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Strike in MLS Means Landon Donovan Stays At Everton? Not Necessarily

Screen shot 2010 03 12 at 3.33.36 PM Strike in MLS Means Landon Donovan Stays At Everton?  Not Necessarily

Los Angeles Galaxy attacker Landon Donovan, during Sunday's match at Goodison Park, Liverpool. (Photo: ZumaPress)

From Liverpool, we are reading quotes from Everton FC manager David Moyes saying that a strike means Landon Donovan would stay at Everton.

“The loan officially finishes tomorrow and we will send him back but I think there is still a chance that the players there might strike and if that was the case then we are able to keep him, no problem,” Moyes says, in a quote published on the Everton FC web site.

However, in a quote published by the UK Press Association, Moyes is less definitive.

“I don’t know yet whether this is Landon’s last game, there is still a chance that there could be a players’ strike in the US and that could give us the chance of having him a bit longer,” the Everton boss says.

The AFP was equally guarded in their assessment, using “could” instead of something closer to what was published by Everton.

Language near the bottom of this AP report (that includes a quote from Galaxy coach Bruce Arena) seems to hint a deal would have to be worked out.

The real answer seems to be unknown, as international soccer has never before confronted this problem, leaving all parties with nothing beyond speculation and hope, two tenuous tenants.

Unfortunately (because of this context), the rest of this post is build upon the same; however, it is important to note the uncharted waters into which the MLS and MLSPU are drifting means there are few obvious answers regarding Landon Donovan’s immediate future.

Screen shot 2010 03 12 at 3.34.57 PM 300x264 Strike in MLS Means Landon Donovan Stays At Everton?  Not Necessarily

Whether Donovan returns to Everton after March 24 may have less to do with a strike, more to do with Don Garber and MLS's wishes. (Photo: Newscom)

If there are conditions within the loan agreement allowing Donovan to stay at Liverpool in the event of a labor dispute, Moyes’s confidence is well-place. If there is no such language, there are a number of problems.

The first: we are outside an international transfer window.

Per regulations, a loan is allowed to be extended (or made permanent) outside a transfer window; however, if Landon Donovan comes back to Los Angeles on the 15th, the loan may be (logically) seen as over, with any “extension” being considered a second, new loan.

A new loan between countries is supposed to be prohibited.  Even if MLS and Everton decide to overlook this rule and try to complete a second deal, clubs like Aston Villa and Birmingham City – clubs potentially competing with Everton for a spot in Europa League – are unlikely to be sympathetic.

The second major problem is Major League Soccer’s acquiescence.

Whether there is a strike, whether the loan extension can be done within the rules, Major League Soccer has to agree to the move.  A strike does not change the fact  Donovan is registered to Major League Soccer by the United States Soccer Federation.

While Major League Soccer could be provided incentives to extend Donovan’s loan, it is not a given that they will be willing to work with a key member of their opposition. Assuming they will (or won’t) seems speculative.

The final issue is whether Donovan should accept an extension. It seems a given, but there may be an ethical concern surrounding his role with the union.

As it concerns his playing career, a loan extension would be a great move. However, should a move could be a benefit to Major League Soccer, it could be considered unethical for him to engage in an action that benefits MLS in the face of a strike.  Potential benefits could be covert and financial or something like a tacit agreement to work with Soccer United Marketing to set-up a summer tour of the United States.

Again, more speculation, but perhaps another example of things not being as cut-and-dry as quotes of the last 24 hours have made us believe. If Major League Soccer benefits from a loan extension, isn’t Donovan obligated (as a leader within the Players Union) to reject such an extension?

Perhaps an extension would see no benefits for MLS, and MLS altruism would allow Donovan to stay in Liverpool.

In the coming days we may get more details about how Donovan could stay in Everton. As we enter uncharted waters regarding registrations behind held amidst a player strike, the USSF, CONCACAF, or FIFA may intervene with a clarification, allowing the move.

Until those clarifications come, we remain where we were before Thursday’s vote: on the edge of uncharted waters.