By Brad Snook
Yesterday, the Major League Soccer Players Union released their annual list of player salaries for the 2012 season. Most of the attention gets drawn to those players who make the most money, whether it’s deserved or not (here’s looking at you Rafa Marquez and most the Toronto FC roster).
However, I was drawn towards the opposite end of the spectrum; players who are undervalued and underpaid for their level of production for their teams. Like a compulsive crazy coupon lady, I decided to put together a team of the hidden gems of the MLS salary cap.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s a take a look at the 2012 MLS “All-Bargain Team”!
*Numbers based on 2012 Guaranteed Compensation amount
Ryan Meara - NYRB ($33,750)
There are 62 goalkeepers listed on the MLSPU list, not one of them makes less than Ryan Meara. He makes the league minimum, putting him at the same valuation as keepers such as Brian Sylvestre (VAN), Quillian Roberts (TOR), and league pool keepers Brian Rowe and Steve Spangler. For that money, Meara should probably look into part-time work as a sandwich artist in order to pay the bills. Ryan Meara captains the MLS Reserves Bargain Bin All Stars.
Daniel Woolard - D.C. United ($56,250)
Has there ever been a player more underrated in MLS history than Daniel Woolard? From his Copa Mundials to his no-frills style of play, Woolard is about as interesting as celery. Yet since coming to DC, he has quietly established himself as one of the top left backs in the league. He has even proven to be serviceable in a pinch this season as a center back.
Rauwshan McKenzie - Chivas USA ($44,000) & George John - FC Dallas ($47,250)
Center back is the thinnest position on the roster, yet teams could do much worse than pairing John and McKenzie on the back line. McKenzie is having a breakout year for Chivas USA, starting all 11 of the games he has played for the Goats this season. George John flirted with a move to West Ham in the offseason before returning to FC Dallas. His size and ability level are sure to have larger clubs calling if he produces to his potential.
Steven Beitashour - San Jose ($44,100)
Having already registered 5 assists already this season, Beitashour is having a career year for San Jose. His emergence on the right flank is a major reason the Earthquakes sit atop the MLS standings a third of the way through the season.
Jaime Castrillon - Colorado ($68,375)
Colombians have been pouring over the borders to play in the MLS, and this one has been well worth the signing price for the Rapids. He has registered three goals and an assist to date this year in Colorado. For the Bargain Bin All Starts, Castrillon mans the attacking midfielder role, with Juninho sitting in behind.
Kamani Hill - Colorado ($44,004)
Nick DeLeon - DCU ($79,000)
As the second highest player on the MLSRBBAS, DeLeon proved doubters wrong with his dynamic play on the left wing for D.C. United. The rookie has already recorded 3 gorals and 3 assists before being sidelined with an injury. He’ll be anxious to get back on the field; hair volumizer isn’t cheap after all.
Juninho - LA Galaxy ($65,625)
Seriously though, how does Juninho only make $65,000? Until I hear otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and assume this is a misprint, and he’s actually making $165,000. That must be it. Bruce Arena must have incriminating photos, and is threatening to release them unless Juninho plays for this salary.
Lee Nguyen - New England ($50,500)
Nguyen locks down the right wing, and does so on the cheap for New England. I was shocked to see Nguyen, who is something of a demigod in Vietnam, available for so cheap. If only he could play against Vancouver ever game...
CJ Sapong - Sporting KC ($82,000)
Last season’s MLS Rookie of the Year is the highest paid member of the MLSRBBAS. In a little over one season, Sapong has cemented himself in the daunted Sporting KC attack. However, his $82,000 a year salary means he still earns less than players like Andrew Wiedeman (FC Dallas), Cam Weaver (Houston), and a 17-year old Jack McBean (LA Galaxy).
David Estrada - Seattle ($44,000)
Estrada is used to being undervalued throughout his soccer-playing career. The California native walked on at UCLA, and was later named the Freshman Player of the Year by Soccer America. He has netted four goals on the season, and his hat trick against Toronto FC earned him MLS Player of the week honors earlier this season.
The MLS Reserves Bargain Bin All Stars Starting Lineup
Beitashour John McKenzie Woolard
Subs: Andy Gruenebaum (Columbus - $78,666.67); Seth Sinovic (Sporting KC - $66,750); Kosuke Kimura (Colorado - $71,466); Sebastian Grazzini (Chicago - $50,400); Rafael Baca (San Jose - $44,000); Kamani Hill (Colorado - $44,004); Sammy Ochoa (Seattle - $57,500)
Starters = $614,850
Total = $1,027,063.33
This entire roster, starters and subs included, makes less than Portland’s DP Kris Boyd. The MLS salary cap this season is $2.81 million, meaning the Bargain Bin All Stars would take up just 36.5 percent of the salary cap. With more than $1.7 million to spend, there is more than enough money to spend on a DP or two. That, or they could just spend all the money on Julian de Guzman and cry tears of sadness like the fans in Toronto.
What are your thoughts on the team? Where do you think it would finish in MLS play?