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D.C. United’s Rochat rips trade experience as ‘terrible,’ not ‘human’

Rochat (Getty)


ARLINGTON, VA. — For the past four days, soccer has been the last thing on Alain Rochat’s mind.

Change the cellphone plan. Sell the home. Explain to his pregnant wife he’s moving 3,000 miles away. Set up residency in a new country. The list goes on.

It’s a situation the 30-year-old Swiss international never could have fathomed throughout his decade on the European soccer circuit. But as he’s learned following his trade from the Vancouver Whitecaps to D.C. United, it’s the harsh reality of North American sports.

“If you ask my opinion, I’d say it’s terrible,” Rochat said Monday after his first training session with United. “This trade thing could be OK in the offseason. You can sit down and talk to the guys. ‘OK, it will be better for you to be traded.’ You know, like something human instead of, ‘OK, we don’t need you anymore.'”

Acquired for a second-round selection in the 2015 SuperDraft and a conditional pick in 2016, the defender-midfielder was deemed expendable by the Whitecaps, who appear set with Jordan Harvey at left back and the duo of Jun Marques Davidson and Nigel Reo-Coker in holding midfield.

While this would probably mean an offseason transfer in Europe, in MLS it set the stage for a trade that blindsided Rochat, even if he had sensed the possibility of change looming over the Vancouver roster.

“Even before being traded,” Rochat said, “I’ve seen guys struggling in the locker room because of thinking too much of, ‘If I don’t play too many minutes, I can be traded the next day.'”

It’s a concept Rochat came to fully understand last July. During a road trip to face the Chicago Fire, his roommate Sebastien Le Toux stepped into the hotel hallway a Whitecaps player, then returned moments later as a New York Red Bull.

“I didn’t understand what that meant,” Rochat recalled. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to New York.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but when?’ ‘I’m leaving, my flight is at 5 p.m.’

“The guy Dane Richards came from New York in my room to play against Chicago the day after. I was like, ‘OK, now we’re teammates? What’s your name again?’ That’s weird. You can’t really build a chemistry by doing those trades.”

But that is the challenge now faced by Rochat, whose paperwork has been cleared, deeming him eligible to make his MLS debut for United against Toronto FC on Saturday.

With the swap, Rochat also experiences a considerable drop in the standings, from the 4-5-4 Whitecaps to a 1-10-3 United side that hasn’t won since March 9.

“We’ll see how he deals with the transition,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “He helps us out offensively and defensively, been around a lot, brings us some experience, and his versatility will help us as well.”

Whether he’s playing left back, defensive midfield or even centerback (the three positions Olsen listed), the veteran with UEFA Champions League experience on his resume is simply looking forward to getting his focus back on the field.

“I guess if they call me, they need me to help them,” Rochat said. “I’m ready — I want to play. I just want to go looking forward and having pleasure playing soccer.”

NOTES: Forward Carlos Ruiz did not travel back to Washington after United’s 0-0 draw at New England on Saturday. He will miss this Saturday’s game after coming out of international retirement for Guatemala’s friendly against Argentina on Friday. … Defender Dejan Jakovic (groin) and forward Lionard Pajoy (hip flexor) participated in full training Monday and appear ready for Wednesday’s match. … Olsen said captain Dwayne De Rosario’s benching at New England was a combination of “managing minutes” and “trying new things” as United play three games in eight days.


  1. Not sure it’s significantly different than these player who are loaned from team to team. I guess they tend to be young so are less likely to have pregnant wives and kids in school.

  2. While I do empathize with him, he did sign a contract. If he didn’t want to be traded he should have put a “no-trade” clause into his contract. If players want to have more say in trade arrangements in the American sports scene they need to unite and strengthen their respective player unions.

    • And yes, I did mean “empathize” and “sympathize”. I’ve been there done that in minor league baseball.

  3. I’m just not sure how he can sign a contract with the league and not understand the ramifications and possibilities that go along with it.

  4. I hear what he is saying, but the US is a transistion economy and it isn’t just sports.
    My company canned me when I didn’t move. I guess you have that option too Alain. Good luck.

    Welcome to the US where we kick Europe’s butt, maybe not in a way that is human, that is for you to decide. Soccer will be there too….England didn’t finish first in their WCup group last year, we did. USA-USA-USA !

    • Speaking of the Swiss, how about N’Kufo, the Sounders cut him as I was driving to the stadium for opening day…and I live about 15 minutes away.

      No one wanted him, so he was done. Now that was boarderline not human.

  5. Alain – thank you for your contribution to Vancouver Whitecaps FC. You have been admired and respected by the vast majority of the fans. You should never have been traded away – that was a terrible football decision. DC United is fortunate to have your services, and the fans there will be pleased to have a starting left-back.

  6. I think the big difference between trades and loans/transfers is that usually (it seems), the latter are done with at least some input from the player, whereas trades are done solely on the front office level. Rochat sounds blindsided more than anything else (and he didn’t come across as bitter about going to DCU as a team), and it’s hard to blame him. Relocating for your job is a big transition regardless of your field.

  7. Trades work in other sports because those players make millions. Can’t ask a guy making 5 figures toove all of a sudden.

    • Rochat is making six figures. $190,000/year to be exact. He can easily afford to move and should happily do so considering he’s being paid handsomely to play a child’s game for entertainment purposes only.

    • Then be told “pack your bags, sell your house, and go get your pregnant wife NOW, because you are leaving tomorrow”? Probably yes, he would take some bench time for a few months before such an IMMEDIATE life-disrupting, family-disrupting move. Most people would. Soccer player have lives just like the rest of us, you know.

    • That’s a false choice.

      If Vancouver didn’t want him, why couldn’t they just let him go? Then, he could go out and work out his own deal with whichever team he chose (assuming hey wanted him).

  8. MLS does still have that secretive “undisclosed” way of doing things which makes the League unappealing to some. We don’t even know what players are sold for half the time and there is no real free agency like in most natural professional leagues, not just soccer.

  9. This is something that absolutely needs to change. It’s what I hate the most about American sports–athletes are cattle.

    • They signed up for it and make better money than most of the population, they can wipe their tears with the millions they make. Playing sports is whatever, not a real job just entertaining. Doctors, Police, are real jobs and make far less money.

      • You’re right inasmuch as they do sign a contract, but come on, they’re still human. Imagine having a mortgage, a family, a routine – all the things that make life life – and then, spur of the moment, finding out you’re to move 3,000 miles away. It’s crazy. And the “wipe their tears with millions” bit is apropos of every sport in America EXCEPT soccer.

      • Millions of young men and women who don’t play pro sports face the same issue. And on top of that, many of them get shot at. Of course, I’m talking about the military.

        Also, lots of companies transfer workers and executives around on a regular basis.

      • You can train someone to be a soldier. It takes more than training to become a professional athlete.

        Your metaphor was exceptionally poor, in definition and taste both.

      • i think our Guest is right because signing a contract should mean that a responsible adult knows what he’s getting into (including the possibility of a future trade) and therefore, doesn’t really have room to complain.

        sounds like either rochat didn’t take the time to learn about the league before he signed, or he didn’t think it would ever come to that.

        um…welcome to dc, alain! hope you make us less horrible!

      • Of course, trades in N. American sports have been around far longer than players making millions.

        I’m sure it sucks if you aren’t used to that aspect, but for us, it’s just part of the scenery.

      • Sports aren’t a real job?

        That’s funny. They get paid for it. Do you have any flipping clue how difficult and demanding it is to be a professional athlete? The physical tolls and dedication it takes to maintain world class athleticism? The 10s of thousands of hours of practice. You think they just magically learn to play that way? You think they just go home and show up at the stadium?

        That kind of argument is the nonsense I hear from kids who weren’t picked for the team.

        Not a “real job.” GIve me a break.

      • People think pro athletes have it all. Try traveling constantly, working 7 days a week, only being able to make money for 10 years, and then if you get into coaching, having terrible job security and perhaps having to work your way up through jobs in the middle of nowhere that you don’t want to be in. Fun.

      • All the while making more money than the rest of us 99%ers. Cry me a river. I would love to train everyday and play pro ball instead of doing the daily grind for a fraction of the price

      • +1 This guy didn’t even graduate high school and yet he’s making $190,000/year. If he thinks that’s “not human” he can get himself a real job with the real people out here who sacrificed hours of their time to get a real education and have to deal with real problems on a day to day basis.

        Maybe he can try selling Hyundais for $30,000/year. Steve Ralston could probably put in a good word for him at the dealership.

      • This may be true for NBA or NFL, but in the MLS there’s a bunch of guys making around 35K per year, which way below an average salary in a major metropolitan area.

      • Millions, huh? You realize that Rochat is one of hte higher-paid MLS players at $190,000? That minimum wage in MLS is $46,000, unless you’re young enough that the league can pay you even less. Seaton for DCU makes less $38,000.

        Still think it’s OK that a team can just up and tell you that you will have to move — not just that they’re letting you go to seek employment elsewhere, but that you have to move to this one city/team they just traded you to?

        Teams ought to be able to cut you and also buy contracts from other teams, but why should they be able to force you to go a particular team?

      • baseball and basketball players all make multi-million dollar salaries. The min salary in baseball is like 500k

        but in soccer the players are on a much lower wage. Most MLS players make less than 100k.

        I wish MLS would stop trying to be like the NFL,MLB and other American sports and start acting like a proper soccer league.

      • Actually, yes. Only in America.

        No other first world nation has anything remotely similar. In Europe the player has to agree to a switch. They control their rights.

        Nice snark though, you really showed me.

      • Ehhhh I’m pretty certain that Australia and Canada both do contracts and trades the same way. And I think Russian Hockey.

        Maybe take your foot a little off the Hyperbole Pedal.

      • This is the same guy who basically condemned all of American Outlaws as racists based on a few innocuous posts on a blog.

    • had always assumed (based on his name) that Alain Rochat was french. Glad to find out that the Swiss whine about as much as we do …

  10. So in UEFA leagues does the player always get to agree to a transfer? And if they dont im sure a buy out or releasing could happen but he certainly has a point..

    • In other leagues the players contracts don’t transfer over so they always have to agree terms before a move can take place. It isn’t as sudden as it happens in American sports.

    • You play for the ‘MLS team’ not DCU or Van or NYRB… you can move cities anytime in MLS because contracts are with the league and you are still playing for league. In Europe and the whole rest of the world you actually play for a club (one club). You must agree to the transfer because it breaks your current contract and you can only move during transfer windows.

      • This is not just limited to MLS. Pretty much all American sports are this way. The contract isn’t with the league in the other sports like it is in MLS, but the contracts transfer. It’s fairly common to work out a favorable extension to a contract as part of a trade. At least for the top star players, as teams don’t want to give up a large amount of capital (draft picks or players) for a player who is only contractually obligated for say, another year.

        In other leagues, the longer you are in the league, you gain more rights. Or, the better you are, the more leverage you have to get the “no trade clause” written into your contract, so that you don’t get uprooted without some say.

      • Actually, that’s not why it is so. In other North American leagues, teams own the contracts, but trades are possible. It’s all about what’s included in the contract. Some contracts, here, even in MLS, have no-trade contracts. Otherwise, the trades are permitted under league rules which are incorporated in individual deals and the union agreement.

    • In MLS you’re contracted to the league, not to the individual teams. It’s a centralized system and one that has always hit a barrier when the player’s union debate.

      • If only our healthcare could be centralized under a single payer system. I don’t understand how in sports, the US follows several socialist ideas, but when it comes to more important things we are more capitalist/free market.

      • Get back to work, you have more important things to be doing right now. There’s at least six or seven scandals you haven’t sufficiently blamed on your predecessor yet. Besides, this story isn’t even about West Ham, your club (unless you want to talk them into sending over a few players to help out DC, in which case, carry on).

      • Again, that’s not why trades are possible. They could and would be allowed under league rules regardless of who owned the contract. The union does agree to this set-up, so that contracts necessarily allow for trades unless a player negotiates otherwise.

        THe reason it’s agreed to is that teams are presumed to be willing to pay more if they know they can sell or trade a player — and that they would pay less, if that option wasn’t out there.

    • It may be a part of American sports, and you may love it, but then again you’re not a professional athlete being forced to move to another team and another city because your team says so.

      • But then again he’s not getting paid to kick a ball around. Kind of an odd statement from someone who was fine with moving to Canada from Switzerland

      • Guess he didn’t do his homework before coming to the US.

        Are there any other leagues in the world (soccer leagues) that do trades?

        Funny, until now I always thought the “sale” of players sounded like slavery. But this makes some good points in the other direction.

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