Kristian "Scoops" Dyer reports for Big Apple Soccer that the New York Red Bulls have been shopping around veteran winger Lloyd Sam in the hope of winning some extra spending money.
Citing a well-placed source, Dyer's story suggests Sam is being offered to fellow MLS teams by RBNY with allocation money the desired return.
The report triggers a cascade of speculation. First, it suggests Sam is expendable. This won't be a great surprise to RBNY fans.
The 31-year-old (32 in September) has been an important starter for the team for the last two seasons - and an influential impact player for the season and a half before that - racking up 126 appearances in all competitions, 26 assists, 24 goals, and two Supporters' Shields. He has proven himself a flexible and effective player: in 2014, he was principally a wide-man generating assists with his crosses and ability to cut in from the by-line on the dribble; in 2015, he attacked the goal more and got 10 league goals and two in US Open Cup for his efforts.
This season, he has appeared a little less effective (though he still has four assists and a goal to his name from 16 MLS appearances). Some might put that down to the fact he's a little older than he has ever been before, but one can also argue the Red Bulls overplayed the idea that he could be effective centrally - asking Sam to run into traffic too often, and stifling his greatest proven talent: torturing MLS left backs one-on-one.
So Sam's best days are not so far gone (he was extremely important to the 2015 Shield-winning team) that he doesn't potentially have some value to other teams in MLS, but they are far enough away that other candidates for his job have started to emerge. In recent weeks, RBNY head coach Jesse Marsch has seemed to increasingly favor Alex Muyl, for example.
Good enough to have trade value, but losing ground to younger rivals in the squad = expendable.
The second part of the speculation cascade is inspired by the rumored terms RBNY seeks: allocation money, rather than another player or draft picks. Simply by offloading Sam to another team, the Red Bulls would stand to unburden themselves of something like $240,000 of salary (Sam's guaranteed compensation for 2016, according to the MLS Players Union). In seeking allocation money - cash that can be used to alleviate salary cap restrictions - it suggests RBNY is looking to make room on its roster for someone who will cost them a little more than Sam does at the moment.
Maybe. There are a lot of things allocation money can be used for, and not all of them involve acquiring new players. Also, as far as we know, RBNY should be somewhat flush with allocation money this season: the sale of Matt Miazga to Chelsea in the off-season and qualifying for this year's CONCACAF Champions League should both have generated funds for the club. Perhaps that money is spent; perhaps the team is looking to make a really, really big move; or maybe it's just Ali Curtis ceaselessly pressing for the best possible deal, which seems to be his way. If RBNY is willing to offload Sam simply because it's time, it would make sense that - absent any particular player acquisition target - Curtis would just go hunting for the next best thing: cash.
But if RBNY is shopping it's starting right winger for cash, the simplest explanation is because the club wants some more money in its transfer budget (well, salary budget most likely - MLS teams still don't often pay big transfer fees, if they pay pay them at all).
And the third part of the speculation cascade: the Red Bulls are ready to make that move now. Marsch has already said the team is looking for attacking help. The rumor that RBNY is seeking ship out a starting attacking player is not surprising given we've already been told the club is looking for an attacking player - no reason to clog the roster with guys competing for the same spot, and there are already plenty of guys in the squad who can play Sam's usual position in the Red Bulls' preferred system. If RBNY is looking for one more attacker, it makes sense that it might be seeking to let one of the incumbent attacking players on the roster go.
But such speculation is for the future. For now, all we have is Kristian Dyer's report telling us that Lloyd Sam might be leaving RBNY if another team will pay the Red Bulls' asking price.