Welcome to MLS – Players Left To Fend For Themselves
So what happens when a player is selected by an MLS team to play soccer? Not much apparently.
In an interview with sources close to several current and former players, it is revealed that there aren’t many services provided to these men whose jobs should be training and focusing on soccer, not apartment hunting in an unfamiliar place.
One rather legendary story states the reason Sebastien Le Toux and Kyle Nakazawa had an apartment in West Chester – about 25 minutes from their workplace – in 2010 is that no one told them anything about the area, and that they thought West Chester was the western part of Chester. Perhaps a check of a map would have cleared up confusion, but still it seems to me that helping players get to know the area they’re going to be working in and living in would be something a club would automatically do.
One player who has played in multiple cities noted that getting help moving from club to club was “very unusual” and that he received no help from clubs, even when moving across the country.
Another source says it’s worse for Latin players who come here. Not only do they not know the area, they also don’t know the customs or language here. When Carlos Valdes and Faryd Mondragon came to the team, a local fan helped them find an apartment to live in, and cars to drive. No one from the Union’s FO did that. For Lionard Pajoy, Josue Martinez, and Jorge Perlaza too. He then had Perlaza’s things moved to Colombia after he was released by the Union and he was picked up by Millionarios. He currently has Josue Martinez’ stuff and is sending it from Philadelphia to New York. He’s working logistics for these guys because the Union doesn’t do that. At the time of the interview, the source was leaving later that night to pick up Pajoy, his wife, and his family from Philadelphia International Airport and take him to DC for training. He’s also arranged to have Pajoy’s belongings sent down to DC later this month.
“These clubs… I mean I don’t know why they don’t help the players. They don’t guide them. They don’t have to help them step-by-step, but at least to give them some guidance in a new city. They (players) don’t speak the language so well.” When a new foreign player comes in he is working with the Union by starting a consulting agency so he can help the new player settle in the city. “Pajoy’s son – I found a school for him, I helped his wife get the shots for the kids. I mean stuff like that – all of the stuff like that you need to do when you arrive somewhere new.”
“I even had to do things like let them know that you have to get a chair (booster seat) for the kids because you can’t drive the car without the chair. Stuff like that. They have been really appreciative of that and I don’t charge them for it. I do this because this is who I am.” And it’s not just here in Philadelphia. Players in DC, New York, and Philadelphia are also utilizing his services because the teams don’t do these things.
It seems a shame that in a league that is striving to become one of the top leagues in the world that nothing is done for the players that work so hard to make that dream a reality. Players need someone to show them where the good neighborhoods are. Where the good schools are. They need someone to show them the ropes of these strange places and let them focus on their jobs.
This is by no means a local problem. Sources from all over the league report the same problems just about everywhere. Many times it is local fans who have stepped up and given the players the welcomes they deserve and should be part of any clubs process of helping players acclimate to new surroundings. We have heard many stories of fans moving players belongings from city to city, helping secure drivers licenses and the like. It seems to be more prevalent among Spanish speaking players but isn’t confined to them exclusively.
This raises the question: Are clubs responsible for helping players “bed in” off the field?
Let us know what you think about where a clubs responsibility to a player begins and ends.