It’s been about six weeks since the MLS Players Union released all the 2018 salary data. Since then, we at The Blue Testament along with a team of gnomes have been pouring over all that information to determine where Sporting Kansas City are getting smoking deals and where they may have overpaid a bit.
Full disclosure, these are 100% my opinions (and the gnomes) and not the rest of the TBT staff. I look forward to them disputing these below in the comments.
Daniel Salloi ($81,625) - First and foremost, it’s all about Salloi. He’s played in 15 of 16 games (starting all of them except the opener) and only missed the Colorado game when he was away on international duty. He has five goals (seven in all competitions) and six assists. Let’s hope he gets a nice raise and is around for years to come. He is by far the lowest paid starter and is a steal at his current salary.
Ilie Sanchez ($330,008) - It’s arguable that he’s the most important person on the pitch. He shields the backline. He can create with pinpoint passing from very deep. The offense starts with Ilie and so does the defense. In Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3 system, there is no more important player than the holding midfielder spot. Never let Ilie get away Sporting KC!
Ike Opara ($342,916.23) - Ike is definitely having a down year compared to his 2017 MLS Defender of the Year season. That said, he’s still one of the best center backs in the league. He’s good on set pieces and in the air in general. He’s fast. And he generally has good instincts. He got a big raise over the $150,000 he made last year, but it’s still a good deal.
Johnny Russell ($699,999.96) - This might be the biggest stretch, but for the cost, his contribution has been huge. He makes more than Gerso makes, but he has performed better than him comparing 2017 Gerso to 2018 Russell. He could pull a Gerso and become exhausted from overuse and this will look like a bad pick, but then when you compare him to Croizet’s $1.5 million transfer fee and $680,004 wage. Side note: Why not give him four more cents?
Khiry Shelton ($119,745) - Like him, hate him or indifferent about him, he’s performing above his wages. He has 13 appearances (12 starts) and he does lots of other, unquantifiable stuff. Hustle plays, pressing high and just generally working hard. It’s only led to two goals and two assists, which as documented, is low for a center forward. It’ll be a great wage if (and when?) he becomes the backup.
Jimmy Medranda ($140,004) - Sure he’s been hurt recently, but since 2016 he’s had at least 22 starts a season and he gets on the field all over the place. Whether it’s at left back, in the midfield or on the wing. He only has eight starts this season (12 appearances overall) but he already matched his career high in goals (two) and he’s just such a diverse talent he can help fill in where he’s needed if he’s not starting.
Kuzain ($67,500) & Jaylin Lindsey ($67,504) - Obviously it’s all about the salaries for these two. They don’t have a ton of appearances but when they’ve gotten on the field they’ve mostly played well and they are both really cheap.
Yohan Croizet ($680,004) - It’s not just his salary, but his reported $1.5 million transfer fee that lands him here. That puts him on a Designated Player contract (for 2018 only) and his production doesn’t match that. A year from now, when the fee isn’t factored in, I’d be happy to be eating these words. Croizet has already improved a ton but when Felipe Gutierrez is healthy, he seems like he’ll end up back on the bench. It’s a lot of money for a sub. I don’t remember where I heard it first, but the money makes it seem like Croizet was the attacking mid and then Gutierrez just fell into SKC’s lap on a free transfer.
Gerso Fernandes ($591,258) - I hesitate to put Gerso here, but nearly $600K (plus a transfer fee last year) are a lot to pay for a man not getting on the field. That said, he’s fantastic depth and what a luxury to have 2017’s leading scorer ready to be a super-sub off the bench. With the rising costs of MLS salaries this isn’t the worst deal, but it’s certainly not a great deal. If Salloi wasn’t so outstanding and Gerso got all those minutes, then it would probably feel more justified.
Brad Evans ($200,000.04) - First, I found Russell’s four cents. Evans has been injured and is yet to contribute to Sporting KC on the field. He’s been on loan to the Swope Park Rangers several times but he hasn’t looked good. It’s been debated by our community members, but for me, $200,000 is a lot for veteran leadership. If the team wins the MLS Cup, no one will remember and this may be looked at as a good thing. Right now though, I’d say hire him as a coach (and we’ll never know his wage though my guess would be less) and he can still contribute. It’s hard to see how, even if he’s healthy, he gets on the field.
Not the Best, but Good Values
It might seem like a cop out to stop at three in the “Worst Values” column, but let’s break down the rest.
Matt Besler ($783,250), Graham Zusi ($782,102) - Sporting’s two 2014 World Cup DP contracts. I just listened to Besler on 810 WHB talk about the offers to move overseas after the World Cup. At the time, this was the cost to keep these two around. Are they overpaid? Maybe. But they are both two of the best in the league at their position. Luckily for Sporting KC the wages of the league have gone up a bunch and these contracts look better for it (just look at that 2014 salary data for an idea how much it’s changed). When they were first signed they seemed crazy. Moreso when Zusi moved from forward to fullback, but in retrospective that was a perfect fit for him.
Roger Espinoza ($900,000) - Much like Besler and Zusi it feels like a lot for a #8 in MLS. However, it was the cost to get him back from England. And the growth of the league now justifies it. Jimmy Medranda may one day be his replacement and I believe he’ll be serviceable in that role, but likely not as good as Roger. This number is on the edge of too much.
Tim Melia ($316,667.67) - For the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, many would call this a steal. I will however say that it feels about right. Melia, after his offseason raise, is the 7th highest paid keeper in the league. He’s behind United States Men’s National team keepers like Tim Howard ($2.475 million) and Brad Guzan ($700,000) — who it can be argued are overpaid. He’s also behind young superstar Andre Blake ($500,000). Somehow even David Ousted is ahead of him. But he makes more than consistent keepers like Stephen Frei, Sean Johnson and soon to be USMNT keeper Zack Steffen. So again, he’s paid fair.
Diego Rubio ($266,875) - Many will say Rubio is overpaid but you need depth at center forward. He’s made a case he deserves to at least be coming on as a sub every game that is tied or trailing because he knows how to score goals. He’s scored three goals in just 108 minutes which is an astonishing 2.5 goals per 90 minutes played. Obviously with extended minutes he is VERY unlikely to sustain those numbers but he’s done it this season when it counted.
Emiliano Amor ($274,375) - He may be the center back of the future. He’s still very young (23) and if he pans out, it’ll look like a steal. If he doesn’t get on the field much, it could then be looked at as an overpayment, especially if the club doesn’t keep him around. But right now, it’s good insurance behind Besler/Opara.
Cristian Lobato ($240,000) - In the past I may have said this is too much. However, Lobato suddenly has a decent knack for scoring (two goals in 327 minutes) and his positional diversity is important, especially as the injuries pile up. Speaking of injuries, if his knee turns out to be badly injured, this will suddenly look like a terrible deal if your depth player can get on the field because he’s hurt.
Still Too Soon to Tell
Felipe Gutierrez ($1,649,999.96) - He scored five goals in five starts. But now he’s hurt. He’s the highest paid player in Sporting Kansas City history, but if he returns and is anything like the Felipe we saw at the beginning of the season, it’ll be money well spent.
I won’t keep going down the list. Everyone else I didn’t list probably doesn’t make much money but makes what is appropriate for their role.