As we approach the mid-point of the 2016 MLS season it seemed like the perfect time to look at the best and worst value based on the new salary information that was just released. If you are anything like me, you are yearning for some Sporting Kansas City action, but there isn't another game until June 15th.
I've already reflected on how bad things are for Sporting KC, but lets start with the best values and we'll get to the worst later in the week. Sporting have several players that are contributing far above their level of pay. First, let me break down these numbers. The MLS Players Association releases a base salary and guaranteed compensation. For the purpose of this piece, we'll use the guaranteed compensation number because sometimes it's much larger than the base number.
#1 - Jimmy Medranda - $63,000
I'm not sure that anyone thought Medranda would have the year he has had thus far. He started the season out on loan to the Swope Park Rangers and looked fantastic in his only appearance for the club. So much so that he was immediately recalled from loan and brought over to SKC. This may have partially been out of necessity due to early injuries or because Medranda was so impressive. You'd have to get inside Peter Vermes' head to know for sure.
While Medranda's stats don't jump off the page (just a single assist), he has been dynamic. He looks great on the ball and has a marvelous first touch. He initially was playing out on the wing but has recently moved to left back. He has improved so dramatically since the experiment at left back in 2015 he is basically unrecognizable. $63,000 is just $3,000 above the league minimum for a player on the main roster (though it's $50,000 for the last few roster spots).
To date, Medranda has 13 appearances (of a possible 16) and eight starts. When the goals start going in Medranda's value will be even higher.
#2 - Nuno Andre Coelho - $375,000
Now nearly $400K isn't a number to sneeze at, but Nuno has been great. If I had to vote for a Player of the Month, I'd give him both March and April.
Part of the reason that Nuno is ranked so high is that he has arguably been the best defender on the team this season. He lines up next to Designated Player Matt Besler, who makes $733,250 this year, and he has probably out played him. Nuno has had his hiccups. He has 14 starts (he missed the last two with an injury) and he did struggle the first time he lined up with Kevin Ellis next to him. For me, Ellis is a right back and not a center back, and that was part of the problem.
Nuno isn't coming in cheap, but he's exceeded his pay. As long as he is healthy (Vermes says his injury is minor) he should be a great asset for the rest of the year, especially with Besler gone for the Copa America Centenario.
#3 - Soni Mustivar - $200,000
Mustivar could be first on this list if he was healthy. He is actually making $50,000 less than he made in 2015 (maybe because of health). Mustivar has only appeared in eight of the 16 games thus far this season. His injury corresponded directly when things started to go south. Sporting are 4-4 this season when Mustivar plays, which doesn't sound good until you realize they are 1-4-3 without Mustivar.
If Mustivar can stay healthy, it's arguable that he is the most important player on the pitch. When Lawrence Olum is forced to play defensive midfielder, the team doesn't look the same. Benny Feilhaber actually played that role against the LA Galaxy and did quite well, but I'd prefer to have him more involved in the attack. The same argument can be made that Roger Espinoza is very important, but he makes $800,000 and is the highest paid player, so he isn't on the list.
#4 - Ike Opara - $131,250
Opara is definitely a backup in 2016 and maybe he should have been the entire time. Relying on Opara to stay healthy has been a fools errand over the last few years. He has quietly made 9 appearances in 2016, the same amount as 2014 and 2015 combined. That said, he only has 525 minutes (versus 534 in 2015) to date this season. Vermes has been cautious and let's hope it keeps Opara healthy. I can't be the only one who winces every time he falls to the ground. He is a starting caliber center back and a luxury to have on the bench and he has filled in great when injuries or international call-ups have required him to.
#5 - Amadou Dia - $51,000
I'm stretching to come up with a 5th person. Dia was the starter for the first nine games of the season and played well. Since then he has just a single appearance (Seth Sinovic and Jimmy Medranda took over). This is more about value. Dia is just $1,000 over the league minimum. That's great depth to have and a necessity in a league like MLS with a salary cap. Honestly, I'd love to see Dia go on loan to the Swope Park Rangers to continue his development.
Be sure to come back later this week when I'll have the other end of the spectrum. I'll tell you right now, limiting myself to just five players that haven't performed based on the money will be a challenge. What do you think about the best values? Agree? Disagree? Let us know.