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Larin & Feilhaber: It’s not all about the ex-EPL designated players

Sporting Kansas City v Chivas USA

Major League Soccer has received mass media attention from all corners for their designated player recruitment this summer. 

The likes of Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Giovani Dos Santos have signed lucrative deals to play in MLS; and rumors of more big names in 2016 are floating around. 

MLS has even attracted some former Premier League and Bundesliga stars in the form of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Tranquillo Barnetta on non-designated player contracts. Although both are making healthy salaries.

With new eyes and ears tuned into MLS in 2015, those new fans may forget about the past talent that came through the league or the talent already on display. Even if their reputations are not of household name status. 

In 2015, two MLS players have stood out as either definitely in need of a DP contract or likely to move to Europe sooner rather than later. 

Sporting KC’s Benny Feilhaber currently sits third on MLS’s assist chart with eight and is tied for team lead with seven goals. The 30-year-old is having a career year with Sporting and has already surpassed his previous totals in both goals and assists. 

Feilhaber’s base salary for the 2015 season is $350,000, according to the MLS Players Union data. That makes the former Derby County midfielder fifth on Sporting’s payroll behind DPs Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, as well as non-DPs Roger Espinoza and Dom Dwyer. 

The 2015 MLS All-Star is deserving of the DP tag, but with the emergence of Hungarian Krisztian Nemeth this season (tied with Feilhaber on seven goals), Sporting may have to address the salary cap next off-season. 

Last winter Sporting had to trade Aurelien Collin and C.J. Sapong to make cap room, leaving avoid in the team that has been filled so far. However, with their third DP slot still open and the new the Target Allocation Money mechanism at their disposal, Sporting may well be able to keep all their important pieces for 2016. 

All headlines in Orlando ahead of their inaugural MLS season were on Kaka and the possible arrival of other Brazilians (Robinho, anyone?) While fans focused their attention on Kaka’s Brazilian brilliance, the Lions selected Connecticut’s Cyle Larin number one overall in the MLS SuperDraft. 

While SuperDraft players aren’t always ready to make a step up to the MLS level, Larin has excelled. The Canadian international is currently fourth in MLS’s golden boot race, and last weekend tied the rookie single season record of goals with 11. In addition, Larin and Kaka have combined to score 20 of 31 goals for Orlando this term.

To say Larin has been more instrumental in Orlando’s season than designated players Carlos Rivas and Bryan Rochez isn’t hyperbole. Although it must be noted Larin does make considerably more than Rivas in 2015. 

Larin’s Generation Adidas status means his base salary of $125,000 will not count against the salary cap. However, keeping the 20-year-old Canadian international in Orlando and away from European teams may be more easily said than done. 

Feilhaber has already experienced the highs and lows of playing in Europe. Larin will, most likely, in the near future. Both are perfect examples of the types of players MLS needs to keep for the long term. Feilhaber for his continued quality and Larin for his potential stardom. These are the domestic stars MLS needs to market more and tell everyone just how great they truly are. 

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that writes for World Soccer Talk. Drew has contributed to Radio Yorkshire MLS Monday, Forza Italian Football, Bleacher Report, MLSGB and Soccerly. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, British football and the USA’s Major League Soccer.

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  1. Wesley

    October 4, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    I don’t know what Klinsmann is doing, he doesn’t like Feilhaber??


    August 5, 2015 at 6:59 am

    I guess stuff like this is written for the hard core MLS fan that actually likes watching this B league soccer, my favorite thing to do watching MLS is counting the amount of poor touches that occur, oppppsss, another heavy touch, ball going the other way again…..

    • Anthony

      August 5, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      The MLS is definitely not the EPL or Bundesliga, but at least the athletes are tough and play their heart outs. Unlike La liga, Serie A, or Liga MX, where players spend more time on their hair than they do training. Nothing like watching those actors in La Liga who flop with every contact and roll around the field as if they were shot. The amount of acting and cheating in those leagues makes it unbareable to watch


        August 6, 2015 at 6:49 am

        But it is called MAJOR league soccer, you can’t tell me that the play is of high quality. I realize that it is comparing apples with say a dirty sock, but I think that a lot of Americans WANT to be fans, and probably don’t understand the finer points of the game, but watching Real and Bayern play in a friendly yesterday was exquisite, it is amazing to watch the technique that is displayed, ball, after ball, after ball, and soccer isn’t about the scoring it is about watching Douglas Costa backdoor a defender with a one touch run on turn, that is just the kind of thing you do not see in MLS. All the diving is aweful, but never be confused with putting Liga MX with the other leagues, it is BARELY a step above MLS.

        • Eugene

          August 6, 2015 at 7:41 am

          Like i previously stated, It’s no where near the EPL or Bundelisga. I agree its not about scoring. There are many 0-0 draws that I’m at the edge of my seat watching. And the EPL is gaining respect from athletes and those around sports in this country for being top notch athletes. But there are too many La Liga matches where Guys are rolling around the field as if they were shot and complaining t the ref after every call. And I only mentioned Liga MX is because that is the most watched league in the US (Including the EPL)

    • toryblue

      August 6, 2015 at 6:32 am

      not only is the play still unbelievably poor, but the ratings are still terrible. and what tiny success the league has is due to a wave of aged, international stars at the end of their careers boosting attendance at the gate. and then they come here and dominate, because the level of play is just that bad. not to mention there’s been an unsupportable wave of expansion (so the league can get that precious expansion fee, not unlike another soccer league that was trying to stay above water) that is diluting the league even further than it is already, which is a problem because there isn’t that much talent in MLS to begin with. but don’t tell all this to MLS boosters – their heads will explode with unreasonable rage and they’ll scream at you for daring to criticize what passes for professional soccer in the USA. it would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.

      • Eugene

        August 6, 2015 at 7:49 am

        You do realize the MLS is competing 4 other Major team sport leagues in this country. Of course it has to operate differently than any other league in the world. Let’s see whose going to win La Liga- Barcelona or Madrid, Serie A- Juventus Bundelisga – Bayern. Wow what a shocker. The same team wins every year. How is that watchable? These teams buy the best players in the world. Of course they are exciting to watch.

      • Tim

        August 6, 2015 at 8:22 am

        There are plenty of poor games but you clearly have not been watching becuase there are a lot of entertaining ones as well. These aging stars your’re talking about were also still wanted by big clubs in Europe…But of course if they sign there they are still “world class” if they come to MLS they are playing in a “retirement league”.

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