MLS Week 21 in review (cont.)
4. The value of the backup 'keeper: Teams are still learning the best ways to tame the salary-cap monster. Conventional wisdom once said that goalkeepers shouldn't eat up too much of the total, and that paying a second one any major sum was foolish. But that may be changing. Some teams have done themselves a huge favor by acquiring a solid backup. In some cases, said "solid backup" is saving his team's bacon.
Jon Busch was excellent Saturday as San Jose kept itself playoff relevant with a 1-0 win over the Galaxy. San Jose manager Frank Yallop scooped up Busch after he was jettisoned so unexpectedly by Chicago just before the season. Yallop needed someone to push Joe Cannon, and possibly to pick up the starts if Cannon couldn't regain his formerly solid footing.
Sure enough, Yallop made the change last month. And Busch was good -- until he gave up a terrible goal against Colorado and lost his spot. But Cannon's broken ankle in a freak practice accident has demonstrated anew how critical Yallop's choice to spend some cash on a quality backup has proved to be. Now, despite Cannon's season-ending injury, the Earthquakes have a veteran goalkeeper for the playoff stretch run.
In Dallas, Hartman may have looked a wee bit pricey at $80,000 guaranteed -- especially when the Red Stripes were paying Dario Sala $178,000 guaranteed. But whereas Sala couldn't produce the goods, Hartman has been nothing short of outstanding. At 36, he's enjoying a career year.
Veteran backups Andy Gruenebaum and Jon Conway collected midweek CONCACAF Champions League wins for Columbus and Toronto, respectively. Scratch "backup goalkeeper" off the worry list at those clubs as well.
5. Team of the week: Goalkeeper: Jon Busch (San Jose). Defenders: Richard Mulrooney (Houston), Andy Iro (Columbus), Brandon McDonald (San Jose), Bobby Convey (San Jose). Midfielders: Tony Tchani (New York), Rafa Marquez (New York), Brek Shea (Dallas). Forwards: Brian Ching (Houston), Birahim Diop (Kansas City), Danny Allsopp (D.C. United).
The players' union released salary figures last week for all 16 teams. Here, according to that information (and using base salary figures) are the best and worst values in MLS this year.
(For this list, we won't include rookies at the $40,000 league minimum who are suddenly starting -- more of a fortuitous rookie find than a value steal, really.)
1. Jair Benitez, FC Dallas ($42,000): Two thousand over the league minimum is an absolute steal for MLS' best attacking left back.
2. Brandon McDonald, San Jose ($40,000): Bad timing on injuries probably inhibited his ability to get a new deal, but the value is high no matter how you slice it. He's a quality center back who can also hold his own as a defensive midfielder.
3. Joel Lindpere, NY Red Bulls ($80,000): His importance has fallen slightly now that Marquez has arrived and 21-year-old Tony Tchani is proving to be such a capable center mid. Still, Lindpere's skill and drive from the midfield is a big reason why New York built a healthy record as Marquez and Henry were en route. Plus, he'll continue to influence games as a left-sided midfielder.
4. Justin Braun, Chivas USA ($65,000): When a team leader in goals (seven) and assists (three) is making $65,000, that's true value. The young American doesn't get an abundance of help, either. If he did, his numbers would look even better.
5. George John, FC Dallas ($40,000): The big, second-year center back is a major reason why FC Dallas is one of four sides yielding less than a goal per game.
(For this list, we'll include only the "cap number" for any designated players who count $335,000 toward a club's salary limit.)
1. Ibrahim Salou, New York ($264,000): So let's get this right: A 30-year-old trialist whose career highlight was notching five goals in two years at Belgium's Club Brugge, and who has been sliding since, is handed a $264,000 deal? Hmmm.
2. Josh Wolff, Kansas City ($220,000): He had a good career. But one goal and one assist in 17 games this year for the 33-year-old forward? 'Nuff said.
3. Rodolfo Espinoza, Chivas USA ($216,000): They need a lot around that team, and Espinoza's part of the cap could go a long way to supplying some of it. Anything north of $200,000 is getting into the "impact player" zone, and the Mexican veteran has done little "impacting" for Martin Vasquez's team this year.
4. Davy Arnaud, Kansas City ($220,000): Since his sizzling start to the 2009 season, Arnaud just hasn't been productive. Plus, no one has ever really settled on his best spot, although he has played fairly consistently as one of two midfielders at the top of a central "V" for Kansas City this year.
5. Branko Boskovic, D.C. United: ($380,000/$335,000 against the cap): It's still a little early, but things aren't looking great for the club's latest DP. He has no goals or assists in six matches. Creative midfielders sometimes need time to assimilate in MLS. Still, Boskovic hasn't shown much to this point.
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