Two views on whether the players that Sporting KC loaned to Orlando should have been allowed to play against their parent team.
Ben Gartland says no, bench the loaned players
Let's get this out of the way first: This situation is an awful one that could have been easily remedied by the United States Soccer Federation. Simple bracketing where partnered teams were on opposite sides would have solved this whole predicament.
Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City will play each other in the fourth round of the US Open Cup on June 12th. Four Sporting Kansas City players are on loan to Orlando and have done reasonably well. Dom Dwyer, for instance, has exploded on the goal-scoring scene with 13 goals in 11 appearances.
It came out yesterday that those four loaned players were not able to play against Sporting Kansas City in the match, drawing ire from Orlando City fans and other fans across the nation. I, for one, am completely supporting this decision to not let those four players play.
For one, it's standard procedure around the world. In England if two teams meet in the FA cup and they have a loan agreement that player, or players, cannot play against the club that loaned them to the other. This is the same in other leagues around the world because it makes sense. The whole point of a loan is to get a player playing time in a different environment, whether it be stronger or weaker competition, and to make another team better in their league. It's not so that the team who received the loaned player can have an advantage over the original team. That's not how it works.
This is the same situation with Sporting and Orlando. Sporting sent Dom Dwyer, Jon Kempin, Yann Songo'o and Christian Duke to Orlando to get some playing time and get better at their craft. They didn't send them down to give Orlando an advantage in the Open Cup against themselves. It's counterproductive.
If Sporting and Major League Soccer were to allow the loaned players to play it would endanger Sporting's US Open Cup chances. Now, I'm not saying that there's some sort of conspiracy theory here of Sporting being cowardly, it's simply a case of Sporting protecting their own interests. The US Open Cup is the easiest route into the CONCACAF Champions League and Sporting KC wants to defend their title. They're not going to let anything they can control affect their path to the US Open Cup.
Both Robb Heinemann and the Orlando City president Phillip Rawlins have both acknowledged the situation and it's detriments but both have also understood that the correct decision was made. It's a bad situation and extremely detrimental to Orlando City, but the correct decision was made.
Thad Bell says let them play
Let me start by saying I agree with Ben, U.S. Soccer screwed up. Okay, he may have put it nicer by saying it could have been remedied by putting teams with affiliations on the other side of the bracket but it comes down to U.S. Soccer not thinking. Not the first time and most certainly not the last.
U.S. Soccer is not the only entity involved that screwed up, MLS did also. They should have made it very plain and very clear from the beginning but they did not think it through at the time either. I have heard that teams asked MLS to make it clear but they rushed through the agreement instead.
I understand that this is the way it works around the world but it has also been made clear from the start that it would work that way in those loan agreements. The teams said, "Go on loan, don't play the parent team." Here with single entity it was up to MLS to make that statement and they had to be pushed.
I do understand why a team would want to take every advantage to win a match and advance in the Open Cup and in this case that means hamstringing Sporting KC's affiliate in Orlando. They have come to rely on Dwyer up top and Songo'o in the back. In fact, Songo'o may even be the more important of the two for Orlando. He has settled the center back spot and helped them keep a lot of balls out of the net.
Here is where I disagree with preventing the loaned players from playing. This loan is not for players who were not good enough to play in Kansas City, it was to give guys who could fit in long term a chance to develop. Songo'o, Dwyer, Kempin and Duke have all gotten valuable experience that could benefit Sporting in the future. Let them get even more.
Dwyer, Songo'o and Kempin have flourished in USL, let's see how they do against MLS players. I know they just destroyed Colorado in Orlando but let's see what they can do against an actual MLS team (unfair dig) in Kansas City. See if they can handle the Cauldron chanting at them for ninety minutes.
If Sporting KC cannot beat Orlando with or without the loaned players, they are unlikely to advance much further anyway.
I know that Sporting KC wants to retain the Cup, ensure a spot in the next CCL and paint another accomplishment on the wall. So do I but I think they should have let them play. They should have taken the risk and reaped the reward either way. Beat a very good USL team and move on or learn a lesson and season some young players for the future.