2015 was the year of the glamour signing in the MLS. Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard joined the revolution to inject some star dust into a competition that is on the rise. New York Red Bulls in the East and FC Dallas in the West set the pace and both teams remain on course to lock horns in the decider.
However, the success of each franchise came in spite of a lack of big name investments and focused instead on a team dynamic built on a collective endeavor. While New York City attempted an immediate splash in the market place, creating all the headlines and buzz ahead of the campaign, these two quietly went about their business and the results speak for themselves.
Where were they lacking? Poor management, a lack of quality or overspending on flops that didn’t fulfill their potential? For every Sebastian Giovinco that lit up the MLS with dazzling play and cracking goals, other franchises were dragging deadweight on their payroll.
With the US national team under pressure to develop top young American talent coming through the ranks and clubs needing to maximize every cent they spend on marquees, MLS organizations can’t be allowed to flounder in the market. Competing against the MLB, NBA and NFL for ticket sales, sponsorship dollars and the hearts and minds of fans, each signing has to be scrutinized to the highest possible standard.
Therefore, it’s time to name and shame the 15 players who fell below expectations and cost their team dearly. Some might be surprise candidates but remember – time is money and a lot of these athletes did not come cheap. So here they are, the top 15 worst MLS players of the 2015 season.
15 Jason Johnson
Sitting on a cap figure of $131,000, Jamaican international Jason Johnson was meant to play a key role in firing the Chicago franchise up the table in 2015. But 2 goals from 20 games is a record you would expect from a defender, not a front man at 25-years old entering the prime of their careers. The writing should have been on the wall with his one goal in 21 starts for Houston so when it’s all said and done, Johnson isn’t making the grade at MLS level from 3 seasons of under par performances.
14 Ronald Zubar
When Ronald Zubar departed Marseille in 2009 he was hoping to land on his feet. Yet at 30 years of age the central defender has failed to make a lasting impression in Jersey. On a salary of $320,000 the intention to bring in Zubar was to strengthen and provide experience to the defense. A string of injuries meant he was loaned out to the 2nd team after a poultry 12 appearances. Throw the surprising emergence of Matt Miazga into the mix and before long we’ll expect Ronald to be out the door at the end of the year. Given their standing at the moment they haven’t missed a moment of Zubar.
13 DaMarcus Beasley
On the nose with the US national team, it appears we’ve seen the best of DaMarcus Beasley. A shame in many respects because at 33 he still has some years in the legs yet, however his contract worth $813,333.33 is excessive to say the least. Houston Dynamo ended 9 points off a finals spot and while their home form was respectable enough, 2 wins from 17 starts on the road was pitiful. The franchise should be looking for a faster, fitter and younger option at left fullback next campaign.
12 Kevin Doyle
No one expected big things from the Colorado Rapids in 2015 and by that measure they delivered. Irish international Kevin Doyle was an odd choice to bring in as a striker, hoping he could recapture his form at Reading almost a decade ago. 5 goals in 20 for the 32-year old was a result of a lack of service and creativity behind him, but he also didn’t help his own cause and he showed his limitations this campaign.
11 Erick Torres
Another Houston name that promised much but delivered little. Erick Torres aka Cubo to his friends was shipped off to Guadalajara on loan to try and recapture some form until he was brought back after just the 2 goals in 5 appearances. Torres couldn’t find the back of the net and on a salary of $425,000 fans should be expecting much better. The guy is only 22 so time is on his side, but if the franchise wants to seriously compete for a finals berth next year they’ll need strikers like Torres to find their radar.
10 Adam Nemec
Zero goals in nine games. A big fat duck. Nothing from a salary of $332,500 meant the “bargain” signing from the new outfit New York City failed spectacularly. The operation was always going to suffer from growing pains but with the resources of the City Football Group and the scouting networks in place they would have hoped for a lot more from the Slovakian international. He never gelled with any of the front men, including Spanish superstar David Villa and was kicked out the back door in August.
9 Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi
The term “underwhelming” comes to mind when reflecting on the 2015 MLS campaign of Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi. The 30-year old French holding midfielder collects a respectable $260,000 a season but with a foot injury sidelining him, the likes of Fatai Alashe, Marc Pelosi and Anibal Godoy overtook him in the San Jose Earthquakes pecking order. If he can get fit again, and that is a big if given his recent record, then 2016 could be a new dawn for Jean-Baptiste.
8 Emanuel Pogatetz
This big strapping Austrian defender was brought in by Columbus Crew not just to stop goals but be the enforcer. Nicknamed “Mad Dog” for his overzealous approach, Pogatetz managed 19 games this season and with the Crew’s run into the playoffs the central defensive partnership of Parkhurst and Sauro has held the franchise in good stead. At $262,500 it’s a modest loss for the club to write off, but whose to know if he’ll hang around and compete for his spot in 2016.
7 Maurice Edu
In 2007 the world was Maurice Edu’s oyster. He was a star for Toronto FC and after a successful few seasons with Rangers in the SPL it was expected that the American international would have a great career as a holding midfielder. Once a move to Stoke City ended in acrimony and apathy, Edu switched to the Philadelphia Union where his quality and consistency was put under the microscope. On $768,750, the more modest franchise doesn’t have the capital to blow that amount of coin on a guy approaching his 30s, so a big decision will have to be made at Union HQ this off-season.
6 Shaun Maloney
14 appearances was all it took for the Chicago Fire to cut ties with Scottish international Shaun Maloney. Oh and the small matter of $1,586,000 too. The big money flop disappointed in his short stint that only contributed 3 goals and 2 assists for a minimal return on a sizeable investment. Since returning to the UK to help Hull City achieve promotion, Maloney’s stock plummeted with the Chicago faithful and the owners were quick to scapegoat him for their troubles in 2015.
5 Khiry Shelton
No doubt Chicago went big this season, they can’t deny that. With Maloney the big addition in midfield, the franchise gambled on the talents of Adailton Khiry Shelton to lead the defense. As the team struggled badly to concede the most goals out of any team in the competition, it’s fair to say Shelton was a spectacular failure in 2015. The center back was paid $244,500 for his troubles as surgery forced him to stop at 17 games.
3 Kennedy Igboananike
Completing the trio of Chicago Fire flops in 2015 is Kennedy Igboananike. On a staggering wage of $901,667 the Nigerian striker was a big roll of the dice considering that his goals in the Swedish League were against very mediocre opposition at a modest standard. With 7 goals in 31 appearances there are strikers in the MLS who would love to have a similar record, but those players aren’t anywhere close to making that amount of money. Chicago need to reevaluate their entire recruitment department.
2 Frank Lampard
The whole move and relationship with New York never got off to a good start. Fans were promised a fresh and committed England midfielder to start the season but had to wait with an extended loan with bigger brother club Manchester City taking the wind out of the sails in the Big Apple. Lampard just managed double figures with 10 appearances and 3 goals, failing to justify his whopping $6 million deal. For Lampard’s sake he’ll hope it’s a case of form is temporary but class is permanent.
1 Andrea Pirlo
If work ethic was an essential ingredient in the City Football Group’s recruitment policy, then they would have given Andrea Pirlo a wide berth. This effort defending a corner typified a man that continues to ooze class on the pitch, but when it comes to extending himself for the cause the Italian midfielder was severely lacking this year. Rarely will a 36-year old be sitting on an $8 million contract in a team sport and having won everything possible in the game it’s any wonder Pirlo looks like he’d rather light up a cigarette than break a sweat. No wonder he’s denying a move to Manchester because the pace of the EPL would expose the guy no end.
1. Steven Gerrard
As soon as he slipped at home to Chelsea to see Liverpool’s title hopes disappear in smoke, Steven Gerrard has never recovered. The LA Galaxy were operating as a perfectly oiled machine, but Gerrard’s introduction saw the franchise miss out on the playoffs for the first time in a number of seasons. At 35 the Californian organization invested a huge $9 million in the former English international and 2 goals in 13 MLS games in 2015 is far removed from what he is capable of. Given his pedigree, wages and expectations Stevie G takes the title for the worst MLS player this season.