With the news that the New York Red Bulls have signed Sacha Kljestan, LA’s lengthy and risky campaign to land the midfielder has met an end.

It’s tough to tell exactly what went wrong. On the surface, it seems like the machinations of the league got the best of Bruce Arena yet again. But that’s too simple — there are plenty of possible culprits here. Maybe the timing didn’t work out. Maybe the Red Bulls just offered more1.

Whatever the case, the Galaxy gave up Marcelo Sarvas in the process. While I wouldn’t call the offseason a failure – when you’re signing Steven Gerrard, you’re not exactly failing – it’s fair to take a hard look at this deal.

Evaluating any trade starts with an obvious question: “Well, what’d we get?” It’s easy to see the Sarvas deal as a sweet 2-for-1. LA gives up Sarvas, Colorado coughs up both an allocation spot and cash2.

But it’s not as simple as that — and I hope you, dear reader, are already way ahead of me. “Cash” isn’t some single item; it’s not some shiny pog that, while maybe featuring a niftier illustration than your last one, is still just a cardboard disc like the rest of them.

Cash is a figure. And without knowing that figure, it’s hard to know whether this was a good deal or not. But here’s a safe assumption: Colorado paid less than they had to.

In an offseason that saw two teams crewing up from scrap (NYCFC, Orlando City) and several clubs retooling (Chicago and RBNY come to mind) it wouldn’t be hard to find an F.O. willing to pay for Sarvas. Colorado probably wasn’t the highest bidder for Sarvas for one simple reason: they had the third spot in the allocation order. And the Galaxy wanted it. Bad.

How much did that allocation spot knock off the price tag for Sarvas? We’ll probably never know. But last time LA traded for a 3rd spot, they gave up Kofi Opare. It’s not worth nothing.

Of course the Galaxy have plenty of time to use that allocation spot. Of course, they could always nab someone better than Kljestan (although it’s clear that Bruce Arena rates him very highly). And in the meantime, between a healthy Todd Dunivant and the chance to bring back Edson Buddle, I see several ways to field a great lineup3.

But here’s the facts: LA traded Marcelo Sarvas, the midfielder who won them the Cup, for less than he was worth. That’s a mess. And until they clean it up – until they figure out a plan B and put that allocation spot to work – I don’t know how you call it anything else.

1. To clarify, this looks like a case where Kljestan could have his pick between the teams — by choosing to wait, he gave RBNY time to get in position to sign him.

2. In the form of allocation money, which isn’t really cash at all but rather the ability to spend cash. For LA, a club with more money than they know what to do with, it’s nearly as good — and I’m going to keep calling it cash for legibility’s sake.

3. Depending on how much you like Robbie Rogers or Gyasi Zardes in midfield.

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