According to KYLE MCCARTHY, AC St. Louis midfielder Steve Ralston has signed a deal to play for his once and future employer, the New England Revolution, and will join the team immediately.
It's been a long strange trip this year for Ralston, a 14 year MLS veteran who began the year being used by the Players Union as a poster boy for league tyranny (along with current FC Dallas starting goalkeeper Kevin Hartman) when he couldn't come to terms with the Revs.
However, ending up with AC St. Louis as a player/coach seemed like the ideal career move for Ralston, particularly in light of the knee injury which kept him off the field – anyones' field – from last September until two weeks ago when he made an appearance for ACSL in a loss to Tampa Bay.
As BRIAN QUARSTAD at the plugged-in "Inside Minnesota Soccer" told us a few days ago, St. Louis has been working at trying to offload player salaries in an "desperate" attempt to keep the franchise afloat, and reportedly several MLS teams had expressed an interest in Ralston.
According to Quarstad,AC St. Louis is also attempting to buy out the contracts of a number of other rostered players, most of whom don't have the kind of options that Ralston did unless you know of an MLS side with an open spot they'd like to fill with Jeff Cosgriff, Alec Dufty, John Lesko or Anthony O’Garro.
It's an interesting proposition: take whatever Jeff Cooper offers you to make your guaranteed contract go away or risk seeing the team dissolve and end up with nothing.
Of course the obvious question is whether, if ACSL manages to dump all these players in a "desperate attempt to save the team" then who, exactly, is going to wear the uniforms and take the field?
You then have to wonder who on Earth is going to pay actual money to sit and watch whoever they come up with get stomped by Austin and Rochester and, well, and everybody else?
St. Louis at 1-7-1 already has the worst record in USSF D-2, and II seriously doubt that doing a salary dump and bringing in a bunch of guys whose sole recommendation is that they work cheap is going to improve matters.
Is it perhaps too much to hope for that Sunil Gulati – who is most likely swanning around J-Burg even as we speak, rubbing elbows with all the FIFA swells at lavish cocktail parties and sumptuous banquets while an American professional soccer team (a team in a league run directly from his office) goes down the porcelain appliance take a minute out of his busy schedule to tell Cooper to get lost?
In any case, all of this begs another question, namely Why didn't they try something similar with the Athletica? Why weren't they "desperate" to keep that team alive?
Whatever the details may be – and there is a lot we just don't know yet – a lot of observers have felt all along that Cooper, who obviously knew what was happening, sat around doing nothing until it was way too late to try and come up with some kind of solution.
However that may be, his current efforts to salvage the men's side coupled with his apparent lack of similar efforts on behalf of the WPS team isn't going to do a whole lot to rehabilitate his stature within the American soccer community.
(I do need the add here that I accepted a statement made elsewhere that WPS did not require a performance bond at face value without doing the simple piece of work it would have required to verify. There was indeed a sum of money posted with the league, and that cash was used to keep the team afloat in May.
I also expressed curiosity as to why the league didn't conduct a re-entry draft for the Athletica players instead of declaring open season on them. The reason, as I've now been told by several people with a mastery of the obvious (a skill I lack, apparently) that as contracted employees of an independent organization, when that organization ceases to exist the contract obviously does as well and WPS cannot restrict their subsequent movement without opening up an ugly anti-trust situation.)
In any case, Ralston is back with the Revs (who can certainly use him if he can regain a decent level of fitness which, at age 37, may be open to question) where he belongs.
As for the mess in St. Louis, it's well past time that Sunil Gulati takes a break from pounding down the calories with his BFF Chuck Blazer, tell Jeff Cooper to hit the bricks and assign a grownup to see if something can be salvaged from the rubble.