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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Union paying a high premium between the posts

While Zac MacMath has his eye on the ball in this Sept. 6 game
against Toronto, the Union have an eye on ballooning salary costs
thanks to its goalkeeping hydra. (AP)
The declaration by Philadelphia Union CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz upon the acquisition of goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi that the club possessed “three of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer” was met with a few raised eyebrows. After all, since only one goalie can play at a time, it doesn’t seem to make sense to quarantine so many talented players on the bench or in street clothes in the owner’s box.

History suggests that it doesn’t pay to draft goalkeepers, as evidenced by the Union being the only MLS club over the last half-decade to draft a goalie. They’ve done it twice, and neither is a starter.

It also doesn’t pay to overpay a goalie, it seems.

The MLS Players Union released its salary figures Monday, giving us a glimpse at what the summer-transfer-window acquisitions are making. For the Union, the most eye-catching figure is M’Bolhi’s healthy price tag of $240,000.

So, how does that compare to the market value in MLS? Well, it puts the Algerian right near the top, sixth in MLS in terms of guaranteed compensation.

Below are the top goalkeeper salaries in MLS, per the recent salary release by the players union. (Breaks are every 10 goalies.)

Troy Perkins, Montreal $271,833
David Ousted, Vancouver $266,156
Donovan Ricketts, Portland $260,000
Sean Johnson, Chicago $253,000
Raul Fernandez, Dallas $247,500
Rais M’Bolhi, UNION $240,000
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake $235,833
Tally Hall, Houston $213,500
Dan Kennedy, Chivas USA $213,416.67
Jon Busch, San Jose $184,583


Stefan Frei, Seattle $150,000
Joe Bendik, Toronto $147,375
Jaime Penedo, LA Galaxy $138,562
Steve Clark, Columbus $138,333.33
David Bingham, San Jose $130,285
Luis Robles, New York $125,000
Eric Kronberg, SKC $120,000
Zac MacMath, UNION $120,000
Bill Hamid, D.C. United $114,750
Andre Blake, UNION $113,000


Chris Seitz, Dallas $105,000
Bobby Shuttleworth, New England $100,000
Clint Irwin, Colorado $87,000
Brad Knighton, New England $80,700

A few key points:

- First, how much you pay a goalie doesn’t guarantee a club's postseason fate. If the playoffs started today, only one of the top four most-richly compensated goalies would be included. Seven of the top 10 goalies in terms of salary (M’Bolhi included) play for the nine non-playoff teams.

- The goalies named to the 2014 MLS All-Start team make the seventh- and 19th-highest salaries (Nick Rimando and Bill Hamid). 2013 All-Star Raul Fernandez is the fifth-highest compensated.

- Goalies that have been named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year are one, three and 10 in compensation – Troy Perkins in 2006, Donovan Ricketts in 2010 and 2013, and Jon Busch in 2008. Often, it seems that's more a case of rewarding the past than forecasting the future: None of the three are on teams currently in the playoffs.

- You want to know what an MLS Cup winning goalie costs? Well, Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen, who retired last year, made $220,000. That would rank eighth, a spot behind 2009 champ Rimando. Of the other four titles over the last six years, Will Hesmer retired in 2012 having made $181,000, Josh Saunders made $95,250 last year with RSL before being traded to NYCFC (where he’s making the veterans minimum of $48k not to play this season), and Matt Pickens is playing for Tampa Bay in the NASL.

- More pertinent to the Union: The club has three of the top 20 highest-paid goalies; only one other team has two entries in the top 20 (San Jose). The Earthquakes and Dallas are the only two teams with two goalies making at least $100k each; the Union have three goalies paid at that level.

- The Union goalies are raking in a fair amount of cash. But the cap ramifications for the Union aren't quite so dire. The cap hit for MacMath, per a Union official, is drastically reduced from his base salary of $120,000 via an undisclosed MLS mechanism. Blake's salary, a first-year Generation Adidas player, doesn't count at all. That leaves the cap hit as M'Bolhi's salary plus a little more.

- Finally, under these salary figures, the Union goalies are making $473,000. (The club is paying the bulk of that, but there are mechanisms such as GA that reduce the actual monetary expenditure by the club.) The next-highest figure? Dallas, at $401,000. (It should be noted that when Toronto was paying Julio Cesar’s $202k salary early this season, they were on the hook for $446k, although that accounted for four goalkeepers and I'm sure, as Cesar was a loan deal from Queens Park Rangers, there were other factors at play in terms of where money was coming from.)

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