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UPDATED: MLS, Crew’s player 2019 salaries released by the Players Association

What’s changed in the first year of a new era for the Columbus Crew?

MLS: New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated to reflect the correct salary for Gyasi Zardes. Today, the MLS Players Association informed Massive Report that they had incorrectly reported Zardes’s salary in yesterday’s release. The correct salary for Zardes is a base salary of $1,421,667 and guaranteed compensation of $1,471,667. Yesterday’s analysis of Zardes has been adjusted to reflect this updated report.

The Major League Soccer Players Association released its report of player salaries this morning, almost exactly 13 months after last year’s release.

Columbus Crew SC’s new ownership group has not had a full offseason to truly show their financial intentions, but this list does provide a window into how new president Tim Bezbatchenko spent during the season’s first transfer window and into his first Designated Player deal with the club.

Before looking at the salaries, it’s important to refresh on a few MLS salary cap mechanisms. The maximum budget charge that a player can be paid without having to be a Designated Player (DP) or have their salary bought down with Allocation Money (AM) is $530,000. This means that anyone making over $530,000 must be a DP or must have their salary bought below the DP threshold by AM. Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) can be used to pay or buy down any player’s salary if that player is paid between $530,000 and $1.5 million.

Remember, these salaries are often incorrect or inaccurate, so take that into account before forming any opinions on these salaries.

Here is a list of the Crew’s player salaries:

2019 Columbus Crew SC Salaries

First Name Last Name Team 2019 Base 2019 Guaranteed
First Name Last Name Team 2019 Base 2019 Guaranteed
David Accam Columbus Crew $1,010,004 $1,137,920
Harrison Afful Columbus Crew $288,100 $363,800
Luis Argudo Columbus Crew $57,225 $57,225
Artur Columbus Crew $360,000 $411,633
Joe Bendik Columbus Crew $144,000 $144,000
Ricardo Clark Columbus Crew $160,000 $160,000
Alex Crognale Columbus Crew $104,504 $104,504
Waylon Francis Columbus Crew $160,000 $199,167
David Guzman Columbus Crew $300,000 $320,000
Niko Hansen Columbus Crew $71,663 $79,163
Federico Higuain Columbus Crew $1,100,000 $1,100,000
Hector Jimenez Columbus Crew $200,000 $200,000
Aboubacar Keita Columbus Crew $90,000 $110,000
Jonathan Kempin Columbus Crew $84,269 $84,269
Ben Lundgaard Columbus Crew $57,225 $57,225
Connor Maloney Columbus Crew $70,250 $70,250
Jonathan Mensah Columbus Crew $800,004 $894,004
Edward Opoku Columbus Crew $85,000 $106,000
Robinho Columbus Crew $198,000 $198,000
Patrick Mullins Columbus Crew $260,004 $260,004
Pedro Santos Columbus Crew $817,560 $864,560
Gaston Sauro Columbus Crew $360,000 $360,000
Eduardo Sosa Columbus Crew $100,000 $120,200
Zack Steffen Columbus Crew $260,000 $260,000
Wil Trapp Columbus Crew $549,996 $593,746
Milton Valenzuela Columbus Crew $290,000 $321,300
Joshua Williams Columbus Crew $215,000 $215,000
JJ Williams Columbus Crew $95,000 $149,750
Gyasi Zardes Columbus Crew $1,421,667 $1,471,667

Comparing the 2018 salary release to this release shows relatively little change for returning players. Most have received an incremental raise but nothing that suggests a new contract.

The two most dramatic salary increases over last year are for Artur and Gyasi Zardes, who signed a DP deal earlier this season.

Artur’s big salary jump, from $210,000 in both base salary and guaranteed compensation in 2018 to $360,000 base salary and $411,633 in guaranteed compensation, is surprising because the Brazilian midfielder has not signed a new deal with the team. After his loan in 2017, Artur was fully acquired via transfer in December of 2017 so his 2018 salary should have reflected that acquisition. It’s also possible that his contract was structured to increase this year or that the salary numbers last year, or this year, were incorrect.

Zardes was on a TAM level contract when Columbus acquired him in 2018. Last year’s salary release pegged his base and guaranteed compensation at $630,000. With this salary, firmly in the TAM range, Zardes was an excellent value for the Black & Gold. At this price, Zardes was paid much less than every player ahead of him in the 2018 golden boot race and less than many of the strikers with lower goal totals.

Yesterday, the forward’s new DP salary was listed at $2.26 million. This would have firmly taken Zardes out of TAM territory at least for the rest of this collective bargaining agreement. While that salary would have absolutely been appropriate for a striker of Zardes’s caliber within MLS (Zardes is currently tied for 12th in goals though he is only two goals out of fourth place) we have learned today that the salary was incorrectly reported by the MLSPA.

In an email, the MLSPA told Massive Report that “due to a simple clerical error,” Zardes’s salary had been listed incorrectly yesterday. The correct salary for Zardes is $1,421,667 in base salary and $1,471,667 in guaranteed compensation. At these amounts, Zardes is still the highest paid player on the Crew, but is now inside the TAM zone. This leaves the team with the flexibility to buy Zardes down should they need an additional DP slot in the future.

Comparatively, Zardes is the 23rd highest paid attacking player in the league. With six goals on the season, one goal away from his third highest career total, Zardes is tied for 12th in the league in goals and is merely two goals away from Wayne Rooney’s fourth place goal total of eight goals (Rooney’s salary is more than double Zardes’s at $3.5 million). The Columbus striker is making a salary nearly equal to rival FC Cincinnati’s Fanendo Adi (who has yet to score in 2019).

Even at Zardes’s previously reported rate of pay (which would have put 10th in base salary and 13th in guaranteed compensation among attacking players), he would have been paid appropriately. MLS teams clearly value strikers ahead of almost every other position, so Bezbatchenko and the front office knew they would have to pay top money to secure Zardes’s service for the future. Zardes may not have the big name recognition to sell tickets, but his production in Columbus has been consistent. At 23rd in pay, Zardes is an absolute steal for this team.

Among the new players, David Accam’s $1 million salary makes him the third highest-paid player on the team. Accam joins Zardes and Federico Higuain ($1.1 million) as the only Columbus players in the million dollar club.

Robinho, brought in under Berhalter but now a starter under Caleb Porter, has not yet lit the league on fire with his pace but does come in at a good value to the Black & Gold with a salary of $198,000. At this price, there is very little risk to sticking with the Brazilian winger.

Trade-acquisition David Guzman earns a surprising $300,000, providing great value for veteran leadership and MLS experience.

The current salaries on the Crew set the front office for a potentially big offseason. Accam has already been transferred to Nashville SC and Higuain’s contract is up, freeing the team of two different million-dollar contract. Even if Higuain re-signs, there’s a good chance his ACL injury rehab will dent the value of any future deals. Add in the value of Justin Meram’s $650,000 salary sent to Atlanta United and the upcoming offseason should be active.

Around the league, Zlatan Ibrahimovic takes over the top salary spot, with $7.2 million in base salary and guaranteed compensation, after signing an a DP deal with the LA Galaxy before this season kicked off. Zlatan replaces Sebastian Giovinco as the top spot following the Italian attacker’s transfer out of MLS. Michael Bradley remains the second highest paid player in MLS, and is joined in the top five by teammate Jozy Altidore, who signed an extension with Toronto FC earlier this season. Carlos Vela and Bastian Schweinsteiger round out the top five just like last year.