MLS Player Salaries: Bargains and Busts

Ream: still underpaid.

The MLS Players Union released the complete list of player earnings this week, and while competing in the league remains a labor of love for most players, there were some encouraging increases over last season.

The average salary is up 12 percent (to more than $154,000) and all but three teams increased their payrolls this season. The median MLS team, according to Jeremiah Oshan, is spending roughly $500,000 more on salaries than it was in 2010.

Yet despite these increases, the median salary went down this year, from $90,000 to $80,000. For more on that apparent contradiction, and lots of other number-crunching goodness, click here, and for the complete list of salaries, see here.

Let’s take a look at who’s earning their keep and who should pull an Oguchi Onyewu and play for free in 2012.

(All figures “guaranteed compensation” for 2011)

Busts:

Nery Castillo, Chicago Fire, $2,038,062: He turned up out of shape and made eight lackluster appearances last season (with zero goals) and is currently on loan to Greek side Aris FC. One of the alltime MLS busts.

Julian de Guzman, Toronto FC, $1,910,746: He’s not a bad player, but the Canadian international has yet to live up to his billing (or salary), and the grace period is over. His countryman Dwayne De Rosario makes one-quarter that amount—and is twice the player.

Andres Mendoza, Columbus Crew, $595,000: Mendoza was upgraded to designated player status, and salary, during the offseason, and has been riding the Crew pine since April.

Nick Kounenakis, Sporting Kansas City, 120,004: He’s not breaking the bank but … who is Nick Kounenakis? [Googles Nick Kounenakis….] He’s a South African–born Greek centerback­—who was released from the team in February.

Brian Nielsen, New York Red Bulls, $120,000: Again, a player not necessarily taking home a Brink’s truck of cash, but also not seeing the field. Nielsen made two appearances in 2010, and a combination of injuries and the Red Bulls’ solid midfield have kept him sidelined so far in 2011.

Bargains:

Tim Ream, New York Red Bulls, $62,625: The 2010 Rookie of the Year candidate continues to anchor the New York backline, and has received a handful of U.S. national-team callups. He earned just $40,000 last year, so this is a bump up, but not enough of one.

Diego Chaves, Chicago Fire, $45,000: He leads the team in scoring with four goals. His strike partner Gaston Puerari also qualifies as a bargain at $50,000. He may not have Chaves’s numbers but he’s looked dangerous every time we’ve seen him.

Omar Cummings, Colorado, $89,188: He’s sputtered a bit coming out of the gate in 2011 (and he’s currently injured), but Cummings produced 14 goals and three assists in 28 starts last season, then impressed in a trial with Aston Villa of the Premier League (visa issues scotched a deal). MLS is lucky to have him, crazily so at this price.

Khalif Alhassan, Portland, $69,250: The 20-year-old Ghanian winger has sparked the Portland attack this year, picking up assists in each of the Timbers first three home games, all victories.

Fabian Espindola, Real Salt Lake, $75,000: He scored eight goals last season, and we won’t be a bit surprised if the hard-working Argentine tops that total in 2011.

Welcome Corrections:

Geoff Cameron, Houston Dynamo, $245,000: That’s more like it for the best player on the Dynamo roster—who earned $40,000 last season.

Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes, $175,000: Last year, Wondo scored 18 goals to lead the league—while earning $48,000.

Carl Robinson, New York Red Bulls, $75,000: Our least favorite Red Bull pulled down $315,000 last season. He still outearns the far more valuable Ream, but at least they cut him down to size this year.

MLS Union Releases Player Salaries

Before we get into the list of MLS player salaries released today, a quick note about the first post of the morning today.

If you get Backpost via Google Reader or something similar, you probably received a glitchy, unfinished version—a case of premature publication on our part. It happens. Our apologies. You can see the corrected version here.

Now, on to the MLS salaries, as of August 12: We took a quick glance—here’s the entire list—and here are some numbers that jumped out:

Bargains:

Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Columbus, $241,250: Schelotto is by far the Crew’s best player, has been MVP of the league, and led Columbus to an MLS title (2008) and last year’s Supporter’s Shield. His base salary is only $140,000.

Alvaro Fernandez, Seattle, $300,000: He’s fresh from a World Cup semifinal appearance, and has made an immediate impact for Sounders FC.

David Ferreira, Dallas, $300,000: He has six goals and seven assists for the Hoops this season, and is a primary reason Dallas will be a tough out in the playoffs.

Omar Cummings, Colorado, $80,250: The Jamaican international had eight goals and 12 assists last year, and has found the net five time so far this season.

Woefully Underpaid:

Geoff Cameron, Houston, $40,000: He’s hurt right now, but Cameron is one of the best players on the Dynamo roster, and he’s been called in by the U.S. national team.

Tim Ream, New York, $40,000: Not surprising, given his relative lack of pedigree coming into the league (four years of college ball at St. Louis, no U.S. youth teams), but Ream has proven to be one of the best young defenders in the league, and a Rookie of the Year candidate.

Chris Wondolowski, San Jose, 48,000: The versatile 27-year-old attacker has seven goals and an assist this season for the resurgent Quakes.

Misleading:

Gonzalo Segares, Chicago, $67,750: The Costa Rican left back just re-signed with the Fire. This figure represents his earnings for what’s left of this season. Actual yearly salary almost certainly substantially more.

Well Done, Lad:

Danny Mwanga, Philadelphia, $206,250: The No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft got himself a good deal by MLS standards, and is earning his pay, with seven goals so far in his rookie season.

Criminally Overpaid:

Carl Robinson, New York, 315,000: We’ve established that we’re not fans of Robinson, and this figure only adds fuel to our fire. He makes more than twice as much as teammate Seth Stammler ($123,900) and is less than half the player.