With most MLS players looking for a new contract these days you usually get just a few different comments or thoughts (if even that) before they are left unsigned and forgotten. Even here at SB Nation you see features like "Marry, Boff, Kill" over at Hot Time in Old Town or "Cake or Death" at Black and Red United.
What those features highlight is the cruel simplicity by which most evaluate players.
But for some reason a conversation about Danny O'Rourke returning for another year can range from; "he sucks" to "did you see Danny in Capital Style magazine"... all the way to what the Columbus Crew are all about.
Why is that? We don't know but we've pinned down a few folks here at Massive Report to answer a simple question that, of course, turned into a much larger discussion.
SHOULD THE CREW BRING DANNY O'ROURKE BACK?
SAM FAHMI : Photographer, Producer of Massive Report Podcast
It's like shuffling baseball players around when they get old. I can see Danny staying at league minimum as a flexible bench player. His legs can't do 90+ minutes anymore, but his experience would be valuable in mentoring the younger players or as a future coach. His role with this team would not require nearly as much effort because he is not going to be asked to do a ton. Be on the bench, play a half or so, practice and mentor players.
Bring Danny Back? I'm honestly OK either way. I like Danny as a player and as a leader on and off the field. I think it's more of what Danny's off the field plans are. William knew exactly what he wanted to do after soccer. Eddie did too. Where does Danny fall into this? does he feel that he can, REALISTICALLY, perform and stay healthy for an entire season? I know, that our concentration is supposed to be on the field, but the aspect of MLS that is not in most other leagues IS that relationship/personal intimacy between players and fans.
CHRIS LAMACCHIA : HSH, Writer, Co-host of Massive Report Podcast
I think it's a matter of ego, as much as that sucks. Is Danny willing to take a significant pay cut just to stay in his hometown and help a young teams gain maturity, while not playing much (if at all) and beating his body up even more? Or is he going to follow so many others and chase the money for one more year? If some other GM is willing to pay him, that is. Columbus - at a pay cut - may be Danny's only option if he wants to stay on a roster.
To me the real question is what is the number that would convince Danny to hang up the cleats and become a coach? Same basic role, but without running around a practice field with a bunch of twenty-somethings 5 days a week. Would he coach for $75k if he can't play for $175k?
PAT MURPHY : Contributor, Massive Report also TheOzone.net and Cavaliers 101
(...excerpt from a great piece Pat did about a month ago here for Massive Report)
In my many interactions with him, O'Rourke was always polite and happy to talk. Whether it was in an interview or a social situation, O'Rourke was just a normal guy who happened to play soccer for a living.
It is the nature of the sports world that players come and go. At 30-years old, O'Rourke's professional career need not be over.
The Crew may be looking to bring him back, albeit at a lower salary and he is eligible for the league's Re-Entry draft in December. I'm sure Crew fans would love to see him land on his feet elsewhere and MLS in order to finish out his career, albeit slightly saddened that it is not in Columbus.
O'Rourke's stats won't make him one of the most talked about players in Crew history, but he is a one who likely won't be forgotten.
JUSTIN BELL : (Massive City FFC) Artist, Designer, contributor to MR podcast
Bring Danny O'Rourke back? For me, it's complicated. If the decision hasn't already been made in the offices at 1 Black & Gold Boulevard, then it's certainly on its way. There have been big decisions made already, and there's no doubt that there's an intriguing plan in place that Gregg Berhalter & Anthony Precourt are implementing.
Re-signing Dominic Oduro was the right thing to do.
Trading Chad Marshall was the right thing to do.
Trading Andy Gruenebaum was the right thing to do (since the previous regime really didn't leave any other choice).
Signing Steve Clark was the right thing to do.
Re-signing Jairo Arrieta was the right thing to do.
Entering into a partnership with the Eddie Gaven destroying horrible evil Dayton Dutch Lions was the right thing to do. Even I can admit that.
Trading for Daniel Paladini...okay, sure, yeah that was the right thing to do, why not.
And now Danny O. He earned $175k in 2013. 2014 will be his 10th season in MLS, seven of which have been with Columbus. He is a defensive midfielder/central back. He will turn 31 this May. He is a Columbus native. He has contributed to 3 of the Columbus Crew's 5 major trophies. He was starting center back on the team that won MLS Cup in 2008, five years ago. It's arguable that 2008-09 were his best seasons.
O'Rourke today is not in his playing prime. One could say that, even at his best, he wasn't a terribly electrifying player. He has been at times a liability as a defender against faster, more talented offensive players; and, now and then, he compounds mistakes with lapses of judgment. In past years he has let his fiery, fighting attitude get the better of him. However, like so many of us, his flaws are also his attributes. His fighting, never-give-in style has fueled him and defined his contribution to the Columbus Crew. It remains one of the reasons why fans of the Columbus Crew are so attracted to him.
Now we have a player who is out of contract and, clearly, the new managers of the Columbus Crew do not see him in their plans; at least, not on the pitch. So, re-signing O'Rourke at $175k is certainly not going to happen. The question is this: What is a player worth to an MLS team if his primary responsibility is not to play on the field? Anything? Is being, more or less, a veteran presence off the field and a symbol of continuity between eras worth a salary? O'Rourke would be the last man standing from a 2008 MLS Cup team that was slowly, painfully wasted by a program directed by Warzycha, Bliss, and McCullers. Now, only one of them remains. Is it worth having a reminder of those halcyon days that's a living, breathing, thinking, speaking, leading, rostered player, and not just a silent banner on the stadium, or a overwrought marketing term, or a brand ambassador?
Those are tough questions. They are especially tough for a league that doesn't properly value its veterans. Or, maybe, they're easier questions to answer than I'd like to think they are. Maybe they are answers entirely decided based on numbers. Danny O'Rourke turned in some terrific performances in 2013. His play against Thierry Henry and New York Red Bulls stood out as some of his best in the last three seasons. I think he can still play this game professionally, but it seems that Columbus Crew and MLS won't be where he does it. My hope is that if he is offered a contract to play in Black & Gold one more year, then let it be a fair one that considers the work he's done, not just what the market and the numbers demand in 2014.
Maybe this really is just a business, and that is all that this is. Players, coaches, owners, and even fans often challenge each other with the question "Do you bleed for the crest?" Maybe it's a stock phrase for some; something said because there were once people who said it and meant it, and we carry it forward because we want to believe there's still some value in working hard and being treated fairly when your work is done. Whatever it is, the fact is that the only ones who actually do bleed for the crest as part of their livelihood are the ones left with real scars as the business rolls by, propelled onward by their workers' efforts. Dismiss it as fan sentimentality or nostalgia if you wish; but, in the end, who's there to pick them up if not the fans? Hopefully, we keep that sense of duty and not be rolled up into the business.
Recent Crew history tells us that Danny O'Rourke is unlikely to be back for another year. This may be the last conversation on this player... A player that has won every major soccer trophy in the United States starting in his days in high school, through college and at the top pro level in this country. It's difficult to name another.
It should be noted that without O'Rourke re-signing with Columbus, the Crew don't have any players left on the team with playoff minutes for the team besides Tony Tchani's infamous 90 minutes in 2011. Dominic Oduro has a little over 300 minutes in playoff action (for Houston and Chicago, no goals, no assists), and Daniel Paladini just another 15 (for Chicago). That's it.
Bring Danny Back?
As long as he's able to walk.