MLS clubs should ignore the temptation of winter loans

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Would Manchester United entertain the idea of loaning one of their star players during the summer months?

Probably not. And yet the finest players in Major League Soccer have ventured across the Atlantic for many years during the supposed "off-season".

Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Thierry Henry have enjoyed temporary switches in recent years, allowing them to keep fit and test their waning talents against Europe's finest sides.

Dempsey example

However, Clint Dempsey offers an example that should make officials at MLS outfits a little wary.

The 31-year-old had struggled on his return to the United States in 2013, but joined Fulham for a two-month spell in the New Year. Though he had little impact at his former club, Dempsey and Seattle Sounders FC took the Western Conference by storm.

Sigi Schmid's men led the Supporters' Shield standings almost from the off, but soon had to contend with the departure of their star man to the World Cup. While there was no immediate dip in form, when the Team USA captain came back into the fold, he was clearly flagging.

Exhausted from a hectic schedule, Dempsey managed only a single goal in his first six appearances, having netted seven in seven prior to travelling to Brazil. These trials were matched by those of his team, who stuttered with just two wins in seven matches.

Though both the player and the Rave Green have since responded and once again taken pole position, any relapse of exhaustion could prove devastating in the run-in.

Besler form

And Dempsey's not alone. International teammate Matt Besler is arguably the finest defender in the MLS, and has had a superb campaign, but his performance against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night was lacking his usual calm.

The Sporting Kansas City centre-back was fortunate not to be dismissed as he conceded a penalty in the ninth minute, and several other errors included an horrific challenge on Roy Miller. Though his season may not have started until March, Besler is tiring, and the Wizards have lost four in a row.

Therefore, the suggestion that these stars should now venture to Europe and keep playing rather than accept some well-earned rest is nothing short of bizarre.

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Risk of burn out

Another problem is with the high-profile signings made in the second half of the year. Jermain Defoe started with Tottenham Hotspur last August, and has continued through until now, with only injuries offering any respite.

These situations are unavoidable for new franchises though, with David Villa, Frank Lampard and Kaka requiring match action. By the end of 2015, these players will have suffered 18 months of uninterrupted action, and they run a huge risk of burning out.

While the MLS doesn't have to run alongside the European calender, its clubs must stop pandering to the needs of Everton, Arsenal and Fulham. The plan is for this division to join the world's elite, but that can't happen if its key assets are damaged by annual transatlantic jaunts.

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Clint Dempsey

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