Analysis

Carlos Valdes — and four DPs?

Photo: Paul Rudderow

So Carlos Valdes is apparently coming back to Philadelphia. That changes a lot, doesn’t it?

On one level, people are rightly recognizing this should restabilize the weakest link of a team that somehow is still in the playoff hunt thanks to a criminally underperforming Eastern Conference. Much like Philadelphia, New England, New York, and Houston have fallen well below expectations in the standings.

On another level, there are many questions on what this does to the team’s overall structure and flexibility on player acquisitions going forward. So let’s dive in.

Will Valdes be a DP?

Valdes remains under contract with the Union for 2014 at a salary of $295,000. The Union hold an option to renew his contract for 2015, likely at a higher salary.

But Valdes has realistically outplayed that contract and would demand more on the open market. The Union could play hardball if they wanted, but they have shown no inclination to do that so far, either out of good will or due to complications and nuances in his contract. (MLS owns just 60% of his rights.)

So Valdes will likely get a DP deal somewhere in the range of $500,000 or $600,000 a year.

So the Union could have four Designated Players in 2015?

If Valdes returns, the Union could have four Designated Players in 2015.

  • Chaco Maidana: Maidana is already a designated player. His $185,000 base salary may be below the $387,500 threshold for DPs, but the Union paid a transfer fee of about $400,000, which factors into the equation. However, that could potentially clear next year and take him off the DP rolls.
  • Maurice Edu: Edu is on loan, and the Union have an option to buy his rights from Stoke City. His salary is $650,000.
  • Vincent Nogueira: Nogueira is not a DP this year, with a salary of $330,000. However, a salary increase for 2015 that is already in his contract will likely bump him to DP level if he returns.
  • Carlos Valdes: See above.
Can you even do that in MLS? What’s changing?

MLS currently allows teams only three DPs per team. Six teams have already hit that max, with others (New York Red Bulls, Vancouver) probable to join them by the start of the 2015 season. Likewise, expansion side New York City will certainly hit the max, and Orlando City could too.

But big changes are coming this offseason.

The league’s collective bargaining agreement expires after this season, and the player salary structure is certain to change, particularly with the league a bit more flush thanks to a new TV contract, the sale of stock in Soccer United Marketing, and a cash influx from new expansion clubs.

  • Teams’ $3.1 million base salary budget will likely get a sizable bump upwards as the league tries to take the next step.
  • MLS will likely add flexibility to the DP rule, possibly adding one or two more slots and adding more nuances like the Impact DP or Young DP features.

So don’t expect Valdes to limit the Union’s roster flexibility too much. If Jay Sugarman and company are willing to pay him, league rules will probably allow enough flexibility to keep a talented core together moving forward.

Will the Union bring back Maurice Edu? Where does he fit?

Edu hasn’t met many observers’ expectations. He seems to take some plays off, like Jeff Larentowicz’s goal on Saturday. Edu had trouble gelling in center midfield. He has missed too many open looks at goal.

But Edu is absolutely worth what the Union are paying him, given the right situation.

It’s all a matter of where you play Edu on the field.

At center midfield, Edu didn’t seem to gel well with Brian Carroll and Nogueira. Edu was ostensibly the linking midfielder, but he seemed lost in the role. But was that all his fault? No.

Carroll likes to sit really deep and play as an auxiliary defender, and he has always played best when he is the lone true defensive midfielder in a lineup. Vincent Nogueira liked to come deep — and all over the place — to find the ball.

The only role left for Edu was to push forward, and while he can do that very well when the opportunity emerges, he isn’t the guy you should look to for that all the time. He is a box-to-box guy, not an advanced attacker. Nogueira has shown he remains best in the role he historically played for Sochaux in France, as a deep-lying linking midfielder, not the advanced playmaker Hackworth hoped him to be.

Maidana has shown that he should be that advanced No. 10 rather than the left winger. If the Union are to maintain the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 that they have played this year, it is now clear that the center midfield trio should consist of Maidana as the No. 10, Nogueira as the linking player, and either Edu or Amobi Okugo as the center defensive midfielder. Michael Lahoud should be in the mix as well, while Carroll will likely be exposed in the expansion draft and should draw interest, as he remains capable of shielding a back line very well.

Curtin is giving Okugo a run at center midfield to see if that’s where he really fits. Many think it is. I remain unconvinced and am very open-minded to the prospect that Hackworth was right about center back being Okugo’s best position. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, Edu has been on the whole very good at center back. Yes, he missed the Larentowicz goal, and of course he should be flogged, toilet-papered, and burned at the stake as a heretic in true Philadelphia style.

But people don’t realize that sometimes, when it looks like Edu isn’t hustling, it’s actually that he makes things look so effortless. He is just so good a naturally graceful athlete that he makes some difficult things look simple. His range is vast. He has great speed. His passing vision is solid. And he maintains composure through it all.

Further, the Union have already seen the fantastic chemistry between Okugo and Valdes at center back.

The real question will be whether Okugo is willing to re-sign with MLS after his contract expires. If he genuinely is, expect him to stay in midfield. If he’s leaving for Europe no matter what, the Union should go all-in with Edu in center midfield.

Miscellaneous: Around the league
  • DaMarcus Beasley is set to return to MLS. With Chicago openly saying they can’t afford him, I’d bet on Columbus, unless Beasley is willing to accept less than DP money. Columbus has the second slot on the allocation order and is one or two attackers away from being a good team. Plus, new ownership doesn’t view this club as an afterthought.
  • Kansas City’s retention of Matt Besler and Graham Zusi is huge, not just for that team but also for the league. It makes that team a destination point for outsiders, and it sets the example of how you can build a good team around players coming up through the American system.
  • The anticipated signings of Xavi and Frank Lampard by New York City FC look like the old model of signing big names who are over the hill. Lampard and Xavi can still play, but it will look a lot like that old model to the European soccer world. Orlando City may fare better by picking up Kaka and Robinho, who are younger and have several years left in the tank. (Kaka was quite good for AC Milan this past season.)
Miscellaneous: PSP goes international

I’m moving to Naples, Italy in two weeks, so I’ll likely be taking a little break from PSP as we head overseas. I do plan to stay involved with PSP, and hopefully I’ll be back writing again by September.

This move will change how I approach writing for PSP, in the sense that I won’t be able to build relationships and gather information in the same way that I have in the past. If I’m able to watch MLS games regularly, I should be able to write about it from an outside observer’s standpoint, as I often do. You’ll probably see my content change though.

For those of you who read this site, this sort of thing is why we need good volunteers to keep it going. Life happens. Things change. And we need to continuously cycle in good people to help running this site, both with content and behind the scenes. Check out our Help Wanted page, and read between the lines as well on things we haven’t had time to update. (For example, we could use another hand or two writing about MLS and the Union, although we want to make sure the writers are good first.) PSP rises and falls based on volunteers, and sooner or later, that means some of you.

66 Comments

  1. this is kind of tangential, but berhalter has come out to say they aren’t interested in beasley either

    • Not tangential. Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t seen that. If I had … I probably wouldn’t have written that, eh? ;)

  2. Good luck Dan.
    You do good work here.

    I think Valdes at 500-600 is a lot, especially as he will be 29 at the end of this deal. And remember, Edu at $650k is just the Union’s half, his salary is close to a reported $1.2M. Would he come back for dramatically less? Would any of us? As Rangers continue their climb towards the SPL, would Edu seek a return? Valdes sold maybe more valuable to this club. I’d rather not tie up 40% of the cap in 2 defensive players.

    • It’s actually only about a fourth of the cap. Only the first ~$390 K of the salary is counted towards the cap. But I agree with your point. We shouldn’t be tying up even a fourth of the cap with defenders, especially ones who are overpaid (Edu more so than Valdes).

    • Very good point about Edu’s full salary. Of course, I agree with you. They shouldn’t tie up the cap with that much for two defenders. If Edu is a midfielder, it’s a different story, but I suspect he would not come back at that same salary figure based on his performance so far and if he’s considered a midfielder.

  3. Dan, I think you’re being too kind with Edu. He didn’t just miss the Larentowicz goal, he missed what should have been two Larentowicz goals, apparently not learning from the first screw-up. That’s the part I find hard to forgive: he was left off the hook on his first screw-up, and didn’t use that gift to improve on his coverage after knowing what Larentowicz could do. It’d be different if this was his first game off, but he’s been consistently average, not just for a few plays here and there. And that’s MLS average. I have no qualms with keeping Edu, but probably not at his current salary, and definitely not at his full salary of over $1 mil. If he’s going to play like an average MLS midfielder, he should be paid like an average MLS midfielder. I think that’s only fair.

  4. The Black Hand says:

    Best of luck, Dan! Not bad having Napoli as your new local club.

    • No kidding! Any chance we’ll see a “Napoli Soccer Page” next year? ;)

    • While I wish Dan the best of luck in his new endeavor, I truly wish that The Black Hand would be kind enough to volunteer to work with PSP.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Ha! I think that I can only torture these fine people with my opinionated views here in the comment section. Thanks, though!

    • Thanks, guys. I might actually go check out the Serie B team in Avellino too. I have a tough time rooting for the big guys. ;)

      Plus, if all goes well, I’ll be following the Union from afar anyway.

  5. Is Maidana actually a DP? I thought Transfer fees were amortized over the length of the contract. So if he had a 3 year deal, plus his salary, he still falls below the threshold. I am not sure a team can take all of the transfer fee hit in one year and be left with only the base salary as the cap hit for the length of the contract.

  6. Good luck in Naples, Dan!
    We PSP readers will miss your great writing talent.

  7. JediLos117 says:

    You are my favorite PSP contributor and will miss your analysis and objectivity.
    .
    Best wishes and thanks!

    • Thanks, Los. I plan to keep writing here if I can, particularly if I find I can get Union games overseas. It will just be a bit different, that’s all.

  8. Wow, moving to Naples…it’s amazing where people will go in their quest for a good pulled pork.

    Always enjoyed your work, Dan and hope you continue writing for PSP.

  9. Forza Napoli

  10. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    Dan,
    Just want to take the time to thank you for all of the work that you have put into the site over the years. I didn’t always agree with you, but I looked forward to your contributions as they always had a valid point of view based on facts and observations. What makes this game so fantastic is the subjective nature of it and you never failed to capture that essence in your narative. I wish you nothing but the best of luck! Now hurry up and leave so I can go back to bashing Cruz, Wegner and Hack, er Curtain, or whoever the new coach will be! ;-)

    • Dan Walsh says:

      That’s awesome of you to say. Thank you. That’s exactly what we hope for from our readers and what makes it enjoyable to write.

  11. OneManWolfpack says:

    Good luck in Italy! Show those Italians a thing or two about MLS and the Union!! Ha!
    .
    I would say its vitally important to keep Noguiera and play him in a role that suits his needs. If Okugo goes to Europe, replace him with Edu. It looks like Valdes will be happy here, and wants to play here so the CB position is vastly improved.
    .
    Maidana should definitely be the #10

  12. MikeRSoccer says:

    When does Okugo’s current contract expire?

  13. Wolfpack–You are basically saying that we should replace Okugo with Edu who currently earns $650,000 and could be worth more if we buy his loan. What then would you pay to keep Okugo?

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I suppose I meant to replace Okugo with Edu on the field. I agree that the money doesn’t match and that financially it’s not a great decision.

  14. Dan, you say, “The real question will be whether Okugo is willing to re-sign with MLS after his contract expires. If he genuinely is, expect him to stay in midfield.”… But you also say that you’re skeptical that D-mid is Okugo’s best position. So how are you squaring those things? Are you saying that there’s no way Okugo will stay in MLS if he doesn’t get to play midfield? Or are you saying that if he doesn’t show well at midfield, the Union will re-sign Edu and let Okugo go off to Europe? Personally, based upon his performance this year, I’m not convinced that Okugo is ready for Europe.

    • Amobi Okugo is 23 years and is extremely talented player. He has shown the ability not potential that he can effectively play the DM and CB positions as good as if not better than any player that has played both positions for the Union. We cannot judge his performance this year without considering the difficulties playing CB variously with new players in every game–Wheeler, White, Berry and S. William. CB is a position that requires great chemistry. I will judge his performance based on when he played CB consistently with Valdez and Jeff Parke. Last year he played with Park and was Team Defensive MVP over Park and that tells a lot considering Park was the veteran. Okugo won many MLS Team of the Week awards last year more than any Union player. That’s why we fear he might be snapped by European teams especially since they will be no transfer fee.

    • JediLos117 says:

      Agreed Scottso…he ain’t going to Europe.
      .
      He’s been hype for years based on his youth game.
      .
      I’m actually worried he hit his celing like Cruz…Gaddis and MacMath have continued to blossom and grow thier game…really feel like Okugo has taken steps back.

      • I am surprised not everyone is bringing Hackworth’s lineups in both Okugo and Edu’s play. Consistences helps a good player play well. The second half will see a better Okugo and Edu.

        And I would resign both Valdes and Edu.

        • Difference: Edu has been this same player since I can remember.
          I hate the excuse that he makes it look easy. There are tons of players more athletic the Mo, and they don’t have that criticism.
          He doesn’t dominate because he’s not disciplined. I’ve watched Edu for years and in the end, he’s just mediocre. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been on the bench for Stoke in a league where he should have fit in fine.
          So he played well for Rangers. To be honest, I now rate the MLS much higher than the Scottish League.

          Best case scenario, if it’s allowed: Work out a deal to purchase and trade Mo for a young player or allocation money for a stiker. Hey, maybe JackMac would play for Curtin, or Marsch!

          • The Black Hand says:

            Edu was a solid player. I don’t think he takes this experience seriously.
            .
            MLS>SPL…NO WAY!!! Did you see Celtic’s efforts in the Champion’s League last year? Against Barca??? We have nobody who can equal that.

            • Celtic is on a different level from the rest of the league. Most of the Scottish teams are inferior to MLS.

            • The Black Hand says:

              Celtic is on a different level, yes. They and Rangers (pre-discipline) have been the two standout clubs in the Scottish Premier. But, Dundee(s), Hearts, Kilmarnock, Aberdeen would beat most of our clubs, too.
              .

      • Jedi–Okugo was Union MVP last season or you are new to PSP and the team. You dont think playing with different CB’s each week could affect his game or any player for that matter.

        • JediLos117 says:

          Nothing matters more in football than current form, right now Okugo doesn’t have it, focus all you want on last year…
          .
          The team actually looked the best not only defensively but globally in recent memory when he wasn’t in the side…see red bulls win.
          .
          Since moving into the midfield, his play has suffered. The game comes at a CDM way faster than a CB and he has really struggled adjusting. He has less time with ball and his distribution has been rushed. He has struggled reading plays, clogging lanes and with positional awareness.
          .
          Hopefully it turns around if Curtin decides to keep him there.
          .
          Also been with team since 2010 and here long enough, maybe too long…ask Eli : /

          • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

            we go way back :)

          • Not even close to long enough. You forget he spent two years completely out of position. And not JUST two years, his first two significant years of playing…the two years, where if he was actually DEVELOPED into the position, he would dominate.
            And he’s not playing terrible. He’s made mistakes, but he’s played like 3 games at CM, with 3 or for different partners. Have we even seen the midfield of Okugo, Nog, Maidana?

            Your right about one thing though: He’s not ready for Europe, esp. at CM. At CB, I don’t think any bigger club would take him, as he isn’t tall enough.

            • The Black Hand says:

              He’s coming nowhere near a “bigger club” and thats fine. Anywhere in Europe will expose Amobi to a higher level of football IQ and that can only improve his overall understanding of the game.

            • “Bigger Club” was the wrong term. Bigger League would be better. Europe is fine. Just not Norway, Sweden, smaller clubs in Belgium, etc… That’s who would target him now, maybe.

              Re-sign for two years, hope he steps his game up next year and sell then.

            • The Black Hand says:

              On his game; he could crack into a Ligue 1 eighteen.
              .
              English Championship…maybe. Bund. 2…definitely.
              .
              Any of those would expose him to the way the game is supposed to be played.

          • The Black Hand says:

            Jedi/Darth Losis an O.G., and he makes solid points.
            .
            That said, I disagree with the hastiness of your writing off Amobi…as a DM. He has had one bad game…and it wasn’t really that bad. His defensive cover is solid and he has shown an ability to get forward. (His assist a couple matches back was nice.) He is a quality player and a student of the game. He will come into his own, with some stability in the lineup. I think that real chemistry will develop, between he and Edu (at CB) and that solid play will develop from the deep center…to be fed to Noguiera…to be sprayed amongst the advanced players. He is stunted at CB, whereas Edu is showing better.
            .
            That Red Bulls win could have been very different, had NY been able to finish.
            .
            Lahoud is a great depth player, but he doesn’t have the chops for an effective XI.

    • I think Okugo will be less likely to resign with MLS if he thinks he is going to be a defender. He wants to play midfield. And he has talked openly about wanting to play in Europe. So if he feels that the Union is a dead end in terms of where he wants to push his career — midfield, international — why would he stay?

      On the flip side, he’s also a very smart guy. You only have to talk to him for a few minutes to pick that up. If he comes to the conclusion that he is a better defender and that his options for the national team and professional advancement are better there, then things change.

      Caveat: I’ve interviewed Amobi some, but I don’t pretend to know him so well that I know what he will do. Eli knows a lot of the current players better than me and could have some good insight on this.

      Caveat 2: I’m not sure which is his best position, to be honest. Based on what he’s shown so far, I would say defender. But we have never seen him get an extended run of him in center midfield before, so we could find by season’s end that he’s a better midfielder. We’ll see.

  15. Also, please don’t stop writing for PSP. I love this blog, nearly as much for the quality of writing as for the insight and analysis. You’d be sorely missed if you starting writing for some Italian soccer blog instead. ;o)

  16. hobosocks says:

    Good luck, Dan! If only you got paid millions of dollars for doing PSP so you could just stick here…

  17. old soccer coach says:

    Dan, thank you for helping to make this blog worth the time to read it. Much obliged. Maybe find us a good young 2nd division striker over there who is blocked by an aging superstar and wants to come to Philly foir hoagies and playing time?

  18. Best of luck Dan- would be a shame if you had to leave the site. I hope that MLSLive becomes available off-continent (if it hasn’t already). I haven’t found anywhere else yet for great Union-centered content and lively Union discussion.

    So, from what I am reading from ESPN and the Juan Arango tweets, sounds like Valdes is not coming back to play for us? Anyone have any other info? Assuming he doesn’t come back, looks like we’d have White and Berry for sure. Then possibly Okugo sliding back and/or a potentially unhappy Edu (I don’t know if he’d be unhappy just assuming he’d rather be in MF). Curtin has some pieces to work with at CB if that was the case. Just not as good as with Valdes in the mix.

  19. Never mind!! He’s not coming!

  20. Southside Johnny says:

    Well, Dan, I don’t know if I can take many more losses like this. First McInerney and now you. Please continue to contribute as much as possible. Don’t sweat any absentee credibility issues. I’m sure you will continue to provide terrific analysis and perspective from afar. I have a feeling getting Carlos back will be just another disappointment. I keep thinking of his lousy performance in the last two games before he left. Good luck! (Sigh)

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Good to hear. Really nice of you to say. That’s something we actually talked about, whether I could have the same credibility watching from afar. We think so, although you just lose something in terms of your access to inside info.

  21. You know there is an expiration date on my offer that you can punch me in the face right?

  22. netherprovidencepops says:

    Congrats Dan. What time are Union games over there?

    • If I can set up to get MLS Live, they’re whatever time I want. ;)

      But it’s a six-hour time difference. So a 7 pm game would start at 1 am in Italy. Not fun. Not happening.

  23. God speed Dan! Enjoy Italy. Look forward to a “European” perspective on the MLS.

  24. Good luck Dan. Ive enjoyed your writing thoroughly. Have a good time acrossed the pond.

  25. “DaMarcus Beasley is set to return to MLS. With Chicago openly saying they can’t afford him”…..WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THE FIRE…NO DPs in that market? so sad

  26. There is an “X” factor you failed to mention in your analysis. In the off-season, the Union will hire a new manager. One who, presumably, will adjust the players and strategies to his liking.

    Until it is announce who will be taking the reins, there is no way to tell who will be playing where in what formation.

  27. You must keep Chaco & Nogs. Agree that until you install a permanent manager, long term decisions aren’t possible for FO or the player. So play to win now with your best. Edu & Valdes at CB. White & Berry off the bench. Okugo at CDM. Lahoud off the bench. Edu may move up to rest Amobi. A playoff win could make a difference in keeping either Amobi or Mo. I don’t see both staying. Selectively bring up the HCI stars – unless you miss playoffs & you’re only looking ahead.

  28. Crunch! The Right Direction says:

    Safe travels Dan. Best of luck over there. I have thoroughly enjoyed your writing for a while now and am hopeful you will continue brining us your keen perspectives despite not actually being on hand. Seriously, I don’t care whether you are here or not because you are adept at tapping into the issues the fans want discussed. Thanks for that Bro!

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