[MONEY MATTERS] The release by the MLS Players Union of player salaries as of Sept. 1 was certainly revealing. As MLS moves into the home stretch, candidates abound for this season's bargains and busts. We select this year's five bargains -- players who have had great seasons despite earning the minimum or next to the minimum -- and five busts -- players who have contributed little despite making big money.
(Click y%20Club.pdf">here for team-by-team salaries as of Sept. 1.)
Note: Salary figures represent 2011 guaranteed compensation.
1. Mauro Rosales (Seattle: $42,000). The Sounders had little money to offer the veteran Argentine when he arrived in the spring, but general manager Adrian Hanauer says the Sounders promised they'd take care of him in the future if he produced. Well, Rosales has produced in a big way, scoring four goals and seven assists in MLS action for the Sounders, who are second in the MLS overall standings, perfect in the Concacaf Champions League (3-0-0) and headed to the U.S. Open Cup final in search of a three-peat. Yes, Rosales' agent, former MLS goalie Dario Sala, is working with the Sounders on a new contract for next year.
2. Graham Zusi (Sporting KC: $42,000). There was nothing about the Maryland product's first two seasons -- nine starts, one goal, one assist -- that would have made his minimum salary extraordinary, but his 2011 season makes him a major bargain. He has five goals and six assists in 26 games to help SKC climb back into the playoff hunt. He was named the MLS Player of the Month for June, starting four consecutive matches for the first time in his career and adding three game-winning assists to go along with two goals.
3. Marvin Chavez (FC Dallas: $50,000). In his third season in MLS, the Honduran has been one of FCD's unsung stars, scoring five goals and four assists -- more than his first two seasons combined when his guaranteed compensation was $70,000 a season. He's started all but one game for the Hoops, who are third overall in the MLS standings. He's played on the wings and up front for Dallas, which lost David Ferreira, the reigning league MVP, with a broken leg early in the season.
4. George John (FC Dallas: $42,000). John was hoping for a big bump in salary when he headed to England to finalize a transfer to Blackburn Rovers in late August. When the deal didn't materialize, he headed back to FC Dallas for which he was a No. 14 pick in the 2009 SuperDraft. The Greek-American has blossomed into one of MLS's top young central defenders and eyed a move to Europe rather than re-signing with Dallas for a much higher salary.
5. Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia: $42,000). When a contract with a European team did not materialize after Williams left North Carolina after his freshman season, he ended up in the USL Second Division (third level) last season with the Harrisburg City Islanders. He joined the Union toward the end of its first season and immediately stepped into the starting lineup, where he's been ever since. At 21, he is considered one of MLS's top young outside backs and a candidate for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
1. Mustapha Jarju (Vancouver: $426,883). Unlike MLS Gambians like Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi, who were plucked from the Baby Scorpions, Gambia's U-20 national team, Jarju was an established pro when he joined the Whitecaps, having spent five seasons in Belgium. But since coming to Vancouver, he has no goals and no assists in just 296 minutes of action. His best work has been with the Caps' reserves, not exactly what they had in mind when they made him MLS's first African Designated Player.
2. Frank Rost (New York: $545,460). The Red Bulls took a risk signing the 38-year-old German as their third Designated Player, filling the spot they set aside when they chose not to re-sign Juan Pablo Angel after the 2010 season and letting veteran keeper Greg Sutton go on loan to the NASL's Montreal Impact. But he gave up eight goals in three-plus MLS games and hasn't played since coming off at halftime of a 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake more than a month ago. He's been sidelined with a quadriceps injury suffered while sitting on the flight back from London, where the Red Bulls won the Emirates Cup. Back in MLS, it's been more than two months since NYRB has won a game.
3. Juan Diego Gonzalez (Philadelphia, $193,462.50). Signed in August 2010, the 31-year-old Colombian played seven games for the Union last season but has yet to make an appearance in 2011 despite his salary, the fifth highest on the team in terms of guaranteed compensation. Even when Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes, the two regular center backs, have been unavailable, Union coach Peter Nowak has gone with a patchwork backline instead of using Gonzalez.
4. Marko Maric (Chicago, $200,000). Signed to the second highest salary on the Fire roster, the Croatian was supposed fill the playmaking role in Chicago. But he was injured in a game against the Portland Timbers on April 14 and spent the remainder of the season on Injured Reserve before being waived on Wednesday. His minutes for the season: 19.
5. Shavar Thomas (Sporting KC: $174,375). The 30-year-old Jamaican center back joined Kansas City, his sixth MLS team, in June 2010 and started 16 of 18 games the rest of the way, but he has played only 35 minutes in three brief league appearances this season. The emergence of young American Matt Besler, a 2011 MLS All-Star making just $69,660, and the arrival of Brazilian Julio Cesar and Frenchman Aurelien Collin dropped Thomas down on the SKC depth chart at center back. In the meantime, he remains a regular on the Jamaican national team that will face the USA next year in World Cup 2014 qualifying.