MLS 2009: Good Buy, Bad Buy


The 2009 MLS Salary list has been released thanks to the MLS Players Union and as always some players stand out as bargains and others as terrible buys.

Here is our list of the best and worst of MLS salaries for 2009.


The DP rule was at least ostensibly approved to make MLS a more compelling product on the pitch. Since the adoption of the rule before the 2007 season, some DPs have excelled while others have been disasters. A criteria for signing a DP at least in my book should be a player whose been a leader of club in a top league previously, has featured for his national team and can positively affect play on the pitch.


JUAN PABLO ANGEL, NEW YORK RED BULLS                          $1,798,000

Angel is the model DP. A high caliber footballer who was the top player at Aston Villa for many years and who has brought a discernible quality to MLS. A player who has upgraded his squad and was actually signed when he had other suitors in Europe.

Angel has helped transformed the New Jersey MLS franchise from perennial laughingstock to championship contender. Roberto Donadoni, Lothar Matthaeus and Youri Djorkaeff should be envious.


FREDDIE LJUNBERG, SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC                         $ 1,314,000

The latest big name MLS signing in the tradition of Branco, Sacha Curcic, Denilson and Marcello Gallardo will probably have little impact in the league other than to cement Gooners throughout America to the Sounders for the half a season Ljunberg lasts in the league. The pity of this terrible signing is that the Sounders will actually be quite good and a worthwhile DP signing could have made the first year MLS side a favorite for a deep MLS Cup playoff run.

Ljunberg’s career in England was over after a failed stint at West Ham and unlike Angel, MLS did not have to compete with top European clubs for his services.



Schelotto’s career includes 19 trophies, 25 goals in South American club competitions, an MLS MVP award, and the MLS Cup last season. At $775,000 a year Schelotto could be one of the top ten bargains in all of world football.

I’ve spent the last two years preaching the virtues of Schelotto since my now famous ” Denver bus conversation” with a bunch of Brazilians who thought the MLS was a joke and that signing Beckham was laughable. When I mentioned Schelotto had signed with the Crew that very day, I got cries of “Guille?, oh my, Boca has lost Guille!!!!”


LUCIANO EMILIO, DC UNITED                                                      $ 758,857

Emilio who I will admit I like as an attacking player (but not as a DP) burst onto the MLS scene in 2007 with 20 goals, in much the same fashion as Stern John in 1998, Mamadou Diallo in 2o00 and Damani Ralph in 2003. Like each of those players his production decreased his second year. While John earned the MLS a decent transfer fee and has had a successful club carrer in England, Diallo and Ralph were essentially flame outs.

Emilio is not a DP caliber player. He’s a useful striker, but MLS has a funny way of catching up with foreign players who excel initially in the league. When factoring in DC’s defensive woes and lack of quality depth, it made no sense to DP a player who probably could have been replaced cheaper by another Raul Diaz Arce or Luciano Emilio type player in the Central American League.

Honestly, can you imagine making Roy Lassiter a DP? That’s what Emilio essentially is.

WEDNESDAY: The midsalary players ($225,000- $ 500,000)

10 thoughts on “MLS 2009: Good Buy, Bad Buy”

  1. While Ljunberg is a ridiculous move, I think Emilio was worth using a DP spot in order to keep him from going abroad.

    The two bad moves are totally different signings.

    Seattle messed up big time but DC didn’t want to have to go scout for another striker.

  2. let ljunberg have a chance first. yeah i agree it is not the signing i would have made, especially at over 1 million. but maybe they see something we do not see. what if he just needed a rebirth in a new league in a new town with a new passion with 20k season ticket holders? let the guy play first before saying how bad of a signing it is, i feel like people want to say this just so they can point back to themselves later on and let everyone know ‘i told you so’.

  3. As a Seattleite, I do have to worry that Ljungberg for the Sounders is another case of Seattle having the most optimistic, pumped sports fans in the nation, only to have our “secret weapons” let us down…We spent a lotta money on Holmgren for the Seahawks, came close a lot and never crossed the finish line. We routinely have the baseball player on everyone’s lips (Ichiro, Griffey, the list goes on…) and don’t deliver. We came close to an NBA championship a decade or so ago, but the string of failures since eventually led to a complete disinterest and low basketball morale, ending with us selling the team off. As the 20,000 tickets figure that keeps getting tossed around shows, I think we’ll be bringing the same energy that had other teams claiming a “noise-pumping” conspiracy at Qwest Field.

    But hey, we’re optimists, and we had a decent pre-season. We’ll have to see what unfolds.

  4. Emilio costs $1 million less than Angel yet puts up only 2 fewer goals (31 vs. 33) and 2 fewer assists (6 vs. 8) over the same time span. Neither one is a ticket-sales-boosting DP in the mold of Beckham or Blanco, so looking at this purely from a productivity standpoint, Emilio is a much more impressive investment than Angel (though I still think Angel is worth every penny NYRB pay him). Also, the “MLS has a funny way of catching up with foreign players who excel initially in the league” argument you use to tear down Emilio doesn’t apply to Angel, how? I’m pretty sure he’s not of this continent either.

  5. As A.J. accutely points out, Angel’s production is minimaly better than Emilio’s.

    Emilio has also scored a lot of goals in other competitions as well. He makes $1,000,000 less than Angel.

    Sorry Kartik, I’m not smoking the same “Angel is the best striker in League History” crap that Shep Messing is pushing game in and game out.

    I really like Angel and he indeed has been a boon to a moribund franchise. But to suggest that getting a “Raul Diaz Arce” type Central American replacement for much cheaper than Emilio is ka-ka. If it were that simple, all MLS teams would be doing it.

    Emilio isn’t the most consistent goal scorer around (slow starts – red hot middle of the summer – slow end of season) but 31 goals in two seasons isn’t much to complain about.

  6. This is a disappointing piece coming from someone who normally is spot on.

    Ljunberg, that’s fine. I personally think it is a terrible signing.

    But honestly, Emilio has been every bit as effective as Angel in MLS, and has cost a lot less money and required real scouting not merely watching the Premier League highlights show on Sunday nights.

    Angel is highly over rated. His reputation in MLS is based on his reputation in England. You have so consistently in the past stood strong against the temptation to parrot the stereotypes of the British media: why did you deviate this time?

  7. Ljunberg is expected to be on the bench vs nyrb in one week, is finally getting fully fit for the first time since his arsenal days and make no doubt about it seattle will be a team who knows how to find the back of the net, and I truly believe Ljunberg will get a great amount of assists, if you think you can call him a bad buy a week before matches start you are an impatient idiot who will see how much pure talent he has and it is more than enough to tear up the mls this year.

  8. Angel is highly over rated. His reputation in MLS is based on his reputation in England.

    Angel has 35 goals in 53 games for the Red Bulls. How is that “overrated”? Or “based on his reputation in England”?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *