The Minnesota United coffers got a little prettier last week to the tune of up to $1,000,000. What we know is that Minnesota is guaranteed $500,000 in total GAM and $300,000 in total TAM over the next to years. The additional $200,000 is conditional based on performances and isn’t specified. The exact exchange rate of GAM to TAM can fluctuate based on supply and demand, who is above and below the playoff line, phases of the moon, and whether or not Don Garber saw his shadow.
Now, I literally have a better idea of who killed Kennedy than what GAM and TAM are and the nuances in using them. We hit peak MLS 2.0 when Vancouver got $185,000 GAM from Colorado for $277,500 TAM(1:1.5) five days after Sporting KC got $100,000 in GAM from DC for $140,000 in TAM(1:1.4). Work that one out. Bottom line: the Loons have a bunch of money to do stuff with that has nothing to do with building a stadium or paying for anything other than players.
So what do you do with money from one of the five biggest inter-league trades in MLS history? Why you improve the team, of course.
The easy answer would be to dump that money into a DP level #6 and celebrate our first round exit in next year’s playoffs at the hands of Sporting KC. While a DP #6 or even a TAM level #6 would be a statement of intent and go a long way to abate the resentment generated by selling Superman, but is that really the best choice?
Soccer is a weak-link sport. Each string of passes that leads to a goal goes through several players and barring a turnover in front of the goal, the ball has to travel hundreds of yards before ending up in the hands...feet... of someone that can score. Compare this to basketball, a strong link sport, one player can easily get the rebound run the length of the floor to score a goal. Even in possessions where the ball is moved around a lot and shared evenly, it is still in the hands of the team’s best player 20% of the time. Should that player be somewhere central, like a guard, the see much more of the ball. This has led to some massive contracts for the best players in the sport and an emphasis on getting the ball into their hands. Due to there being only five players on the court, this isn’t too hard and the act isn’t forced.
In soccer on the other hand, it is rare that any player dribbles from one end of the field to the other and scores. Considering that the field is about 120 yards long, the most dribbly players don’t pick up the ball in their own box, pressure can come from all sides, and players are fouled after skipping past their first few tackles. LeBron can run the length of the court and score fairly regularly, Messi and Ronaldo cannot.
To further drive home the point about strong and weak links, compare the fates of Messi and Ronaldo on their club and national teams. Both have oodles of success at club level where they are surrounded by quality. Many of the best players of this generation have been billed as the supporting cast for the two superstars. On their national teams, they don’t have that luxury. The fate of a soccer team is decided by it’s worst player, not the best one. Granted, Portugal did win the Euros in 2016, but it wasn’t nearly the forgone conclusion that Real Madrid winning something is.
The benefit Minnesota has by virtue of being in a growing league that has oodles and oodles of roster rules is that it promotes parity. The richest clubs buying up the best and most expensive players don’t always win. On one hand, someone is always spending better, and spending more, better. It’s not good enough to have money, and its not good enough to be smart. LA, Atlanta, and Toronto have money, Sporting KC, and RB New York are smart and work their youth in. These clubs represent five of the last seven MLS Cup winners. The Loons are still building their youth set-up and don’t have the financial resources to end up with a bust like Ezequiel Barco.
What we can do with $1,000,000 is build some depth.
Based on my midseason salary data(no Romario or Angelo, still including Ramirez), Minnesota spends money about how you would expect based on results. We are above average on average forward salary, and below average everywhere else. The average salary increases as you move up the field. Goalkeepers make the least, forwards make the most. The Loons have no reason for another forward, and already have two respectable goalkeepers. That leaves defense and midfield.
Do the Loons need a #6? Absolutely. Do they need the best #6? Absolutely not. We are underspending and underperforming all across the field. One of our starting center midfielders is going to be 35 by the time playoffs roll around this year, others have struggled with consistency and shrugging off their journeyman status.
So. 900 words later and we still don’t have an answer for what to do with the money. First of all, a passable #6. It is a need and crucial to facilitate play and let our other midfielders play. The second thing? Midfield depth. The argument could be made we have that now with Maximiano, Heath, and Martin, but we need players who can push to be starting every week. The same goes for defense. If our bench can’t be pushing for starts, we need to find someone who can.
Of the three other biggest cash trades in MLS, Columbus and Sporting KC brought in depth to supplement their rosters, Chicago did not. The Loons are in a precarious place where one injury, one bad game, one suspension can break the chain. We have a chance to strengthen across the board and improve the squad in more ways than one, lets not let it go to waste.
What would you do with $1 million (for the Loons or in general)? Let us know in the comments section below!