the coach, general manager, and, presumably, the owner.
Still, the big issue this points up is how opaque and difficult-to-suss-out these player contract negotiations are. The MLS Player’s association places Franck’s 2012 salary at about $70,000 as part of a two-year contract that, supposedly, saw his pay increase this coming year. How large this increase might be is difficult to estimate.
But, consider; Jack Jewsbury made about $160,000 last year and is likely to make roughly the same in this coming season.
If you were the Timbers owner, would you consider Songo’o less valuable than Jewsbury?
Even more than that – consider the last part of the last sentence of the Oregonian article, since my understanding is that Geoff Arnold is largely a megaphone for the Timbers’ Front Office: “…the Timbers decided they didn’t want Songo’o back, even at a reduced salary. “
So the team didn’t just consider Songo’o less valuable than Jewsbury, an aging defensive midfielder whose wheels are largely gone and who no longer takes the spot-kicks that made him useful in 2011, they didn’t even consider Songo’o v.2013 as valuable as Songo’o v.2012 at a lower cost.
Not even an increased cost. A lower cost.
That’s pretty baffling.
Much of the commentary on this trade at Stumptown is fairly acrid. Franck is an attractive player and his skills were one of the few bright(er) facets of the last dire season (albeit skills that weren’t effective as a means of goalscoring or winning, but given his surroundings its hard to lay that back on him). And in my opinion a lot of the cause of this is the toxic effect of the man who has moved back upstairs from his dire interregnum on the touchline; this suspicion and this simmering distrust will linger as long and perhaps longer than he will. Many supporters simply don’t trust Gavin to make intelligent player decisions anymore.
But I think that an immense part of the trouble is that it is difficult or simply impossible for the fan standing outside to see into, hear, and understand what’s happening in those closed rooms underneath the walls of Jeld-Wen Field.
And where there is no light, even the brightest candle can cast some dark and troubling shadows. It’s hard to speak frankly when you can’t hear the words being spoken around you.