The Philadelphia Union won their sixth-straight home game on Sunday night, vaulting to second place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference while carrying the entire league’s second-best points-per-game number.
They won without starting defensive midfielder Jose “El Brujo” Martinez, who was on international duty with Venezuela, but didn’t actually play for his country while away from the team.
For background, the Union originally did not want Martinez to join Venezuela, a team playing two World Cup qualifying games in South America. However, after announcing that Brujo would stay in Philadelphia, FIFA sent a letter to the Union threatening disciplinary action if they did not release him for national team duty.
Martinez didn’t actually play in either game for Venezuela, who lost 3-0 in Colombia and 1-0 at home to Paraguay. He was not even on the bench in the first game, but did make the bench in the second. He’s 26 years old and has yet to appear for his country.
So that’s the first annoying factor in this story, the fact that Brujo didn’t even play while being absent from the Union.
The second annoyance is that he has to quarantine upon his return to the United States, which means he’s not eligible to play the next three MLS games and will have to sit out until October 28th, when the Union play in Chicago.
To sum it up, the Union were forced by FIFA to release a player they didn’t want to release, which resulted in him missing five MLS games and not even appearing for his country during the same time frame.
This is just how it goes sometimes with soccer. Playing for your country is seen as an honor and a privilege, and clubs understand that sometimes they will lose talented players because of this. The problem with MLS is that the FIFA international windows don’t match the league schedule, which plays Winter to Fall, and as such, club games conflict with international games. This is not the case in Europe, where the Premier League, for example, will pause while players leave to go perform for their countries.
The only real positive the Union gained is some goodwill among player, club, and agent, I think… Depends on whether there’s any resentment about how the situation unfolded. And even if Martinez didn’t play for Venezuela, he got his first national team experience, which in his case means training sessions with high caliber players like Tomas Rincon, Roberto Rosales, and Darwin Machis. It’s also a boon for the Union to have players called into national teams, because then prospective foreign signings might look at the situation and say, “hey, I can play in Philadelphia and get enough exposure to play for my country.”
Anyway, here’s your game-winner from Sunday night:
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) October 12, 2020