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The lasting regret of poor MLS personnel decisions

Dec 4, 2012, 5:08 PM EDT

Salihi head shot

In Major League Soccer, pricey Designated Players may giveth – but they can damn sure taketh away.

Just ask D.C. United, who remind us today how these big decisions to pay major money and devote a reasonable portion of the tight salary cap need to be right. Otherwise, the price isn’t just in one year’s worth of flagging production.

The beatings go one from there.

The Washington Post’s Soccer Insider (some know him as Steven Goff) says D.C. United, a club now undergoing major front office renovation, no longer has DP striker Hamdi Salihi in its plans. That is hardly a shocker considering D.C. United got a not-so-whopping six goals and no assists for its big investment in the Albanian striker.

In the playoffs, with the season on the line in D.C. United’s return leg against Houston, with “goals” listed as a priority, the team’s DP striker didn’t start.

Problem is, with a year still guaranteed on Salihi’s deal, cutting ties at this point leaves United in a big ol’ hole one way or another. Goff explains the collection of lesser attractive options in the link.

Portland has the same issue with Kris Boyd, the unproductive Scottish striker who has a guaranteed year remaining on his contract at Portland.

  1. dfstell - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    Why do you think some teams are struggling with their DPs? I’d kinda want to see a guy who has succeeded in a fast-paced, physical league like the EPL. The EPL is way more technical than MLS, but it seems like there’s a similar emphasis on pace and willingness to be physical. I’d want to have seen a guy succeed in that environment before dropping a lot of money on him. On the other hand, I can’t imagine there are any good bargains coming out of the EPL. You’re going to pay top dollar for those guys because they ARE proven. Maybe can only teams like LAG and NYRB afford those primo DPs?

    • tylerbetts - Dec 4, 2012 at 7:12 PM

      Argentina seems to be a good source of DPs.

      At least for Columbus.

      • dfstell - Dec 4, 2012 at 8:20 PM

        Yeah…..that’s a good one. Morales and Rosales too.

    • pensfan603 - Dec 4, 2012 at 9:29 PM

      Sorry I cant take this the EPL to MLS Transition has been terrible for most players Id go into depth on it but i dont want to start a huge argument. Look at Most DPs though they dont pan out, from smaller ones like Falihaber to Kris Boyd most are failures. What the MLS has to to do is what they did with Honduras Find the few good players in that country who have the most talent and then leave, Look at Keene the best player the rest arent good, same with Honduras you have a good crop of very good players and the rest just arent that good. Personally I think La Liga Would translate better for the MLS, You have to have more on ball skills and speed, passing isnt as used in the mls and the physicality of the mls is the most overrated thing. But if you do want to go that Route youd best look in Ukraine or Russia. In Uk you can practically murder a player on the field and barely get them to call a whistle. But ya like i said its hard to know really who will translate i think its smartest to go with the high engine guys with alot of energy because that does translate in the MLS, i think.
      List of Sucessful DPs
      Davide Ferraria
      Di Vaio
      Benson (Dont know yet)
      Look at the list and try to find something they all have in common except for no goalies or defenders but really dps are somewhat of a shot in the dark unless you are going for someone who played in the mls and you are bumping up there salary or it is a huge name.
      ALso if you look at previous dps and dps of today you talked about looking for argentine and columbian DPs if you look they have the most DP signs from those two countrys so its not like thats something new.
      Last thing what about Asian International DP?

      • wesbadia - Dec 5, 2012 at 9:40 AM

        To the point about Asian internationals: name one Asian country with a crop of talent that you would want your team to be sourcing “quality” players from.

        I can’t. Even the vaunted Japanese aren’t really that good, no matter what people say about the J.League translating well to MLS play. Physical style is not the only characteristic that should be considered in translation. There are many other factors that physical play is subservient to in the run of play, so basing a translation on just physicality, I think, is silly.

        Other Asian leagues are well behind the MLS in terms of development and success. The J.League is probably the closest, and we’ve only seen one Japanese player actually do mediocre to well here: Kosuke Kimura. Even he has large amounts of critics. Terakazu Tanaka for RSL didn’t pan out, and one of the darlings of last year’s combine (Kohei Yamada) didn’t even scratch reserve league status.

        I think what needs to happen is what has always happened in MLS, just amplified. Sourcing central and south American talent and trying to identify younger players that could potentially be DP material. I thought last year that Jose Adolfo Valencia in Portland would be that type. Unfortunately, undisclosed injuries condemned him to the gurney. We have yet to see the Young DP rule effectively used, and I think it’ll take a couple years for teams to realize the value of it.

  2. krazymunky - Dec 4, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    Dont forget about Kenny Miller. My Whitecaps have to choose between dropping either miller or robson…(hopefully we dont keep both of them)

    • joeyt360 - Dec 4, 2012 at 8:55 PM

      The problem is that usually these guys are on guaranteed contracts (Salihi is) so you have to find another taker.

  3. wesbadia - Dec 5, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    DP’s are a gamble no matter how you look at it. The unintended consequences are just now being felt. Leading off the DP Era with someone like Beckham is one thing. Translating what DP’s SHOULD be to players like Mista, Marquez, Rost, Frings, or many, many others is a tricky business. Part of those unintended consequences is the fact that the DP system is essentially creating a tiered pay rate that is dangerously hard to predict for any given player. It’s an application of economics, straight up. How much is someone worth for what they bring to the table? Not only that, but even if a proven talent (Boyd, Miller, etc) is brought in, there’s always the now-obvious problem of translating play in one league to our league.

    The DP rules inject an insane amount of uncertainty in the business of personnel decisions, more so than would otherwise exist. The way I look at it is that the most valuable DP’s tend to be the ones that are: a) not defensive (including GK’s); b) not depended upon to directly score goals (again Boyd, Miller, Salihi); and c) usually the ones that are play-maker types. I say all this because if you look at the most successful DP’s (Beckham, Rosales, Henry, Ferreira, Blanco, GBS, DeRo etc), while they have the ability to score some beauties, they are more or less most valuable when they’re conducting play and controlling the game.

    And, while there are the outliers in role (Keane, a healthy Frings, JPA), the primary role of a DP seems to me to be those caught in the middle: not too defense, not too offensive, and more creative than the rest. The trouble is identifying those types and whether or not it translates to MLS. What’s more, trying to find all that in a player under the age of 23 who has not been tested in our environment.

    Personally, I would not be surprised if the DP Era closes sooner than some suspect. The sheer amount of increased uncertainty when it comes to DP’s is just too great for clubs to constantly contend with for their team to function properly on the field. Over time, I think clubs will begin to realize that the costs of trial-and-error DP experimentation are outweighed by developing their own talents and trying to assign them pay rates in more conventional means.

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