Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Top 5 MLS Bargain Buys

I was working on a list Sunday night to continue the string of MLS Top 5'ers, but wasn't overly happy with it. I also started up a list Monday night, but didn't love that one either. And then, the league salary list was released on Tuesday and the perfect next topic fell right into my lap.

Everyone loves shopping for value, whether it's on the housing market, at the Albert Cuyp Markt or in the supermarket. Finding a great deal is a distinctly human endeavor, as is relishing the idea that we've allocated financial resources better than others.

I have not included rookies, because that's just too easy - especially in a year when so many newbies are making quick impact. Of course they are cheaper than the rest. But even without them, there are plenty of bargains to go around. So many that I'll top off this list with a bonus 23-man side (starting XI + bench) that would give 'em all a run for their considerably larger stacks of wage money at the low, low labor cost of only $2.55 million.

#5 - Nick Hagglund, Toronto FC

The 24-year-old defender rose to prominence in last year's run to MLS Cup, playing the hero more than once. Hagglund can win aerial battle, emergency defend on the run, move the ball forward efficiently and pose a real threat on attacking set pieces. And with Drew Moor out recently, the Reds also learned that he can marshal their three-man back line, all for just $110,000 in salary.

#4 - Axel Sjöberg, Colorado

The Rapids' Defender of the Year finalist earns just $123 grand per season, which would have been a bargain five years ago. Naturally, the beanpole center back is a force in the air, but he's also pretty smooth on the ball. His importance has become frightfully obvious to the locals since Sjöberg went down with an injury last month. Colorado has gone 0-3-1 without him, leaking eight goals in those four matches.

In fact, these sort of stats have been apparent since Sjöberg arrived prior to the 2015 season. In his 47 regular season appearances for the club, the Rapids have conceded .72 times per. In the 24 he's missed, they've allowed 1.5 goals per game. Any other questions?

#3 - Christian Roldan, Seattle

I'd hesitate greatly to call the Sounders midfielder underrated, as most observers now realize how crucial he is to the champs' system. Roldan, however, remains a stupendous value at $137,000. Like Hagglund, he cemented his star credentials during the last fall's playoffs.

He's the guy who bridges the excellence of Ozzie Alonso and the danger of Seattle's big-ticket item attackers. Roldan links positive play, forces turnovers in the opponent's end, acts pressure valve, gets stuck in and pitches in with a bit offense.

#2 - Joevin Jones, Seattle

Is Jones the best left back in MLS? Perhaps. Is he the one most integral to his team's success? Probably so. Is the impending free agent so woefully underpaid at $97,000 that the Sounders best hurry with an appreciative extension offer or he'll shining overseas next year? Most definitely.

The Trindad & Tobago wide man almost seems to get better by the week. Not only has Jones become a terrific one-v-one defender and build hound, but did you know that he has eight assists (plus one forced own goal) in his last 18 MLS games, including the playoffs? That's an absurd helper rate for a wingback in this league. Hell, that's an absurd rate for an Eredivisie wingback. 

#1 - Cyle Larin, Orlando City

The Lions striker is the most pricey player mentioned in this entire post, and he's more than worth it. For just $192,000 in salary cap expense, Jason Kreis gets arguably the best lead striker in the league. Sure, there a handful of others in the debate, but who among them is surrounded by talent as humble as Orlando City's?

This season, the Canada star has six goals in six games, on just 15 shots. There's no Valeri or Kljestan here to create a bushel of chances, no Giovinco or Elis here to distract defenders away, not even a Lodeiro or Finlay to pump an endless supply of crosses into the box.

No, Larin feeds on scraps, yet feasts like a king. And when you think of his incredibly reasonable salary, remember this is not some unproven commodity. He came into the season with 31 goals in 59 league matches. All in all, I'd imagine it won't be long before he's providing value to a strong European side.

And now, on to the bonus value squad...

Here's the starting line-up: Gleeson ($115K); Rosenberry ($110K), Sjöberg ($123K), Hagglund ($110K), Joevin Jones ($97K); Azira ($116K), Roldan ($137K), Fagundez ($180K); Barrios ($100K), Larin ($192K), Asad ($150K).

Here's the bench: Gonzalez ($85K), Duvall ($71K), Zavaleta ($133K), Watts ($75K), Opara ($150K), Kemp ($120K), Artur ($99K), Medranda ($130K), Alex ($170K), Lennon ($53K), Badji ($65K), Jackson-Hamel ($65K).

- Greg Seltzer


Adrian said...

You rate Azira ahead of Scott Caldwell? Caldwell makes even less than Azira at $100k/year.

Greg Seltzer said...

Caldwell is better on the ball, no doubt. But as a pure destroyer, I'd go with Azira.