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A critical look at MLS players' salaries

Rafael Baca
SJ Earthquakes midfielder Rafael Baca is one of the best values on any MLS roster this year.
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Ives Galarcep

Ives Galarcep is a 14-year veteran of the American soccer beat. He created and operates the popular American soccer blog, Soccer By Ives, which was voted Best American Soccer Blog by US Soccer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Ives was also voted Best Football Writer by SoccerLens in 2010. 


The release of the 2012 MLS salaries on Friday certainly had fans around the league buzzing as they considered the bargains and rip-offs on the list.

Those figures should make this weekend’s loaded slate of games particularly interesting, as salaries begin to dangle over the heads of every player on display. Whether it is the underpaid but over-performing rookies, or the severely over-paid but underwhelming international signings, we have a much clearer sense of which teams are managing their money better than others.


See all the action from week twelve of MLS.


It should be noted that we are just one third of the way through the season. That’s plenty of time for a player struggling badly or languishing on the bench to emerge as a force, or a fast start to fade into a distant memory.

Take the New York Red Bulls, the lone team not in action this weekend. They are riding a six-match unbeaten streak thanks to the strong play from bargains Ryan Meara ($33,750), Brandon Barklage ($45,566) and Connor Lade ($33,750).

With the 2012 MLS salaries in mind, here is a look at what each team is carrying into action during this weekend’s matches:


This MLS Cup Final rematch lacks the sizzle some would have expected when the year began, with the Galaxy enduring a putrid season so far and Houston battling through a long road trip to start the year.

The Galaxy are a case study in wasted salary. They can’t be blamed for the injury to Omar Gonzalez ($257,000), who won’t play until the fall, but LA is certainly responsible for some other head-scratching contracts. Chad Barrett ($253,333) has yet to score a goal this year, while Edson Buddle ($225,000) has just one goal.

You won’t find many bargains on the Galaxy roster. Juninho ($65,625) would be a steal at that price if he were playing like his 2011 form, but so far this season he has been very inconsistent.

The Dynamo are better than most at getting bang for the collective buck. They have no Designated Players on their cap and their highest paid players, Brad Davis ($308,062) and Geoff Cameron ($255,000), are their best players. Still, there are overpaid players in the mix: Macoumba Kandji ($162,988) and Kofi Sarkodie ($135,500).

Top 10 MLS salaries


Curious who the highest-paid players in MLS are? Check them out here.


Sporting KC is on a four-match winless streak after opening the season 7-0. They face the top team in the league right now, a San Jose side that has surged to number one in the West on the strength of Alan Gordon’s late-game goal-scoring heroics.

Sporting KC has done well to sign their top young talent to long-term deals, so their best players are all making solid money. Some of their roster values are standout Matt Besler ($103,001) and Seth Sinovic ($66,750). Aside from back-up midfielder Paulo Nagamura ($255,500), there isn’t much waste on the roster.

There may be no team with more outright steals than San Jose. Rafael Baca, Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow have all be instrumental in the Earthquakes great start to the season and they each make about $44,100.


The Timbers are starting to wake up, but they face Cascadia rival Vancouver, who are looking to make up for losing in the Canadian Championship Final.

On the salary front, the Timbers’ Eric Alexander ($56,925) and promising centerback Hanyer Mosquera ($97,500) are decent catches. Portland’s biggest disappointment is Colombian midfielder Diego Chara ($193,750), who has no goals or assists this season.

For the Whitecaps, there aren’t many bargains, though Matt Watson ($68,501) has provided some good minutes. John Thorrington ($170,000) has struggled to be a consistent force due to injuries.


Red-hot D.C. United will try to move into first place in the East with a win against an improving New England side as key players return from injury. Ben Olsen has some tough lineup decisions to make, along with trying to slow down streaking Revs striker Saer Sene.

D.C. United has enjoyed one of the better defensive bargains of the season in Daniel Woolard ($56,250), though Brandon McDonald ($258,250) remains overpriced even as a regular starter.

New England has very good values in A.J. Soares ($116,450) and Lee Nguyen ($50,500), but Revs playmaker Benny Feilhaber ($446,000) has yet to register a goal or assist.



FOX Soccer's Ives Galarcep will provide daily segments from Jurgen Klinsmann's USMNT training camp from Orlando, Florida.



The Sounders have to be reeling from their surprising 2-0 home loss to Columbus, and take on a revamped Chivas USA side that will have Juan Agudelo back from U.S. national team camp.

There are plenty of bargains to choose from for both sides. Seattle has seen David Estrada ($44,000), Zach Scott ($46,314) and Marc Burch ($65,000) all do well, while Eddie Johnson ($106,333) could wind up being one of the best bargains of the season. Despite those steals, the Sounders have a large chunk of salary allotted to the still recovering Steve Zakuani ($208,000) and newcomer Adam Johansson ($182,883), who has only been a part-time starter.

On the Chivas side, Juan Pablo Angel ($600,000) has missed a portion of the season with concussion symptoms, but when healthy he still finds the net. The real head-scratcher of a salary for the Goats is Laurent Courtois ($267,166), one of the worst deals in MLS.

Chivas balances the bad with a handful of good values. Rauwshan McKenzie ($44,000) has enjoyed a breakout season, while Jose Erik Correa ($48,000) and Oswaldo Minda ($68,750) are both great value for money.


Toronto FC tries to avoid going 0-10 by taking on a Philadelphia team that is almost as desperate for a win as TFC is. Freddy Adu will be back and looking to build on the outstanding half he had against New York two weeks ago, as Toronto try to carry over the momentum of their mid-week Canadian Championship victory.

Philadelphia is a young team, and has bargain value salaries to show it. Ray Gaddis ($33,750) and Sheanon Williams ($90,500) have been outstanding this season. Little-used forward Danny Mwanga ($356,250), who has just one assist and zero goals in four starts, is the biggest salary shortcoming.

TFC has serious wasted salary. Julian DeGuzman ($1,910,746) has been better but nowhere near deserving that size of a contract in MLS, and Richard Eckersley ($390,000) is a decent fullback but absurdly overpriced. To their credit, Toronto found bargains in Reggie Lambe ($62,500), and Joao Plata ($50,000). Still, you can see why there’s not much money left for more talent.


Which big name American stars could be on the move this summer? Find out here.


The Crew are riding the timely goals of Justin Meram and the standout goalkeeping of Andy Gruenebaum to a recent surge, but they face a tough Chicago side that is 3-1-1 in its past five games.

The Fire have one of the more well-managed salary list situations, with no Designated Players and few wasteful salaries. A couple of injured players, Cory Gibbs ($165,000) and Chris Rolfe ($198,329) are the biggest salary cap hits. Looking for a Fire bargain? Rookie Austin Berry ($59,000) is shaping up to be one.

For the Crew, Dilly Duka ($243,000) has had a disappointing season to date after a strong 2011. Tony Tchani ($209,000) isn’t playing up to his salary, and goalkeeper Wil Hesmer ($181,000) is out for the season. On the bright side, Josh Williams and Shaun Francis (both $44,100) look promising.


RSL will be looking to re-take first place in the West against an FC Dallas squad that is 0-4-1 in their past five games. With no Brek Shea or David Ferreira, Dallas needs Blas Perez to have a standout game, but that won’t come easy against RSL’s strong centerbacks.

Real Salt Lake has locked up their top players to good contracts through the years. The best values on the RSL roster? Chris Schuler ($44,000), Jonny Steele ($47,562) and Sebastian Velasquez ($33,750).

Dallas has desperately missed 2010 MLS MVP Ferreira ($705,000), and Shea ($354,000) hasn’t played anywhere near his 2011 levels. The inexpensive George John ($47,250) is their best steal.


The Rapids are very tough at home, while the Impact are 1-5-1 on the road, so give Colorado the edge in this battle of teams on the fringes of the playoff race.

Colorado is another team without any million-dollar salaries, but big salaries are tied up to injuries. Conor Casey ($400,000) has played in just four games and with scoring any goals, while Pablo Mastroeni ($245,000) has yet to play a game as he deals with concussion symptoms. The Rapids have found a gem in Kamani Hill ($44,004), though.

For the Impact, Justin Mapp ($218,333) has looked solid at times, but he’ll need to produce more to validate his salary. Montreal does have some good bargains in Sinisa Ubiparipovic ($55,000) and Jeb Brovsky ($33,750)

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