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Wilman Conde's Rights? What about the Chicago Fire's?

We better not see a situation where Wilman Conde is wearing a Red Bulls jersey and Fire fans are playing the role of Dynamo fans in this picture
We better not see a situation where Wilman Conde is wearing a Red Bulls jersey and Fire fans are playing the role of Dynamo fans in this picture

Former Chicago Fire defender Wilman Conde wants back in Major League Soccer. This isn't news. It has been floating around for awhile now. What has changed is it now appears that a Major League Soccer team wants him back in the league as well. In fact, the New York Red Bulls have reportedly purchased his rights.

Conde, who wanted to be traded from the Chicago Fire to the Red Bulls in 2008, has had his Major League Soccer rights purchased by New York, a reliable MLS source said on Thursday.

It was not known what year the draft choice would be from.

This bizarre, cryptic and/or incomplete phrasing from Big Apple Soccer can only lead one to believe that New York gave Chicago a draft pick for Conde. Ives Galarcep says not so fast.

Reports suggesting RBNY got Wilman Conde's rights for a draft pick (as if NY has any left) are false. Will cost RBNY a six-figure allocation

The Chicago Fire could acquire over $100,000 dollars in allocation money for a player that's not even on their roster? I understand if you are new to the league and very confused. Heck, most people that follow the league are probably a little confused right now. Let's attempt to clear up some things up after the break.

Colombian defender Wilman Conde last put on a Chicago Fire uniform on October 23, 2010 in a match against Chivas USA. It also was the last professional soccer game for Chicago Fire original C.J. Brown and American soccer legend Brian McBride. The game appears to be the last time Designated players Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo (who didn't enter the game) will be on an active roster during a game for a team in the United States. In retrospect, that might have been one of the most awkward pre-game locker rooms in the history of the league. Post-game, the team had just finished a 4-1 romp and they knew it was over for McBride and Brown. I imagine it was a great time mixed with some emotion for the veteran players.

The last important aspect for Wilman Conde and Major League Soccer was not that game but the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft that took place two months later on November 24, 2010. Chicago retained Conde's league rights for up to two years when they put him on their protected list. New York Red Bulls knew they would have to give some kind of compensation to Chicago when they first approached Conde this off-season. It might seem like a technicality but Chicago has been on the end of paying 'gatekeeper fees' before.

In the summer of 2008, the American soccer world was ablaze with rumors that Brian McBride wanted to return to the United States to play in MLS. The Arlington Heights, IL native made it no secret he wanted to play with his home town team the Chicago Fire. In normal sports transactions, this would be a done deal. In Major League Soccer, Brian McBride was a player that had accumulated too much time with the United States Men's National Soccer Team so he had to go through the 'Allocation Order' also known as the Allocation Ranking. Here is what it is as defined as only the MLS Roster Rules can:

The allocation ranking is the mechanism used to determine which MLS club has first priority to acquire a U.S. National Team player who signs with MLS after playing abroad, or a former MLS player who returns to the League after having gone to a club abroad for a transfer fee. The allocation rankings may also be used in the event two or more clubs file a request for the same player on the same day. The allocations will be ranked in reverse order of finish for the 2010 season, taking playoff performance into account.

Once the club uses its allocation ranking to acquire a player, it drops to the bottom of the list. A ranking can be traded, provided that part of the compensation received in return is another club's ranking. At all times, each club is assigned one ranking. The rankings reset at the end of each MLS League season.

In the summer of 2008, Toronto FC was the team that was at the top of the Allocation Order. They got to the top of the list by being at the bottom of the league the season before. Deserving or undeserving as it might have been, Toronto FC were the gatekeepers to Brian McBride coming back to the league. In order to acquire a player that only wanted to play for their team, Chicago paid the price of striker Chad Barrett and the club's first round selection in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. Chad Barrett was a 23 year-old striker at the time who had been the 3rd overall selection in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft. TFC used the 2009 MLS SuperDraft first round pick from the Fire to draft Stefan Frei. Frei has gone on to start almost every game for Toronto since and Chad Barrett scored 16 goals in 65 games while being a primarily first choice striker for Toronto until 2011. All because Toronto FC did nothing strategic but fall to the bottom. You can argue the fairness of a system that has a Canadian club acquiring those players because an accomplished American wanted to come back into the league (and believe me, we have) but the bottom line is when MLS sets up barriers, you have to figure out how to work around them.

Now that Conde wants back in the league, the Fire are the gatekeeper to his rights and for a better reason than TFC owned McBride's. Conde made it known he wanted to sign outside of MLS in 2011. Chicago protected him in the Expansion Draft anyway. They were prepared to lose players like John Thorrington and Peter Lowry to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers and that's just what happened respectively. Thorrington and Lowry gave little to their new teams. The protected Calen Carr was later traded for the player who lead the Chicago Fire in goals in 2011, Dominic Oduro. Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas and the rest of Chicago's front office made several great moves in the 2011 off-season. Protecting Conde was one of them and now it's New York's time to pay just like how Chicago paid for McBride's rights in 2008.

I don't want to hear New York fans complain how they shouldn't give anything to the Fire. Don't hate the player, hate the game Big Apple. Quite frankly, I'm not sure the reported six figures of allocation money is even enough. Why not milk New York for more? If they don't like it, there's an entire world of center backs out there to sign. There were a couple of high profile center backs available just yesterday. In fact, Chicago seems to have drafted one in Austin Berry. New York could have used one of their picks to select a high ranking defender in yesterday's 2012 MLS SuperDraft except, well, take it away Ives Galacrep once again:

Source tells me RBNY tried including draft pick in Conde trade, only 2 be reminded by MLS they had no draft picks left. No, I'm not kidding.

We will leave the Red Bulls' troubles for a full post later on. That might even be a two-parter... or four. For those who are saying a player like Juan Agudelo would have been too much, how about a deal where the Fire get to 'loan' his rights for a season and New York gets to sell him on the market next year? That would have been fascinating and quite creative. Agudelo would work wonders in Klopas' counterattack with speed and through ball passing tactics. Red Bulls fans aren't even arguing that the young forward has fallen out of NYRB head coach Hans Backe's favor, many of them are just talking about the cash they will rake in when Agudelo wants to move on in 2013. Here in Chicago, we aim to win trophies. MLS teams are always patchwork with players incoming and outgoing. What's the difference between Agudelo playing for us as long as you get your pay day... and the Fire gets theirs?

Conde may not have the legendary career of McBride but he is also younger than McBride was when the American forward came back into the league in 2008. The Colombian defender will come with a cheaper contract than 2008 McBride did and that's on top of the fact that the salary cap is higher in 2011 than it was in 2008. The biggest concern here is New York does finally enjoy success and Conde is their lynchpin on defense that we know he can be. He has a lot to prove and future contracts to win. I can see him playing brilliantly at every step of the way while the Fire were the ones that gave NYRB a strategic advantage.

Chicago plays New York three times this season and only three points separated the two teams in the final 2011 standings. Allocation money is great to have but the team had this golden starting center back. I hope they didn't give it up for just nothing.