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Gambles, Bargains, and Busts Revealed in Minnesota United Salary List

by on 26 April 2017

Twice a year, the MLS Players Union makes its players’ salaries public, offering outsiders a chance to look at how the Loons’ deal-making stacks up. This year’s revelations show Minnesota took quite a few gambles, some of which paid off and some that didn’t. The most notable figure in Minnesota United’s salary list is captain Vadim Demidov making a base of $550,008 this season.

Overall, Minnesota United’s roster totals up to a base compensation of $4,926,046. This figure puts the Loons at third last in the league, ahead of only DC United and the Houston Dynamo.

The Gambles

Demidov stands out for making over $150,000 more than any other player on the team. In addition, the club used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to buy down some of his salary. As FiftyFive.One has previously reported, the club is actively looking to cut its losses and move on from Demidov. If they can offload the defender, they will open up an international roster spot and 11% of their roster budget.

United’s other top earners are Kevin Molino ($350k), Christian Ramirez ($350k), Sam Cronin ($300k), and Francisco Calvo ($300k). Molino pushed for a move away from Orlando City in part because he was unhappy with his $110k paycheck. His trade to Minnesota United, which cost the Loons $650k in allocation money, also earned him a 200% pay jump.

Ramirez’s pay of $350k may have been something of a gamble for the club, especially since he was available to sign for cheaper in 2016 before Liga MX clubs came calling. His salary puts him 30th among league forwards (though he is listed as a midfielder), earning similarly to proven MLS players such as Will Bruin, Joao Plata, and Dom Oduro. But so far, that gamble seems to have paid off with five goals, one more than those three forwards combined.

Miguel Ibarra’s wages start at $290k, a hefty sum that Minnesota would want to spend on someone starting regularly for the club. So it is perhaps a relief that the list comes out the week after he scored his first MLS goal and turned in an impressive performance. Still, Ibarra was signed for wages similar to Felipe, Will Trapp, and Dillon Powers. All of these are proven MLS performers and the Minnesota technical staff will be looking for him to live up to that valuation.

Making $230k, John Alvbåge’s wages make him the 8th highest paid keeper in the league. With Bobby Shuttleworth ($155k) currently holding down the starting spot, it would seem likely that Minnesota might not renew Alvbåge’s loan in June.

The other biggest expenditures come in the form of Collen Warner, ($230k) Rasmus Schüller ($200k), and Bashkim Kadrii ($264k). Both Schüller and Kadrii were gambles (as are any international players in MLS), but not dangerous gambles. Neither player has perhaps lived up to these valuations after eight games, but it is far too early to tell if they will pan out or not.

One final signing that continues to baffle is Bernardo Anor, who takes an international spot and is paid $105k, but spent most of 2016 and now 2017 out with injuries.

The Bargains

There is, perhaps, no greater foil to the Demidov flop than Brent Kallman’s wages of $65k. Kallman, who has risen to the challenge by stepping in for Demidov, has more than earned those wages. But defenders in MLS are often cheap, with average wages for defenders at $176k (compared to $159k, $390k, and $548k for keepers, midfielders, and forwards, respectively). Vancouver’s stand-out center back Tim Parker, for example, makes only $80k and Atlanta’s Zach Lloyd makes just $85k (the same as Kevin Venegas).

At $200k, one could hardly call Ibson a “bargain,” but he has played an important role so far this season and will likely continue to be swapped in and out for Collen Warner. Most importantly, the club confirmed on Tuesday that Ibson now has a green card and no longer takes up an international spot on the roster.

Marc Burch making just $130k is on par for many full backs, but still low for a 32 year-old veteran.

The rest of Minnesota’s low-earners, however, are all squad or back-up players. If you look through Paul Tenorio’s bargain-basement flip through of the rosters, there are no comparable starters or rotation players on Minnesota’s squad earning lower wages.

Expansion ain’t easy

Minnesota was always going to need a reshuffle and rearrangement after it kicked off — expansion is not an easy process. Some of the gambles that Minnesota United took were safe, such as Alvbage’s loan signing since they could always easily walk away if it didn’t work out. Others were understandable: both Ramirez and Ibarra were too tempting to keep on and bring back to Minnesota and this gave the players a little extra leverage.

The important lesson to be learned from this process is that a good deal of money was spent to get a good first eleven on the pitch. The average wage of last week’s starting lineup was $230k. But in that group is perhaps only one case of a player punching above his paycheck: Brent Kallman. The Loons technical staff will need to find more bargain signings as they also look to sign more TAM/GAM level starting players.

The team will also have learned an important lesson about the Demidov gamble. They spent money to sign a player they thought could be a building block of their squad and defense. And it failed spectacularly. No one in the technical staff will need this fact explained to them. The club has already adjusted course with signings like Sam Cronin and Marc Burch (though Cronin was already a pre-season target for the club). More MLS veterans can be expected to come in before the club turns outward again.

 

 

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