Thursday, June 18, 2015

MLS Week 15 Rankings + A Dip to Find the Best Bargains in the Bin

Keep digging! They've got Scott Caldwell for cheap in there!
[Editor’s Note: I came up with the concept below late, late Monday night, at the last gasps of a struggle to get the rankings posted in time. Creating the sort of content mash-up that appears below seemed like not only a great idea for adding value – and who doesn’t like added value? - but also a sound justification for putting off the post till the next day. Turns out huffing paint doesn’t contribute to good decision making. OK, that’s not true. No paint was huffed. It is, however, true that huffing paint does not help with making good decisions. Huffing paint is not, in itself, a good decision. OK, on with the post.]

OK, trying a new arrangement for the rankings. And piling on the data. Or arguments. No, they’re more suggestions. Yeah, suggestions. This will work like regular rankings, but, with an eye to broadening the appeal of post, I’ll throw in another subject for each club – and try to do a new one every week. [Ed. Note: See? There is no goddamn way I could come up with a new data point every week. None. I may as well have been huffing paint.]

The first part of the commentary on each team, then, will be the usual, straightforward argument for each club’s rankings in this week’s post. The second part will touch on some other aspect about that team – something that should be of interest (at least potentially) for the engaged, to over-engaged, fan of Major League Soccer. This week, for instance, I went through the 2014 MLS Players’ Union salary report to name one player from each club as the biggest bargain on that club’s roster – e.g., the poor bastard who, all things considered, should be thrilled with his playing time/accomplishments, while giving some serious thought to whether, y’know, he’s getting screwed by management.  This week, I’ll list the part two stuff after "Bargain Bin Star."

As for the salary stuff, it might be a little stale. The MLSPU hasn’t released the 2015 salary info yet. And, to be clear, that second talking point has no bearing on that club’s ranking. All that make sense? Good!

I only managed two games during Week 15 (and, again, all the games I don't watch in whole, I watch through MLS Live, 20 minutes at a time). And those (e.g. the full games) were:
New York City FC v. Montreal Impact
Seattle Sounders v. FC Dallas
As we all know, MLS Week 15 was lousy with byes. Only five games were played all weekend. As for notes, only New York City FC’s win registers as an upset of any kind. Maybe New England’s win over Chicago said something, e.g. that the Revs might yet dodge a full-on slump; then again, this was against Chicago, one of MLS’s wounded wildebeests in this 2015. That aside, Week 15 starred the two expansion teams roughed up the old guard a little bit. Because the young eat the old. They always eat the old.

1) Seattle Sounders (8) (Week 14: 1)
It’s not enough to argue that Seattle coasted against FC Dallas. Zac “Freakin’” Scott contained Fabian Goddamn Castillo. Plan C cancels Plan A. Neat goal by Leo Gonzalez. Who I have never liked, but nice goal and wonderful moment.
Bargain Bin Star: Are you freakin’ kiddin’ me? Gonzalo Pineda only makes $80,000?!

2) Sporting Kansas City (6) (Week 14: 2)
Bye week for KC. Nothing like hitting coast after a good run. More players coming back…
Bargain Bin Star: Would have been Dom Dwyer (who got robbed through 2014 at $80,000), but he re-upped to what surely must have been a bigger paycheck. Which leaves...I’m going with Kevin Ellis as their top, underpaid asset; he took home $48,825 in 2014.

3) DC United (4 1/2) (Week 14 Ranking: 3)
The thing is, they’ll bounce back. They already did, technically, with their win last night in the U.S. Open Cup. But good pros bounce back. That’s what they do. Just respect that there’s a ceiling.
Bargain Bin Star: While I don’t know what he makes under his new deal, Bill Hamid at $100,000 per annum was goddamn armed robbery. But...holy! I just saw Taylor Kemp’s 2014 deal. $36,504? Are you friggin’ serious? For that left foot?

4) Vancouver Whitecaps (6) (Week 14: 4)
A lot of clubs had bye weeks. Not a ton of them left as many questions when they left as Vancouver did. While they can beat anyone on their day, how often do they have their day?
Bargain Bin Star: Russell Teibert at $70,000, who does a lot for the ‘Caps, but with Nicolas Mezquida pushing him for the unwanted honor at $65,000.

5) Toronto FC (5) (Week 14: 5)
Their last five games should make forgetting their first five easier. Or just blacking them out and pushing them deep, deep down where they’ll never remember them again. More to the point, Michael Bradley’s great weekend in Europe speaks of a man returning to work feeling like a God.
Bargain Bin Star: When you get a decent back up like Chris Konopka for $60,000, you’ve made a good decision.

6) Portland Timbers (13) (Week 14: 6)
The good times are rolling so fast and free that no one tournament can contain the awesome.
Bargain Bin Star: Might have been Alvas Powell at $48,800, but the new unknown-quantity contract (presumably) disqualifies him. In terms of minutes played, the honor/dishonor goes to George Fochive, who brings home too little bacon ($36,500) for all the ass he’s covered in 2015.

7) Houston Dynamo (2) (Week 12: 8)
Idle, which is good. Gives all of us another week to figure out this goddamn club. Giles Barnes’ absence, though...definitely something to think about.
Bargain Bin Star: Only the goalkeeping revelation of 2015, Tyler Deric nets $90,000 every year. Don’t let them hold that conviction over you, kid...

8) Orlando City FC (2 1/2) (Week 12: 10)
With the defense holding together, at long last, Orlando has what feels like real life. The most surprising thing, though, is how much better they got after Kevin Molino went down. Not to say Molino’s the problem, as opposed to suggesting he was viewed as too much of the solution.
Bargain Bin Star: This is tricky, because it requires guess work…Still, I’m going with Amobi Okugo...ew, damn, $145,000 in 2014. Probably someone else, then, but I’m stumped and don't have the data.

9) New England Revolution (4) (Week 12: 9)
Just when you think New England won’t relive their 2014 swoon (see Games 13-20, and then cry), they bow out of the U.S. Open Cup to the kids at the band table? At the fucking band table! Beating Chicago isn’t so much an accomplishment as the process of waiting for one’s turn.
Bargain Bin Star(s): Charlie Davies, $75,000!  Scott Caldwell, $52,300! Send New England’s salary guys to any negotiation in the world! Now!

10) FC Dallas (4) (Week 12: 7)
They were just...feeble against Seattle. Once they found they couldn’t get anything from Castillo, it was just...waiting to for the Sounders to kill them off. By the foot of Leo Gonzalez, no less. Dallas is definitely sputtering.
Bargain Bin Star: Would have been Fabian Castillo, without question, at $70,000, but he signed a new deal, which leaves the fight between Ryan Hollingshead ($48,500) or Victor Ulloa ($36,504). I’m leaning Ulloa.

11) Red Bull New York (5) (Week 12: 11)
I suspect few clubs welcomed a bye week like the Red Bulls. Bet they wrestled the thing to the ground and pinned it there till it promised to stay. There’s some re-thinking in order for the Red Bulls, hopefully, not a ton.
Bargain Bin Star: I’m going with new defender, and frequent stand-in, Karl Ouimette, who scraped together only $48,825 last year.

12) Columbus Crew SC (5) (Week 12: 13)
I am mad at both of these teams (see below).
Bargain Bin Star: It would have been Ethan Finlay, who earned an, “are you fucking kidding?” $51,000 last season. But he re-upped, and probably for more money. Something about the “yeah, we’ll take him” vibe of the article on Justin Meram’s implies that he didn’t.

13) Los Angeles Galaxy (3 1/2) (Week 12: 14)
I am mad at both of these teams (see above).
Bargain Bin Star: I was going to say Dan Gargan, who started a huge chunk of 2014 for just $48,500, but he renewed and, presumably, re-upped, which leaves Tommy Meyer, a sturdy back-up, as the Galaxy’s bargain employee at $50,848.

14) Real Salt Lake (2) (Week 12: 8)
Lo, the scales have fallen from mine eyes and I understand that, yes, RSL is, indeed, caught in a dreaded “transition” year. And too many old guys have to carry this team too far before all the young bucks catch up.
Bargain Bin Star: Luke Mulholland, madness at last year’s $55,000. And I see no signs that he signed a new contract.

15) San Jose Earthquakes (1) (Week 12: 11)
I’ll be honest, here: I’m not sure how San Jose drops 4 spots while sitting idle, especially given the paltry accomplishments of...I’m going with the three clubs above them. It probably boils down to the some sort of internal projection. Also, I didn’t think anyone would notice.
Bargain Bin Star: How is Victor Bernardez earning just $100,000 per annum? Yeah, he’s a red card waiting to happen, but…isn’t there everything else?

16) New York City FC (3 1/2) (Week 12: 19)
I’ll be honest: this is a total, “what the hell?” ranking, a sort of treat for NYCFC on the occasion of their first-ever MLS “winning streak.” And, yes, it absolutely helps that they jumped the two clubs to whom they owe the pleasure. Also, maybe Tommy McNamara’s helping just enough to get that offense clicking?
Bargain Bin Star: In terms of pure bang-for-buck in this calendar year, I like Mehdi Ballouchy, whose $65,000 2014 salary bought some decent goals for NYCFC this year.

17) Philadelphia Union (2 1/2) (Week 12: 18)
For all the welcome signs of green “W’s” in Philly’s recent results, they can still go out and drop a game to NYCFC. And there’s no tangible sense of the club having figured things out.
Bargain Bin Star: Going with a weird one here, and wondering whether it’s really that weird. Cristian Maidana made only $185,000 last year. Did he produce that much? [Edit.] Oh. Yes, he did in 2014, and a fair amount. I guess that's why people hang their hats where they have.

18) Montreal Impact (4) (Week 12: 17)
As much as I like to think of Montreal as just being a little behind the curve, one (here, I mean a collective “one”) does not make the most of games in hand by coughing up a sticky hairball of a loss to the league’s (heretofore) worst club.
Bargain Bin Star: Given all the minutes he’s logged, and the defining, killer long-ball he played, no writ into Impact legend, Calum Mallace, who brings home just $50,848.

19) Colorado Rapids (4) (Week 12: 18)
Didn’t do anything this weekend, but that’s kind of a general theme with Colorado. (Thank you, I’ll be here all week, don’t forget to tip your waitress!)
Red Tag Star: Clint Irwin, y’know, the Rapids’ starting ‘keeper, got a new contract heading into 2014. Yet he appears to have ended the year earning $75,000. Key-wrap. (By which, I mean crap).

20 Chicago Fire (2 1/2) (Week 12: 20)
The word might be “genuinely fucking terrible.” Or the phrase. Regardless, this club looks more hopeless than the rest.
Red Tag Star: Harrison Shipp, the guy who gets periodic rave, “why-is-he-not-on-the-USMNT” level reviews? Yeah, he only makes $70,000 annually.


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