It's starting to feel as though nothing is quite real in MLS.
Remember last October when it was revealed Doneil Henry, a homegrown Toronto FC player, had actually been on loan to the only professional soccer team he'd ever played for since April? And initially, TFC wouldn't even identify the club that actually held Henry's contract. Oh, how we laughed.
And there is, of course, the continuing saga of Frank Lampard's
loan not a loan more of a gentleman's agreement look, he's unemployed, stop asking these questions contract status with NYCFC MLS Manchester City FC or City Football Group. Another amusing story to follow.
It's not funny any more. It would appear the New York Red Bulls have been running their own version of this game: BigAppleSoccer.com is reporting RBNY has just paid for the permanent transfer of Ambroise Oyongo from Cameroonian club Coton Sport.
Today. This is being reported today: January 8, 2015.
This is unexpected because Franco Panizo reported RBNY had signed Oyongo from Coton Sport back in March 2014.
Indeed, Oyongo's signing was announced in the same release that told us Chris Duvall and Eric Stevenson had been "signed". Are they on loan too?
Is this a big deal? Oyongo played for RBNY in 2014, he will (assuming he can modify his game to better resemble an energy drink as it is regrettably looking all too much like that of a young international-class soccer player at the moment) play for RBNY 2015.
It is in the sense that we don't seem to get the full story from MLS as often as we should (which is, to be clear, always). And while there was no reason to believe RBNY was any less prone to the exaggerations and omissions that have punctuated the work of other clubs around the league in recent months, it is disappointing to see apparent confirmation of the fact that this is a league-wide tendency.
MLS, of course, owns all the players' contracts in the league. Ultimately, these matters are being reported misleadingly because the league wants it that way - certainly, the pattern of repeated obfuscation suggests this is not about one or two clubs having issues understanding the generally accepted meaning of words.
There is no shame in a loan (except, you know, when it is not a loan), and should be no great need to disguise its existence from fans - who simply like to know who is really, truly, "signed" by their club, and who is simply on an extended visit.
It helps us to speculate about possible transfer fees, or future contractual negotiations. It lets us know how much of the roster is bought and how much is borrowed. Mostly, however, it is just nice to read a press release and not have to ponder how many different meanings a word might contain.
"Signed" need not mean "permanently transferred". Oyongo surely signed something when he agreed to come to RBNY. But it would have been nice to know up front that he was effectively still on trial, that he could (perhaps) have been whisked away by another club, or that his future with the Red Bulls was not (as we assumed) entirely secure.
In fairness, fans may not have been the only ones duped by the representation of Oyongo's contract terms. In July, Mike Petke said "I think in the next two years he's going to be a big name...Hopefully, we sell him for a lot of money or we keep him and pay him a little money so it's good for my salary cap."
Do you say that about a player whose contract isn't actually yours to sell? In MLS, apparently you do.