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Major League Soccer’s Best Value Players In 2011

It’s Boxing Day. A time for sales and bargain hunting.

In the current financial climate, football clubs around the world are looking for the best value players that they can get.

Everyone loves a bargain, but sometimes they seem to be few and far between. MLS sides have had to cast their nets far and wide to try and find the players other clubs have overlooked.

These guys do exist and there’s been many of them on display in Major League Soccer this season.
Looking at the Whitecaps and the salaries paid to the players this season, it’s been interesting to see who gave the best value for money to the Caps in terms of contributions made and wages drawn.

No surprise really that the hands down winner was Camilo. What a find he proved to be.

The Brazilian took home a guaranteed compensation of $133,545, a whopping $766,455 less than DP Eric Hassli, and he outperformed the Frenchman in both goals (12 to 10) and assists (3 to 2). It should also be noted that he managed not to see red the entire season.

You really struggle to find much other value, but at the League minimum $32,600.04, Long Tan is certainly that. With one goal and 2 assists, along with a strong performance in the PDL and reserves, you can’t ask for much more from the young striker except to keep the development going.

The best of the rest was Michael Boxall. At only $42,000, the Kiwi made 19 appearances and provides excellent value and reliable cover. Nods must also be made to Jordan Harvey on $63,125, who provided 4 assists, the joint second highest on the team. Also to Atiba Harris on $80,590 for 2 goals and 3 assists in his 5 appearances. We can only surmise what kind of overall contribution the St Kitts player would have made if it hadn’t have been for that early season ending injury.

Worst value for money is obviously Mustapha Jarju. With no goals, no assists and only 10 appearances and 450 minutes played, the Gambian should be wearing a mask when taking home his $426,883.

Therein lies one of his problems. I think a lot of Vancouver fans would be a lot more forgiving for his stuttering start to his Caps career had he not been given such a large salary and Designated Player status.

Jay DeMerit suffered a season plagued with a groin injury. The Caps didn’t see the best of him in his 21 appearances. At $350,000, we need to get a whole lot more out of our captain next season. If he stays healthy, then I think we will.

Talk of injured players brings us nicely to ‘Sicknote’. John Thorrington gave the impression of a man who could get injured just by looking in the mirror. Some fans may have balked at his $207,200 salary for just 11 appearances and 740 minutes. Remember though, all those medical bills can’t be cheap.

Turning our attention to MLS on the whole, AFTN has put together what we feel is the best value for money starting eleven you could have got this year.

We’ve not just looked at salaries and guaranteed compensation, but also appearances, goals scored, assists made and clean sheets kept. We think they’d be a match for any team in MLS:

<b><u>Goalkeeper :</u></b>

<b>Josh Saunders (Los Angeles Galaxy)</b>

At a guaranteed compensation of $66,355, Saunders played 19 games, secured 12 wins and recorded 8 shutouts for the MLS Cup winners and his goals against average of 0.93 (17 goals) made him the second best rank goalie in MLS last season. With 55 saves from 73 shots faced, his 75.3 save percentage was the third best of the bunch and just 0.6, and one save, off the top spot.

<b><u>Defenders :</u></b>

<b>Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes)</b>

In his second year in MLS, and on $42,000, the right back played 19 games last season and although he didn’t score any goals, he provided 7 assists. Just what I’ve been saying I want from my wing-backs.

<b>George John (Dallas) </b>

The central defender is still staggeringly on a salary of just $42,000. With 31 MLS regular season appearances and a further 10 in the playoffs, US Open Cup and Champions League, John scored 3 goals and had 1 assist last season, which has moved him onto the periphery of the US national team.

<b>Tyson Wahl (Montreal Impact – was Seattle Sounders)</b>

Value central defenders are hard to come by. You can pick up some cheap options that don't provide anything in the attacking departments (such as the Caps' Michael Boxall on $42k). Obviously you pick a defender to defend, but if they can offer you that little bit more, then that’s just added value you can't ignore. We went with Wahl, who can play both central defence and left back. Six years experience in MLS, 23 appearances in MLS for the Sounders last year, with one goal and two assists. All on a salary of $54,770. Montreal have a good acquisition.

<b>Chris Tierney (New England Revolution)</b>

Tierney made his $66,666.67 by splitting his 27 appearances for the Revolution last season between left back and left midfield. He can also play central defence. That versatility, combined with 2 goals and 4 assists in 2011, and four year’s of MLS experience saw him get the nod, over Vancouver’s Jordan Harvey for the left back slot. Toronto’s Ashtone Morgan could snatch this spot next season if he continues his progress.

<b><u>Midfielders :</u></b>

<b>Mauro Rosales (Seattle Sounders)</b>

Any team that can have a $42,000 player holding down a regular first team spot is music to the ears of the club accountants. If that player can contribute 14 assists, 5 game winning assists and 5 goals in 30 appearances in all competitions, then that’s a pretty fine piece of footballing business.

<b>Lamar Neagle (Seattle Sounders)</b>

And the Sounders do it again with a guy on even less. Neagle earns $32,604 and for that money Seattle got a player who made 34 appearances in all competitions, netting 7 goals and adding 2 assists. The Whitecaps had Bilal Duckett for that money.

<b>Graham Zusi (Kansas City)</b>

In his third season in Kansas, Zusi had a breakout year. 5 goals and 7 assists in 32 games, including four game winning assists, was a fantastic return for a $42,000 salary. Was named MLS ‘Player of the Month’ in June.

<b> Sanna Nyassi (Montreal Impact – was Colorado Rapids)</b>

The man that the Caps selected as their first pick in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft, only to immediately trade him to Colorado. He went on to play 26 MLS regular season games for the Rapids, scoring 5 goals and recording 5 assists. At the bargain price of $42,000, it looks like Vancouver ended up keeping the wrong Gambian.

<b><u>Forwards :</u></b>

<b>Diego Chaves (Chicago Fire)</b>

The Uruguayan played 29 games in MLS last season, 19 of them from the start. 6 goals, including scoring in three consecutive matches, and 1 assist is a pretty good return for $45,000.

<b>Joao Plata (Toronto)</b>

The final spot in the team was a close run thing, with Plata just edging out San Jose’s Steven Lenhart for me. The Ecuadorian scored 3 MLS goals for TFC and added 5 assists in 26 games, for his $42,000 salary. Lenhart only played 14 games for the Earthquakes last season and was an unused sub for the last 14 games of the season. He had two more goals, but two less assists. With more games played, the speed he brings and the fact that his hair doesn’t make me have clown nightmares, sees Plata get the second strikers’ spot.
Just missing out on the team was Sebastian Grazzini of Chicago Fire. He only made 11 appearances for the Fire after signing in July, but ended up with an amazing 5 goals and 4 assists in his 780 minutes. $48,000 well spent and who knows what a full season could return for the Argentinian, if he hangs around.

If we went for a 3-5-2 formation instead of 4-4-2, then Grazzini would be right in there at the expense of Wahl or Tierney. It was a tough decision.

Our eleven chosen players come in at a team total guaranteed compensation of $517,396.

That’s $4,082,604 less than what New York Red Bulls flop, Rafael Marquez, took home this year. And only $90,513 more than what Mustapha Jarju’s guaranteed compensation is. Staggering!

For that money our team produced 37 goals and 48 assists.

Compare that to the Whitecaps as a whole. The Caps scored 35 goals for the whole season and recorded 38 assists.

Do you agree with our selections or is there a player out there that we've glaringly overlooked?

The bargains are clearly there if you know where to look for them. Remember that the next time the Caps, or whatever team you support, sign a player you’ve never heard of, from some strange league on the other side of the world.

They can still do the business. They just have to be given the opportunity. There are still gems out there waiting to be discovered by North American fans.

Enjoy the bargain hunting!