Fire lose Jones to New England via MLS' three ring circus of player acquistion

The Jermaine Jones saga is thankfully over but it didn’t end the way the Fire were hoping for or expecting after Jones had apparently agreed to a deal with the league on Wednesday that would have landed him in Chicago. New England, the other team in pursuit of Jones also wanted him and Revolution owner Robert Kraft used his influence with the league, and Don Garber in particular, to ensure that the Revs remained in the picture.

With Jones’ preference being Chicago, the league devised a blind draw process that would give both Chicago and New England an equal opportunity to land him and pacify Kraft who continued to insist on Jones coming to his club. The only problem with this grand scheme was that Jones didn’t want to play in New England and refused to sign a league contract without knowing where he was going to end up via this virtual coin flip. Of course, if the Revolution could sweeten the deal enough to make New England an acceptable destination Jones’ camp wasn’t going to turn down a chance at additional compensation.

According to several league sources, Kraft upped the ante in order to stay in the running even as the Fire were still under the impression that a deal had been reached with the league and Jones would be joining the club soon after a lengthy pursuit. In order to keep Jones and his team happy with the possibility of a New England assignment, Garber and MLS allowed the Revolution to increase the offer to Jones under the provision that the “blind draw” would still take place giving both teams a 50/50 chance of landing the player. Under this arrangement, Jones would receive the sweetener his side was looking for if he did end up having to play in Foxborough.

(Update -11:30 am – 8/25): A source with knowledge of the negotiations states that the final offer included in the blind draw was of equal value from Chicago and New England. The sweetener offered was to entice Jones’ camp to agree to the blind draw and the contract would have been equal from either club.

Kraft, one of the original MLS investors who was also instrumental in moving Garber into his post as commissioner, flexed his muscle at league headquarters with New England in desperate need of reinforcements after a failed transfer window and a long losing streak that saw his team falling out of contention in the East. The “blind draw” suited him because it would allow New England to get back into contention for the player even after a deal was reached and his intentions to choose Chicago were made clear.

To further illustrate the shady process here’s a time line of the events dating back to the initial report of Chicago’s interest in the World Cup veteran:

July 29 – Fire Confidential breaks the original story about the Fire’s interest in Jones

July 30 – Alexi Lalas claims the Jones deal would get done at about $3 million per year

July 30 – Yallop acknowledges interest in Jones during post game press conference.

August 1 – Greg Berhalter tells the Columbus Dispatch that a DP allocation order exists.

August 1 – report claims that Jones rejected the Fire’s offer.

August 2 – Yallop says offer is still on the table and has not been rejected.


August 2 – Yallops says Jones is subject to allocation.

August 6 – Transfer window closes. August 7 – Yallop confirms the existence of a DP allocation process.


August 8 – Taylor Twellman reports that New England have “put their name in the hat” for Jones.

August 10 – Jones is weighing contract offer from the league. Fire continue to wait on answer.

August 12 – Yallop says there’s still no news on Jones and the team may have to move on at some point soon.


August 15 – Requests made to MLS regarding information pertaining to the allocation process continue to go unanswered.

August 16 – Yallop tells reporters that he’s not sure if Jones will go through allocation.


August 18 – This isn’t far from what actually happened.

August 18 – Blind draw anyone?

August 19 – Hey look, no allocation. More to come.

August 20 – Fire continue to look at other moves as Jones deal appears imminent.

August 20 – Daily Herald reports that Jones has signed with MLS and could be headed to Chicago. On that same night reports that Jones has refused to sign because MLS can’t guarantee which team he’s going to. Jones himself confirms that he has not signed via twitter.

August 20 – On the road to blind draw nonsense.

August 21 – Uh, how do we assign him to a club again?






August 21 – Yallop still optimistic that Chicago can land Jones.




August 22 – Yep. Two agents now.

More confusion within the league.

The entire saga came to a merciful end this afternoon when Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman used the ESPN platform to break the news but questions about the lack of transparency and the league’s willingness to break its own rules to pacify one of the original single entity investors should raise some serious discussion when the MLSPU sits down with the league to negotiate the next CBA this winter.

Of all the things in doubt regarding this entire fiasco it’s MLS’ credibility with its fanbase and its players that should concern the league the most. Garber and the league mishandled this from the start by first allowing a second club to get involved after initial negotiations with the player’s representative Richard Motzkin had taken place and an offer was made that was never formally rejected. The Jones camp, which added a second agent in Ron Waxman when New England decided to jump into the picture, did exactly what they’re paid to do – maximize a client’s earning potential – but MLS broke and ignored its own rules for player acquisition and made one up in order for them to do that.

The agents used New England as a bargaining chip to drive the price up and it worked as the sides reached an agreement earlier this week. However, the league didn’t account for Jones balking at a coin flip because of his preference for Chicago but still allowed New England to increase the offer to make Jones happy in the event that they won the “blind draw”.

As a result the Fire are left out in the cold once again after failing to secure any significant acquisitions during the transfer window and turning to Jones when other options fell through. New England hopped into the chase after Chicago did, but in a season where nothing has gone as planned it shouldn’t come as a shock that the Fire lost out on a 50/50 chance.

What should come as a surprise is the manner in which MLS embarrassed themselves in a high profile player negotiation. It won’t go unnoticed this January as the league has now set a precedent for open bidding, back door negotiation, dismissal of their own rules, and direct competition for player signatures from competing owner/operators working under the single entity structure.  MLSPU is surely taking note.

The mess will be of the league’s own doing.

The Fire’s mess will be addressed in the coming days via yet another contingency plan. More moves are on the way.

Filed under: 2014 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • Great piece here Guillermo.

    While it would have been great to see a player like that here, time will tell if they got their money's worth. Watching a guy like Michael Bradley jog through the Toronto game the other night, it doesn't look like some of these guys are really busting their butts for their checks here,

  • Really more moves? Its a shame they put their eggs in one basket and are leaving it way too late to find reinforcements. So much for depth at positions, huh? So now what? Wait until January for impact signings? If they sign a free agent now, can those players really make a difference so late in the season? Why did the brain trust of Yallop and Bliss leave bringing in fresh faces so late?

  • Chicago Fire have made of themselves the single best argument for relegation in the MLS.

  • I still don't see why the league could not just have let Jones choose.

    If he would rather go to Chicago for less, let him go to Chicago. If he would rather get a bigger pay check, he should have been able to tell Chicago that they needed to match New England or he'd go to New England. That doesn't seem too difficult of a solution. In fact, I THOUGHT that was the league's solution with Bradley. I seem to remember a quote from him like "I was told I could go to team x, team y or Toronto and I choose Toronto." Jones should have been the same.

    This whole thing was a clustercuss of a situation for the league, either let him choose or use the allocation order. Allocation order is silly, but at least it's established enough that it's accepted and relatively understood by teams/fans. Beasley re-entering the league made relative sense, for example.

    Side question to all this - has the super secret DP allocation order ever been used/actually exist, or if it something the league spin doctors came up with halfway through this bs in order to try to explain the lack of sense?

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    The DP allocation order has yet to be used. It apparently came into effect after the Dempsey deal, but somehow not everyone was aware if it.

    MLS has still not answered requests for clarification regarding it.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Thanks...I thought not.

    Oh MLS...

  • Thank you Guillermo for having the balls to say what everyone is thinking and putting the facts in place to confirm speculation. It's frustrating to lose out this way and not have anyone call bs on the league for it. Yallop's comments about respecting the leagues process indicates the Fire aren't pursuing any wrong doings, could there be some sort of compensation for the league breaking their own rules?

  • In reply to john:

    If I were to speculate, the league has tossed the Fire a "we owe you one" chip. They're not going to publicly admit that they mucked up the process. Instead they'll just make up a new rule.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Do you think that the Hurtado move to Chivas was the favor? I can't imagine anyone wanting an overpriced incompetent defender. Taking on his contract would be tough enough but to also give up allocation money for him?

  • In reply to john:

    No it was not. Completely separate deal.

  • In reply to john:

    "I can't imagine anyone wanting an overpriced incompetent defender"
    Other than the Fire, you mean?

  • While it is very annoying the way things ended up I can't help but think this wouldn't have happened if Yallop and Bliss just offered what he wanted in the first place. Widely known that he was going to sign with anyone if offered 3m per year. With the way we have been this year and how awful our central midfielders are, that should be a no brainier. But in typical fire fashion, we offer 2.5. Just enough to say "we offered him a good deal, now it's up to him..." Having Jones, Shipp, Magee, and Johnson going into next year could have been a really solid core in MLS. Now were left with the same crap and no light at the end of this tunnel. It's Yallop, Bliss, and Hauptmans fault in this situation.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I think he wanted more than $3 million initially. The Fire made a good offer in this case and can't be faulted for losing out this time. This one was more about MLS nonsense than it was the Fire making a low offer.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Even if he wanted more than 3m, that means he didn't want 2.5 which is what the fire offered. If they gave him what he wanted ne isn't even involved. MLS did what they always do but it could have been avoided IMO.

  • Should also be noted that ESPN reports New England sweetened the deal with $300k in the blind draw envelope.

    The Washington Post claims the blind draw was conducted with the provision of a lower salary in Chicago.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    What does this mean exactly? 300k in the envelope to who? And if it's a blind draw, why would they need a sweetener?

  • In reply to Tweaky:

    Jones wouldn't agree to the possibility of landing in New England without the sweetener. The extra $300k that ESPN reported was offered as incentive to agree to the blind draw.

    When we refer to an "envelope" it's not meant to be taken literally. I'm not sure that envelopes were pulled NBA style to decide where he went.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Oh, so that's the amount that he said he'd go to NE for? That's not all that much, but considering they both suck and NE is closer to the playoffs, it was enough to make it work. Good for JJ, glad he finally will be playing in MLS. That part is good for the league. But what a friggin' disaster the league is....

  • Yes, the MLS process is unfair. The Fire got played.

    While I love Jones, he was certainly going to be overpaid by Chicago and it looks like he will be even more overpaid by the Revs.

    Nevertheless, the whole escapade shows the complete incompetence of the club. Why were they interested in overpaying for Jones in the first place? How did he fit into building a team that is dedicated to winning? Could that sort of money been better spent?

    Now their stupid plan blew up their faces which...I good.

    Problem is, they have no ideas on how the team can be improved.

  • fb_avatar

    Not surprising, always thought that Garber was several notches below a street pimp, integrity and Garber don't belong in the same sentence except in the above.
    From a legal standpoint this could be a quagmire for the MLS and sets a president on how these cases are handled.
    All the Fire has to do is wait until another team attempts to sign a DP then suddenly make a late offer, have another blind draw and the Fire would have a 50% chance of getting the player even though their original chance of signing the player was zero.
    Slavery is alive and well in the MLS.

  • I don't get what the blowback about lack of transparency is. I thought that was a sign that a league had graduated to the big boys table...

  • Guillermo, is it possible that this nonsense is partial payback for the Fire's Robbie Rogers - Mike Magee trade?

    You say that the team probably has a "we owe you one" card from the league now, but I can't help but think that Garber and his minions reminded Bliss and co about how that deal went down (though with Magee doing his Oscar the Ghost imitation this year I'm not sure that one carries much traction).

    I've heard the story about Magee volunteering to go to Chicago, but I can't help but think that LA wanted more from the deal than what it got and knuckled under to the league and Rogers's people.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    The Rogers deal doesn't play into this one at all. Magee made that one happen by volunteering to come to Chicago as you mention, but Rogers was intent on playing in LA and the Galaxy didn't exactly follow protocol in their pursuit of him.
    That deal had no impact on this one.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    In fact, is that not another example of this whole farce? Why does RR get to say where he wants to play but JJ doesn't? Again, anyone who wants to go to LA and the red carpet gets rolled out. Any other team? "Hey we have rules here!" What rules? "Just a sec, still writing..."

  • In reply to manyou07:

    I believe it was Rogers that said 'I'm playing for a LA club or I'm not playing at all'. It was not the league dictating the move. At least The Fire got something for him.

  • In reply to manyou07:

    JJ also wanted one thing above location: money. So he got that.

  • I think its time to let clubs sink or swim in the transfer market. MLS holding the hands of 20+ kids is only going to get more ridiculous when clubs with bigger self interests like Etihad City come into the picture. You cannot play fair when you have favorites. Nobody is getting relegated anyway. So yes, clubs will stand the chance of going bankrupt, but so has every other business ever started in this country ever.

  • seems that MLS did exactly what the single structure was in place to prevent, clubs competing against each other.. way to go MLS! Honestly, I pretty close to being done. The Fire has failed to keep me involved, and the league's allocation rules and the consistent changing of them is turning me off too..

  • what ever happened to the whole discovery thing too? Seems like the Fire thought they would have the first dibs..

  • In reply to lijien:

    That's another issue. The discovery process, which includes DP's is supposed to keep this sort of nonsense from happening.

  • fb_avatar

    Actually the MLS could have handled this better.
    If there was going to be a blind draw, they could have
    turned it into a PR event by televising the draw with
    all parties represented on ESPN giving extra exposure
    to all involved. At least would have provided transparency.
    Given Jones visibility (ie World Cup) either Fox Sports or ESPN
    would have covered it.
    The MLS could have been facing a law suit by the Fire based on several factors . If Hauptman didn't get a major "we owe you one" chip he is a fool but like GR said the league will never admit it for good reason. It would be a complete PR disaster compounding an already ethical challenged decision and make the league look like a collection of jerks which they probably are.

  • Very thorough clarification of a very complicated process.
    Two things ...
    This season if the Fire don't have bad luck they don't have any - losing the flip (if there was one) fits right in ...
    Maybe it's time to stop "playing nice" with the other clubs/owners and put the Fire first!

  • "The Fire's mess will be addressed in the coming days via yet another contingency plan. More moves are on the way."

    How about a hint, at least? Another underwhelming signing or trade? Or one worth getting excited about?

  • You can expect another signing like, Emerson Dehri from a Turkish club. He might even be a DP too.

  • Anyone else listen to the Extra Time Radio version of events and interview with their GM? The way they spin it, both teams were interested from the start, but NE was quieter about their interest, and unlike the Bradley and Dempsey deals, in the end two teams were still interested, therefore they had to come up with this hokie "blind draw". One interesting thing: the NE GM said that they first became interested not when approached by the league, but by an agent for JJ - without specifying which agent or getting into how many agents he may have had.

    I don't buy it for a second. I think the JJ camp handled this badly, MLS handled it badly, and maybe the teams handled it badly too. All in all it was a bungled opportunity to make a splash after the WC and now all we have is a big-name player who may be out of shape looking to rescue a playoff bubble team with a last -gasp drive in front of an audience who can rightfully question whether he really wants to be there and what his real value is to the team. And that would go if he were in Chicago as well.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    I'm not really all that upset to miss out on Jones myself. Either way this will be a lost season (the lost season bag is getting full, isn't it?) and we're probably better off saving the money, taking the dive, and being in better position for offseason moves.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    The version on ETR was sanitized but they're a league podcast so you can't expect them to hammer the league for the mess they created. I've said all along that the Jones camp got the Revolution involved to drive the price up and that was confirmed. The Revs were the second team in and didn't become actively involved until after the Fire had done the heavy lifting and initiated the contract talks with Jones' agent. Quietly interested is a nice way to describe that. There were also other teams reportedly interested in Dempsey and Bradley but the league made those deals happen regardless.

    The agents did what they had to do to drive the price up and you can't blame them for taking advantage of the system. It's a bit of a weasel move and you may not like it but the tactic ended up working. The onus of this entire mess still lies with MLS in my opinion.

    The ETR crew also conveniently failed to mention the silliness of the DP allocation and the back and forth waffling over how he was going to be allocated, but that's expected. Until the league clearly lays out complete rules in writing (and follows them) the issue of transparency and shadiness resulting in loss of credibility will continue to exist.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I don't think anything JJ did was a "weasel move." The reality is that in any other league Jones' people could just negotiate a deal in the normal fashion: "Hey Real Madrid, Man U. is offering X, what is your counter?" Jones' agent just worked within the structure that he was confronted with since he couldn't engage in proper negotiation.

    I think the framing of the saga that there was some disconnect between JJ who wanted to play in Chicago and his agent who was pursuing NE is silly. It is negotiating 101 to drive up the price. The message to NE: "JJ really wants to play in Chicago, but he could be persuaded to play for you with more money." Then the message to Chicago: "JJ really wants to play here, but he can't pass up the money from NE. Can you match?"

    JJ wins either way.

    Guillermo, is the Fire's line that they were not allowed to match the NE offer? Or that they didn't know about it? Or that they didn't want to pay more?

    I would actually respect them if the reason they lost JJ was because he simply would cost too much.

    The initial numbers were too expensive so in the long run it is probably best the team didn't waste that kind of money on JJ.

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    It wasn't a money issue. The Fire would have paid the same amount for Jones that New England is paying now. He received a sweetener as incentive to agree to the blind draw but Chicago's final offer was equal to New England's.
    This really came down to MLS' lack of clarity in player acquisition.

    I don't begrudge Jones' camp for playing both sides and getting the most for their client, that's what they're paid to do. Business is weasly sometimes.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    The biggest issue to me is that the league is supposed to negotiate the deal so that two competeting clubs don't drive up the price, and the allocation order is there so everyone knows who will get the player if they are interested.. This whole blind draw seems to have changed the way they do business compared to what they said before

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Oh, their version was absolutely sanitized. No question about it. A lot of "the league has set these rules" and "the league did what it needed to do" to retain the sham appearance of parity. There was no blow-by-blow like you provided. And their guest was Mike Burns of the Revs because they tend to highlight the winners on the podcast.

    Like I said, I don't believe it for a minute. And what is most infuriating is that while the league says it's about reducing bidding wars in exactly this type of situation, that's what ended up happening because their "rule book" is so shot full of ambiguities that any irregularity throws a wrench in a deal.

    And no, you can't tell me that ONLY Toronto and Seattle were interested in Bradley and Dempsey respectively. Sheesh.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Toronto and Los Angeles were both initially interested in Dempsey. It's hard to believe there weren't others....

    See Grant Wahl's quote from 8/5/13:
    "Los Angeles and Toronto were also interested in ponying up for Dempsey, multiple sources said, but Toronto (which is working on its own Designated Player deals) accepted that it was better for the league if Dempsey were playing in a U.S. city."

  • Per Alexi Lalas, the blind draw actually did take place with envelopes being drawn.

  • You got a shout out from Dan Loney at Big Soccer.

  • I agree with you Guillermo that MLS, the agents and both teams share in this mess ... and it goes to the lack of a group plan under the single entity. (And I believe that single entity is the way to go for the next 10-15 years ...)
    IF MLS plans to move forward and act as one group of clubs who plan to work together to grow professional football in the USA, then they need to stop acting like MLB or the NFL which are NOT single entity ... currently there are two huge problems with single entity - none of the owners know how to work together OR want to work together to improve the league AND no one at the league level has the authority to organize the clubs ...
    Imagine that the league was organized last winter and PLANNED to use this World Cup summer swell to improve the profile of MLS and its clubs ... they would work with each of the teams to identify players from the USMNT pool who will be available this year to sign with MLS and join their teams and fill a need ... so the FIRE and other clubs would have identified JJones as a potential target post WC ... MLS could have spent the entire spring and summer organizing and promoting the process to acquire JJ after the WC AND getting any of the clubs who wanted to be part of this acquisiton to pony up the money (working with the agents and the owners on the final $$ figure) ... and then after the WC, they would have BEEN READY to build upon all the WC hype - especially since JJ was arguably the best USMNT player of the tournament ... as soon as the WC was over - BANG!! - they have the blind draw on NATIONAL TV by commish Garber at halftime of a national broadcast on a Sunday game between top teams - say KC and Seattle ... everybody on national tv (Fox and ESPN and NBC) would have covered the draw AND the results of the draw - as well as the local TV/radio of the two (or three or four) clubs involved in the blind draw ...
    BUT instead we got this FIFA-like - back room - opaque - non-event that leaves everyone in Chicago with a bad taste and feeling we got screwed by the league - whether they actually did or not. Worse than another missed opportunity for MLS.

  • In reply to southsidefutbol:

    Yep....the owners have all agreed to the current system and they need to realize it has to change at some point if the league is going to be as successful as it should be.
    Televising the Blind Draw or at least acknowledging publicly what was going to happen would have been a good step toward some actual transparency. Instead they make themselves look shady and less trustworthy in the process.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    They wear that look so well, they find it hard to give up.

  • Guillermo... looking shady and less trustworthy is not the same as, actually shady and not trustworthy. MLS is shady and not trustworthy. If this is what we are following, why follow? This kinda hurts on top of all the suck we've been through these past few years.

  • In reply to waamsy:

    These are questions they (owners and league) need to answer.

  • So are we going to have reinforcements for the last few games of the season? Anybody coming here or are they just going to save Andy some money by not bringing anybody else in for the rest of season? I say just throw the season away and focus on January 2015.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    They'll bring some in but don't expect big names. They've got 24 on the active first team roster (including Jumper - who is not active). The big focus will be on the next window.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    To jump out of?

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Exactly. Forget more transfers and the playoffs this season, but get the young guys on the field more and start working on that next transfer window.

    And get the team together BEFORE preseason. Don't count on summer transfers to save the season. I know that's hard in MLS since European sides typically don't make as many moves in the winter window, but haven't we learned that lesson by now?

  • So they swung for the fences and struck out. It happens. Let's use the last ten games to see what they have in Joya and Ward. If they make the playoffs or not, at this point, who the hell cares. Let's plan for the future rather than messing around with also-ran veterans.

    Secretly, the masochistic in me wants to see them bring back Grazzini just to shut us up...

  • With Nyarko coming back, the lineup I'd like to see is Amarikwa and
    Earnshaw on top, Nyarko, Nyassi, Cocis, and Ship at the mid
    with Palmer, Ward, Larentowicz, and Segares on the back line,
    Johnson in goal.
    Would probably be the most dynamic and possession oriented
    lineup they could have. Couldn't be any worse than any other opening lineup they tried. Couldn't really put Sourmare in
    nor Ianni given how many goals got by them.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    Is that Ward at center back?

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    And Joya first off the bench.

  • Arne Friedrich just announced on Twitter that he's now an assistant coach for the German U18s. Hope he'll send some prospects our way, but that would probably lose him his new job pretty quick.

  • So any new signings yet besides Nyarko?

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