MLS’s (Just Plain Daffy) Salaries, The Joys of Central Planning

“The more I stare at the list, the more I think the majority of players can fit in either category. Can’t say I understand how Major League Soccer comes up with salary figures, but only that it doesn’t tally.”

With the number of those who have read and commented being roughly equal, I’m confident everyone now knows that the Major League Soccer (MLS) Players Union (MLSPU) has again released player salaries. I wrote the above – and don’t worry if it doesn’t make perfect sense – to wrap a post about the salaries of Colorado Rapids players that don’t add up for me for the Colorado Offside. Embarking on the same project for the Columbus Crew over here, it struck me that I don’t have anything more grand or important to say on the subject that I didn’t put into that quote. I only wish it had been more clever.

That said, there’s so many mysteries to the logic of how MLS pays their players. For instance, why does rookie defender Andy Iro pull down $53.5K guaranteed while a second-year pros like Ryan Junge and Brad Evans earn only $12.9K and $33K, respectively? And that’s without getting into something more mysterious: Adam Moffat, the star of the Crew’s victorious season opener, and a player with one more start under his belt than Iro earns only $17.7K. To spell out a familiar acronym, what the fuck? The fact that the Rapids salary structure makes even less sense only deepens the mystery.

I get the designated-player business all right and believe the salaries of veteran players hinge on free(-ish) market factors ranging from a front office’s idiocy, a player’s attentiveness to his finances, and his agent’s audacity. But things get really messy when a player just comes into the league. I have read, in the past, about why one rookie earns $12.9K; while another earns $17.7K; while still another earns $33K; and, finally, why someone like Iro makes more still: I don’t recall the particulars (help? anyone?). I tried to refresh my memory, but found more mechanics and less figures in MLSnet.com’s rules and regulations web-page. Just when I think it might be the difference between developmental and senior roster players, the Crew’s roster tells me that both Robbie Rogers ($57.5K) George Josten (sharpened stick up the ass…er, $12.9K) are listed as developmental players. Back to that drawing board…but, wait, here’s another: speaking of Rogers, how does that an up-and-comer earn a guaranteed salary a couple thousand dollars smaller than that of the distinctly less-promising Jason Garey? Continue reading

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Crew Preview: How, And How Well, They’ll Defend

For all the frustrations of the past season – missing the playoffs again, struggling offensively at the wrong time, etc. – I thought the Columbus Crew fielded a pretty solid defense in 2007. It turns out, however, the 44 goals they surrendered tied them for sixth in goals-against; middle of the pack sounds all right, until one considers 49 goals allowed set the mark for league-worst (Go Toronto FC!). So…remind me again, what exactly went right last season?

I kid. Middle of the pack is middle of the pack, so things could have gone worse. But with the Crew opening 2008 with one high-profile departure from the defense, the possibility things could go worse this year lurks. Marcos Gonzalez, rated by a solid majority as the Crew’s best defender, returned in the off-season to his native Chile. His immediate replacement – Andy Iro – is a first-year pro, something to watch no matter how his resumé reads. A clutch of second-year pros – Ryan Junge, Jed Zayner, and Andrew Peterson – will vie with Iro for that opening in central defense, as might midfield players like Danny O’Rourke, if some reports are to be believed (can’t find said reports; you’ll have to take my word for it…or just not believe me).

Given all that, how will the Crew’s defense fare in 2008? By way of an answer, I’ve named the players on the roster whose first job amounts to either defending the Crew’s goal directly or breaking up the opposition’s forays in midfield. I confess I’m not totally up-to-date on how Sigi Schmid will line up his team – and that’s whether in terms of formation or personnel – as such, what unfolds below amounts to a best guess as to what Schmid will do and the quality he has at his disposal. Continue reading

TSII: Crew Roster Talk – When Do You Stop?

Back from the little hiatus, time to get right back to it: Covering the Crew posted the latest full roster for the 2008-vintage Columbus Crew. You can check the post for names, details, plus more. I’ll steal his roster layout to frame the discussion, but I won’t borrow the commentary…that’ll come after the stuff I stole. Here goes:

Senior roster (17 of 18 slots filled)
Goalkeepers: Will Hesmer, Andy Gruenebaum.
Defenders: Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Danny O’Rourke, Ezra Hendrickson, Leonard Griffin, Andy Iro.
Midfielders: Brian Carroll, Duncan Oughton, Stefani Miglioranzi, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Eddie Gaven.
Forwards: Alejandro Moreno, Nicolas Hernandez, Jason Garey, Brad Evans.

Developmental roster (10 of 10)
Goalkeeper: Kenny Schoeni.
Defenders: Andrew Peterson, Jed Zayner, Ryan Junge, Ryan Miller.
Midfielders: Robbie Rogers, Adam Moffat, Kevin Burns.
Forwards: Steven Lenhart, George Josten.

OK, so who’s new here? And I don’t promise a complete list, necessarily, but a useful approximation. Continue reading

Giving In: Crew v. Rapids, Early Impressions

For those unfamiliar with it, I have dedicated myself to follow and, to some degree, conflate the relatively separate fates of the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids for the 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) season. The idea is to see which of these long-struggling MLS original clubs make progress this season…and which falls still further behind as the league expands.

This post just came to me out of the blue (OK, I was on the can; does that make it “out of the brown?”), but I think there’s something to it. Back when I embraced this assignment, nearly two months ago, I liked Columbus’ chances better. The reasoning was pretty straightforward: Columbus, playing in the tougher East, had the look of a team that could be competitive with the addition of only a player or two (both forwards, preferably) and more time to gel. Against that, the Rapids had the look of a team in not only in need of a total overhaul on offense, but one with the impression of a toxic locker room (suffering, perhaps from sour relations between players and coach?). Continue reading

Crew TSII: More Tufts of Grass to Trip Over in Zurawski Chase & More

Soccer America’s Ridge Mahoney turned his pre-season maneuver series to the Columbus Crew this morning. While the piece focused on Guillermo Barros Schelotto – who seems both a wily one and happy to be in Columbus – some of what happened with the Argentine legend impacts the Crew’s surprisingly tricky pursuit of Celtic FC’s Polish forward, Maciej Zurawski.

Beyond discussing how the Crew plan to play Schelotto in their offensive scheme for 2008, Mahoney’s piece mentions that the team bumped his pay – quite probably by way of thanking him for 2007 and sweetening him on staying in Ohio (or bribing him to do so; interpretations can be tricky). The key details:

“Columbus doesn’t seem willing to pay DP prices for Zurawski, and with some allocation money being paid to Schelotto, might not have the funds necessary to buy out Zurawski’s contract and offer him an acceptable salary….Celtic had slapped a transfer price of $1 million on him and he’s also attracted offers from Germany, but after tomorrow those doors will close, so it may behoove the Crew to sit tight.” Continue reading

Rating the SuperDraft for Colorado & Columbus

(UPDATED: I missed a couple maneuvers on SuperDraft day…stupid Draft Tracker.  The Crew picked up a couple picks in the 20’s and, with them, forward Ricardo Pierre-Louis and midfielder/defender Ryan Miller.  See here for details.)

Well, the 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft is over. Or close enough to for me to type out this little post, which, in the grand scheme, is a blank slate with a couple words stenciled on it. I may not always be informative, but at least I’m honest. As promised, I’m going to look at the day’s work put in by my two 2008 adoptees, the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids. Here’s what each team picked up today (drawn from MLSnet.com’s SuperDraft Tracker, which is doing much better now, thank you, since it stopped updating every minute or so):

Colorado Rapids
#5. Ciaran O’Brien, M
#36. Adrian Chevannes, D
#47. Brian Grazier, M
#49. Scott Campbell, M

Columbus Crew
#6. Andy Iro, D
#20. George Josten, F
#48. Steven Lenhart, M

I just checked my pre-SuperDraft posts (Crew and Rapids) to confirm that neither team traded away their spots; looks like they both stood pat. Given where their respective picks sat in the queue, Columbus had the better hand to play, but, perhaps no less significantly, they also chose players more people had in their heads going into the draft.

Given how (very, very) little I know about these players, I’m just going to pass on the few things I’ve read and make every effort – Scout’s honor – to pay close attention to all the players involved…assuming they don’t all wind up playing in the reserve league in ’08…I’m looking at you on this one, Colorado. Somewhat predictably, I haven’t branched out a hell of a lot from the two pundits I leaned on in the run-up to the SuperDraft – Buzz Carrick for his Top 20 prospects article and Ives Galarcep for his mock draft – so I’ll be leaning on them again (if by some chance I meet either man in person, I definitely owe them several pints). So, on with the show. This is, literally, it: Continue reading

(First) Thoughts on 2008 MLS SuperDraft (Focus on C’bus and Rapids)

Part of me wants to say the highlight of the whole thing was the ESPN commercial with the dude on the fishing boat. Mind, that was a fantastic commercial, but I now accept that I haven’t missed much by not seeing past SuperDrafts. That’s not to say there weren’t real, draft-related highlights, a quick rundown of which will appear below. And I’ll wrap up with some thoughts on the first-round picks made by my two adopted teams, the Columbus Crew and Colorado Rapids.

I’ll start, however, with the first 14 picks…assuming I can remember the final three; MLSnet.com’s Draft Tracker is dragging ass for some reason. Right, the top 14:

1. Chance Myers, M (Kansas City Wizards)
2. Brek Shea, M/D (FC Dallas)
3. Anthony Beltran, M/D (Real Salt Lake)
4. Sean Franklin, M/D (Los Angeles Galaxy)
5. Ciaran O’Brien, M (Colorado Rapids)*
6. Andy Iro, D (Columbus Crew)*
7. Patrick Nyarko, F (Chicago Fire)
8. Josh Lambo, GK (FC Dallas)
9. Julius James, D (Toronto FC)
10. Pat Phelan, M/D (Toronto FC)
11. Roger Espinosa, M (Kansas City Wizards)
12. Dominic Cervi, GK (Chicago Fire)
13. Rob Valentino, D (New England Revolution)
14. David Horst, D (Real Salt Lake)

Now, some thoughts on the picks, the broadcast, and, for me, one hell of a surprise. Continue reading