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Blog: Overpaid and underpaid in MLS

The MLS Players Association released its updated list of salaries on Tuesday.

With one game remaining in the regular season, it seems like a good time to dive into the dollars and give my opinion on which players are being paid too much this season, and which aren’t being paid nearly enough.

These lists are based solely upon this year’s individual performances and their team’s result. It doesn’t include consideration for past performances and team results.

» MLS Power Poll: Week 33 changes 

It also recognizes that in some cases the salaries were agreed upon years ago and you can’t predict how a player is going to perform at that time. So, someone that I think is overpaid this year could have been paid exactly what he deserved last year or years past.

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These lists are weighed much more to the Eastern Conference, because I cover Atlanta United and its opponents on this side of the continent are the ones I’m most familiar with and comfortable giving an opinion about.

PAID TOO MUCH

Goalkeeper Tim Howard, Colorado, $2.475 million. 

Team has allowed 62 goals and Howard was in the net for 32 of the 33 games. 

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Centerback Jorgen Skjelvik, L.A. Galaxy, $1 million. 

61 goals allowed on a team that needs a lot of luck to qualify for the playoffs.

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Centerback Michael Mancienne, New England, $1.37 million. 

The league’s highest-paid defender. Nine starts. Didn’t show much energy or desire. Team didn’t make the playoffs. Team allowed 55 goals.

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Centerback Lamine Sane, Orlando City, $855,000. 

Someone from the worst defense in league history had to make this list and Sane is the highest paid defender on Orlando so he’s my choice. Sixteen appearances on a defense that has allowed 73 goals.

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Midfielder Sacha Kljestan, Orlando City, $1.1 million.

Six goals and six assists aren’t bad for the 33-year-old. He’s on the list more because his team was simply so bad and it didn’t appear that, as a leader, he was capable of pulling them out of their myriad funks (one win since July). Maybe it’s on his teammates for not listening, or maybe it’s on him for his style of leadership. Either way, it seems like he didn’t do enough for the salary.

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Midfielder Michael Bradley, Toronto, $6.5 million.

Oh my. That salary for a player that doesn’t score (0 goals), rarely assists (4), rarely tackles, rarely creates chances and whose legs look shot. Credit to him for answering the bell every time he was asked this season and playing whatever position asked. That is truly admirable. Having said that, I’ve long wondered what Bradley brings for the salary. I’ve often been shouted down. I know he’s not supposed to be a goal-scorer. I know that he’s not supposed to have a lot of assists (except those who say I’m wrong point out that he’s a great passer.. and I point out he’s in a league that loves the secondary assist). I also know that he’s betting paid a lot of money to be what is described as a good organizer. I think that can be found for a lot less money elsewhere. Oh, and his team didn’t make the playoffs. Again, I know the team won the treble last year. I know it won the Canadian Championship this week, which until the team improve doesn’t seem like that great of an accomplishment. This list is only for what’s happening this season.

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Midfielder Gio dos Santos, L.A. Galaxy, $6 million.

dos Santos has long been a player without an easily identifiable position and that has continued this season at L.A.  He has just three goals and two assists in 13 appearances. Injuries have hurt. His team needs some luck to make it to the playoffs. This is a salary and signing that simply hasn’t worked yet.

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Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, Chicago, $6.1 million.

This one is tricky because without Schweinsteiger Chicago may have been the worst team in MLS. Still, for $6 million, you expect to at least challenge for a playoff spot and more than four goals and six assists. I know that his worth can’t be measured by the simpler stats, but $6.1 million makes him the league’s fourth-highest paid player on one of its worst teams.

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Midfielder Fanendo Adi, Portland but now Cincinnati, $1.93 million.

The 28-year-old asked to leave Portland and they obliged. He scored three goals with two assists in 14 appearances. That’s not that bad of a return, until you look at the salary.

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Striker Yusi Movsisyan, Real Salt Lake but now Chicago, $2.07 million.

The 31-year-old was unwanted by Real Salt Lake and eventually was picked up by Chicago. No goals in three appearances this season. Ugh.

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Striker Shkelzen Gashi, Colorado, $1.67 million.

The 30-year-old has two goals and two assists in 20 appearances and just eight starts. He tried to lead a line that is by far the worst offense in MLS this season with just 34 goals. That’s almost nine fewer than the next worst.

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NEED TO GET PAID

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen Columbus, $145,000.

On a team that simply doesn’t score often, Steffen faces the burden every game of making sure the other team doesn’t score to at least give his team a chance at a draw. That’s a lot of pressure. He hasn’t been as good as he was last year, but for the price as the 21st-highest paid goalkeeper he’s a bargain.

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Centerback Auston Trusty, Philadelphia, $109,100.

The 20-year-old has started every game and will surpass 3,000 minutes. He’s big, physical and a decent passer out of the back.

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Centerback Mark McKenzie, Philadelphia, $64,500.

The 19-year-old formed a solid partnership with Trusty as two homegrown players in the center of the defense. Philadelphia’s defense got better, its offense finally found its groove, making the team very dangerous in the playoffs.

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Centerback Michael Parkhurst, Atlanta United, $340,008.

That Parkhurst hasn’t been invited to a U.S. men’s national team camp in years is an indictment of the national team’s management. He reads the game better than any centerback in MLS and is a reason why the defense (40 goals allowed) is among the best in the league.

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Midfielder Russel Canouse, D.C. United, $247,500.

Canouse has emerged as one of the better defensive midfielders in MLS and a frequent callout as a future callup to the U.S. men’s national team.

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Midfielder Luciano Acosta, D.C. United, $652,000.

He was a good player stuck on a bad team until Wayne Rooney arrived. Suddenly, Acosta became unstoppable as a dribbler, passer and shooter. He has 10 goals and a whopping 17 assists.

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Midfielder Tyler Adams, New York Red Bulls, $146,041.

A destroyer in midfield that has pitched in with seven assists. The Red Bulls wouldn’t be challenging Atlanta United for the Supporters’ Shield without him in the middle of the pitch.

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Midfielder Julian Gressel, Atlanta United, $111,250.

Four goals. Fourteen assists. An ability to play as many as six different positions.

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Striker Wayne Rooney, D.C. United, $2.8 million.

He joined a team that was dead last in the East. The signing was as panned as it was praised. Twelve goals and seven assists in 19 games later, D.C. United is in the playoffs. Its new stadium stays mostly packed. Not a bad investment for the team.

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Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, L.A. Galaxy, $1.5 million.

That the Galaxy even have a chance to make the playoffs is entirely because of the Lion, who has 22 goals and 10 assists in 26 appearances. Unreal.

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Striker Josef Martinez, Atlanta United, $1.38 million.

A league record 30 goals. 30. With one game remaining. As a team, Columbus has scored 40.

About the Author

Doug Roberson covers the Atlanta United and Major League Soccer.

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