More than almost any other league, Major League Soccer is a competition where clubs need to get their high-profile signings right.
Although the designated player rule limits the amount of money that a player can count against his club's salary cap, a $480,000 hit for one player is still significant when the overall cap is just $3.8 million.
It should come as no surprise then, to see the players on Goal's MLS Overpaid XI mostly come from clubs that struggled in 2017. In fact, just two players come from playoff sides and one of them, Simon Dawkins, plays for a team that barely snuck into the postseason and had a minus-21 goal differential.
So without further ado, here are our most overpaid players for 2017. All salaries are in guaranteed compensation as per numbers provided by the MLS Players Union.
TIM HOWARD, Colorado Rapids - $2.5 million
As it does for everyone, Father Time has sadly begun to catch up to Howard. At 38, he isn’t close to the same goalkeeper we saw against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup and his decline has been evident to see in Colorado. It’s not that Howard is now a bad goalkeeper, but he clearly is worth far less than he is earning.
His $2.5 million salary is more than five times higher than the second highest-paid goalkeeper in the league (Nick Rimando at $470,000). For what the Rapids are paying, they need spectacular. Instead, they’re getting merely decent.
VADIM DEMIDOV, Minnesota United FC - $555,000
Prior to the season, Minnesota United handed Demidov a targeted allocation money contract and the captain’s armband. To say it didn’t work out would be an understatement. The Norwegian center back was such a tire fire in the heart of the Loons defense, he only played three games before being handed a permanent spot on the bench. By July, he had left the team entirely.
LAURENT CIMAN, Montreal Impact - $662,000
It's been a stunning fall from grace for Ciman, who was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2015, his first season in the league. Two seasons later, the Belgium international was a big part of the Impact's late-season swoon, getting caught out of position and diving into a number of rash challenges to exacerbate his team's defensive woes.
Ciman is good enough to rebound in 2018, but he's got a long way to go to recapture his best from in MLS.
BENJAMIN ANGOUA, New England Revolution - $654,000
Given a targeted allocation money deal prior to the 2017 season, Angoua never looked fully comfortable in the heart of the Revs defense and was culpable for a number of goals in the Eastern Conference's worse defense.
SIMON DAWKINS, San Jose Earthquakes - $800,000
Dawkins made a big impact on loan with San Jose in 2011 and 2012, compelling the Quakes to eventually bring him back on a permanent deal before the 2016 season. Things haven’t gone nearly as well for Dawkins since then, and his 2017 campaign was derailed by injuries and poor performances.
No goals or assists in just 14 appearances isn’t nearly what San Jose would expect out of a designated player, and Dawkins' future with the Quakes is very much in the air heading into 2018.
KAKA, Orlando City - $7.2 million
The Brazilian is the league’s highest-paid player, and a large portion of his massive salary has been justified during his three years in Orlando simply by his ability to bring star power and relevance to a fledgling franchise.
However, Kaka hasn’t been able to even deliver one playoff appearance in those three seasons, and his final campaign in Orlando saw injuries limit him to just 23 games. Six goals and five assists in a second-to-last-place finish just isn’t good enough for a player whose salary is more than several MLS teams pay their entire roster.
ANDREA PIRLO, New York City FC - $5.9 million
Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) September 9, 2017
If there were a captain’s armband for this Overpaid XI, Pirlo would certainly be wearing it. The Italian’s credentials are unassailable, and he is clearly one of the greatest players of his generation. That said, his final season as a pro was still embarrassing. Pirlo looked disinterested when he was on the pitch and his defensive contributions were laughable at times. He was mercifully removed from the starting lineup just two months into the season.
SHKELZEN GASHI, Colorado Rapids - $1.7 million
Whatever we wrote about Gashi’s two-goal, one-assist performance in 2017 wouldn’t be nearly as informative as what Rapids sporting director Padraig Smith said near the end of the season in an interview with Altitude AM 950 in Denver, so we’ll just let him take it away.
“To be honest, we’ve been very disappointed with the effort we got from Gashi this year,” Smith said. “He comes to the Rapids in 2016, nine goals and four assists. … We were all excited about the prospect of Gashi with a year under his belt in America coming and really performing at a higher level in 2017.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t execute the offseason program we put in place for him. He came into camp out of shape, quite a bit out of shape, unfortunately. And that then ultimately led to these lingering injuries over the course of the year.”
GIOVANI DOS SANTOS, LA Galaxy - $5.5 million
Gio dos Santos was worth every penny in 2016, making the MLS Best XI with 14 goals and 12 assists on the season. This year was far different, both for Dos Santos and the Galaxy.
The Mexico international regressed in 2017, putting up just six goals and three assists for a Galaxy team that finished tied for the fewest points in MLS. New signing Romain Alessandrini stole the show in the Galaxy's offense, leaving Dos Santos to pick up the scraps.
YURA MOVSISYAN, Real Salt Lake - $2 million
It was a trying 2017 for Real Salt Lake's designated player striker, who struggled on the field and fought with coaches and management off it.
Movsisyan scored seven goals in 28 league appearances and 16 starts, but only started one league match after July 4. The 30-year-old found himself out of favor due to his form, and his feuds in the media with head coach Mike Petke didn't do much to help him either. Both Movsisyan and RSL would likely be very happy with an offseason divorce.
KEVIN DOYLE, Colorado Rapids - $1 million
The man charged with leading the Rapids offense failed to get much going, along with his Overpaid XI teammate Gashi. Ultimately, Doyle managed just five goals for the league's worst offense before being forced to retire at the end of the season due to concussion issues.
GOAL'S MLS OVERPAID XI