Speaking to reporters at the New York Red Bulls Training Facility on Friday, May 18, Jesse Marsch was in a contemplative mood, at least on the subject of Gideon Baah.
The defender is on the season-ending injury list, ruling him out of playing for RBNY in MLS for the whole of 2017. At the time his status was revealed, a spokesperson for the league told Once A Metro they were not aware of any loophole or mechanism for reversing the designation: season-ending is season-ending in MLS.
Somewhat confoundingly, Baah has been regularly sighted in videos and images of RBNY training, suggesting he is closer to season-beginning mode than his season-ending injury designation might suggest.
Asked about Baah's presence in training, Marsch effectively explained that the club had made its decision and was living with it:
We haven't really built in a big timetable just because it's been a slow process. As disappointing as it is for Gideon and us to put him on season-ending IR, what it does it allows him to get fully back to health. And so that's the main focus, and yes, we can use USL games in the process.
Clearly, Baah is recovering at a rate that makes it possible to forecast he might play again in 2017. With RBNY's first US Open Cup game of the season revealed, thoughts on that tournament inevitably collided with discussion of Baah's playing time prospects for the rest of the year:
I wonder if we can even...I'm not sure if we're going to be able to loan him for Open Cup games, that's a possibility too, right?
*non-committal grunt from press pack*
I don't know either.
Marsch exited his meditation on Baah's future by admitting he wasn't really up to speed on this particular aspect of the MLS roster regulations: "I don't know enough of the rules".
The rules in this case are pretty clearly stated:
Per the MLS roster rules, Baah cannot even play in a friendly for RBNY this season. He can only play for NYRB II - or presumably be loaned out to some other non-MLS side. But he is on the season-ending injury list in MLS and that means his MLS season is ended.
Of course, MLS has come up with confounding interpretations of its own rules - or simply invented new ones - in the past. It was believed that RBNY's former sporting director, Ali Curtis, had a special talent for teasing out the unintended consequences or hidden loopholes in the MLS rule book, mostly because he used to work for the league HQ and had played a part in putting that rule book together.
Current sporting director Denis Hamlett is not credited with the same skill-set, but if he can figure out a way to get Gideon Baah on the field for the first team this season, then he will be owed an apology and a lot of credit.
For now, the situation seems clear: Baah can get back to peak form, play for NYRB II and even his national team, but he can be of no help on the field to RBNY in MLS or any other tournament or game featuring the first team.
Sorry, Jesse - looks like Baah won't be able to play in USOC this year.