MLS: Most Overvalued and Undervalued Players in the League
This week, Major League Soccer’s players’ union released the players’ salaries for 2013.
The list contained two numbers for each player, their base salary, as well as their guaranteed annual compensation. The base salary is exactly what it sounds like. The guaranteed annual compensation is each player’s base salary, plus any signing bonus they may have received, annualized over the length of the contract.
For our discussion, we will be using their base salaries only.
Using numbers broken down by Liviu Bird at the blog Sounder at Heart, the average salary for a goalkeeper in MLS is $85,504, the average salary for a defender is $110,661, the average salary for a midfielder is $128,631 and the average salary for a forward is $220,943.
Using those numbers as a basis, who are the most overvalued and undervalued players in MLS?
Austin Berry: Underpaid
Austin Berry is paid $63,425, or about half of what the average MLS defender is making.
For that, all Berry did in 2012 was win MLS Rookie of the Year honors while starting 28 games for the Chicago Fire.
Sherjill MacDonald: Overpaid
Sherjill MacDonald has played 23 games for the Chicago Fire since coming to MLS in 2012. For $400,000 a year, almost double the average striker's salary, MacDonald has scored a whopping four goals.
Kenny Cooper: Underpaid
Kenny Cooper's 2013 salary is $325,000, about one and a half times the average striker's salary. For that, Cooper scored 18 goals in 2012, second best in the league.
Matt Hedges: Underpaid
Matt Hedges may be the best bargain in MLS. Only making $49,500, Hedges started 23 games for FC Dallas in 2012 and is generally regarded as one of the best up-and-coming defenders in the league.
Nick DeLeon: Underpaid
Nick DeLeon only makes $70,400, about half of what other midfielders are making. For that, DeLeon started 29 games for D.C. United in 2012, scoring eight goals and helping lead the team to the Eastern Conference finals.
Bill Hamid: Underpaid
Although prone to the occasional howler, Bill Hamid is still drastically undervalued at $75,000 a season, below the league average for goalkeepers.
Hamid has been the regular starter for D.C. United for the past two seasons and has the ability to keep United in games through his terrific shot-stopping ability.
Perry Kitchen: Underpaid
Whether considered a defender or a midfielder (Kitchen plays both), Perry Kitchen is still undervalued at $105,000 a season. That salary places him below the league average for both defenders and midfielders, despite the fact that Kitchen has started 66 games for D.C. United over the past two seasons.
Corey Ashe: Underpaid
Being a stalwart along the Houston Dynamo's backline for the past seven seasons, Corey Ashe is drastically underpaid at $101,250 per year. Ashe has been a key part of Houston's success over the past two seasons' MLS Cup runs and was an MLS All-Star in 2011.
Boniek Garcia: Underpaid
Boniek Garcia is one of the most exciting attacking players in the league and was a key part of the Houston Dynamo's success last season, recording four goals and six assists as he helped lead the Dynamo to the MLS Cup.
For that, Garcia is being paid $130,000 a year, right at the average salary for MLS midfielders.
Will Bruin: Underpaid
Will Bruin recorded 16 goals in all competitions in 2012, a franchise record, even earning a United States men's national team call-up in January.
For that, he is making $120,000 a year, about half the average for MLS forwards.
Adam Moffat: Underpaid
Adam Moffat has become a key part of the Houston Dynamo's midfield since arriving in 2011, helping lead the team to back-to-back MLS Cup finals.
Named the team's Newcomer of the Year in 2011, Moffat makes $150,000, just above the league average.
Matt Besler: Underpaid
Matt Besler was named an MLS All-Star in 2011 and followed that up in 2012 by being named MLS Defender of the Year, MLS Breakout Player of the Year and to the MLS Best XI.
Recently, he has earned several USMNT call-ups for his outstanding play with Sporting KC.
For all that, Besler makes $180,000 a year.
Graham Zusi: Underpaid
Graham Zusi is one of the best players in MLS, bar none.
In 2012, he recorded five goals and 15 assists, leading the league in assists. He was also named to the MLS Best XI and the All-Star team and has become a regular for the USMNT.
He makes a pathetically low $140,000 a year, just above the league average for midfielders.
A.J. DeLaGarza: Underpaid
A.J. DeLaGarza is one of the most versatile defenders in MLS, spending time at right-back, left-back and center-back, despite being only 5'9".
He has started 30 games for the L.A. Galaxy each of the past two seasons, helping lead the team to two MLS Cups and even earning several USMNT call-ups along the way.
DeLaGarza makes $120,000, right at the league average. Teammate Todd Dunivant, by comparison, makes $150,000.
Omar Gonzalez: Underpaid
MLS All-Star, MLS Best XI, MLS Defender of the Year and MLS Cup MVP are just a few of the awards L.A. Galaxy center-back Omar Gonzalez has earned over the past two seasons.
For being, perhaps, the best defender in the league, Gonzalez is paid $205,000 a year.
Tim Cahill: Overpaid
While no one can doubt Tim Cahill's quality, tenacity or competitiveness, he is simply not worth the money the New York Red Bulls are paying him.
Making $3.5 million, or 27 times the league average for a midfielder, Cahill has four goals and five assists in 22 games.
While MLS has long sought to overpay certain designated players for their fan appeal, very few casual fans have ever attended an MLS match simply to watch Cahill play the game.
Fabian Espindola: Underpaid
While his numbers are not overly impressive, scoring 19 goals over the past two MLS seasons, certainly those goals are worth more than the paltry $150,000 the New York Red Bulls are paying him.
Espindola will likely score over 10 goals this season with three goals in eight games so far, making him worth more than what he is being paid.
Connor Lade: Underpaid
While by no means a superstar, Connor Lade's versatility alone should make him worth more than the $55,000 a season he is currently making.
In his rookie season, Lade played as a defender, a midfielder and a forward while picking up 22 starts.
Jack McInerney: Underpaid
Jack McInerney picked up eight goals in 2012, a solid total by MLS standards, and is on pace to smash that with six goals already this season.
McInerney makes $125,500 a season, about half the average salary for an MLS forward.
Eddie Johnson: Underpaid
Eddie Johnson proved to be a good value to the Seattle Sounders after returning to MLS in 2012. Johnson scored 14 goals last season and is only paid $150,000 a year.
Shalrie Joseph: Overpaid
At one time, Shalrie Joseph was one of the most feared midfielders in the league. Over the past two seasons, however, Joseph has only started 27 games combined and only has two starts to his name this year.
He makes $540,000 a year, over four times the league average for midfielders.