Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a series detailing the effects of money in Major League Soccer. We recommend you read all of them. You can find links to all of the articles here or at the bottom of this piece.
The buzzword of using money wisely in Major League Soccer is efficiency.
We’ve looked at one way to measure it in the last two parts of this series, but we’re going to cap things off with another metric.
The goal of every club is to get the most out of their every single one of their players, right? It’s about bang for their buck — more bang for less buck. In the previous parts of this series we’ve focused heavily on performance as the way to measure “bang,” but there is another way that’s more simplistic.
We’re going to measure “bang” in terms of minutes played.
Inside the Stats: Just looking at minutes played can be a crude measure, but it’s one of the only ways to effectively see what a team is getting out of a single player while using a consistent metric.
Advanced stats in soccer just aren’t where we reliably need them to be — xG and other various xStats aren’t optimized for every position on the pitch, and even positions change over the course of 90 minutes. So for now, assuming that a manager will give minutes to the fourteen players who give the team the best chance to win, minutes will have to suffice.
Looking around the league, we see there are some players who are bargains to put on the field, and others who cost a small fortune. Check out the cheapest and most expensive starting lineups (minimum 450 minutes played):
The Bargain XI
GK - Tyler Miller, LAFC, $23.20
D - Reggie Cannon, FC Dallas, $23.11
D - Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls, $26.06
D - Nouhou Tolo, Seattle Sounders, $26.76
D - Ben Sweat, NYCFC, $30.72
M - Alphonso Davies, Vancouver Whitecaps, $29.96
M - Daniel Lovitz, Montreal Impact, $32.69
M - Ken Krolicki, Montreal Impact, $34.32
M - Julian Gressel, Atlanta United, $37.78
F - Corey Baird, Real Salt Lake, $28.64
F - Daniel Salloi, Sporting Kansas City, $35.63
There are a few things to notice about this group. There are just three internationals (Salloi, Gressel and Tolo). Davies, who landed a transfer to Bayern Munich, might be the biggest bargain of all, having scored eight goals and assisted on nine for Vancouver this year.
The Premium XI
GK - Tim Howard, Colorado Rapids, $853.45
D - Michael Mancienne, New England Revolution, $1,522.52
D - Jorge Villafana, Portland Timbers, $942.75
D - Roman Torres, Seattle Sounders, $937.50
D - Claude Dielna, New England Revolution, $682.05
M - Michael Bradley, Toronto FC, $2,275.11
M - Bastian Schweinsteiger, Chicago Fire, $2,237.71
M - Ager Aketxe, Toronto FC, $1,769.13
M - Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact, $1,670.80
F - Giovani Dos Santos, LA Galaxy, $7,290.40
F - Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC, $5,701.25
There are six Designated Players in this group and six internationals in this group. Toronto FC, the biggest spenders and biggest underachievers in 2018, were hurt by having three players in this list. There are plenty of expensive options at forward beyond Dos Santos and Altidore, who both saw limited action, including NYCFC’s David Villa and Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco.
Minnesota United don’t have any players on either list, which is simultaneously a positive and negative sign. For one, the Loons aren’t wasting money on a player they aren’t using, but they haven’t found a great value player either.
That’s not to say United needs a player in the value XI, but it would be a nice thing to see. Minnesotan defender Brent Kallman is the Loons’ best value, with a cost-per-minute of $43.93.
Let’s check out how the rest of the roster ranks:
Minnesota United Player Cost-per-Minute 2018
Strikethrough indicates a player no longer on roster
^ indicates ongoing contract negotiations
Players not listed did not log enough minutes for statistical relevance
There aren’t many numbers of note here. Kallman is a great value, but we knew that already. Rasmus Schuller played plenty for what he was being paid, and Miguel Ibarra is certainly an efficient deal considering the raw amount of distance he can cover during a match.
Romario Ibarra wasn’t with the team long enough for his cost-per-minute to be all that realistic, but he’s still likely to be inefficient due to the plethora of wingers on the roster. Darwin Quintero is understandably expensive, but fellow Designated Player Angelo Rodriguez’s struggles to settle could pose an issue.
In getting literal value from their players, Minnesota United is off to a good start in MLS. Hopefully the Loons can continue going up from here.