Last week, the Major League Soccer Player Association released MLS player salaries for 2023. Hudson River Blue tabulated New York City FC’s payroll and observed “7 takeaways,” but I want to be a little more direct and grade each NYCFC player salary for those who regularly make it into the Starting XI.
There are some major bargains in this payroll, and there are some head-scratchers as well. Read on to see who makes what, and if they’re worth what they’re paid.
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Thiago Martins, $2.11 million
The Brazilian defender isn’t just NYCFC’s highest-paid player, but is actually the most handsomely paid center-back in all of Major League Soccer. That price tag is always going to come with high expeditions.
In fairness to Thiago Martins, on his day he can be a truly dominant defender. We saw that down the stretch last season, and in sporadic matches this season despite the team’s poor form. But for the money we’re paying him, we consistently need Alex Callens-esque production. Especially given we waved goodbye to the Peruvian (at least in part) due to Thiago Martin’s high salary in the same position.
In short, Thiago Martins is a good player, but maybe not consistently great enough to justify the cost.
Santiago Rodriguez, $1.33 million
After spending two productive seasons with NYCFC on loan from Montevideo Torque, it was time for City’s front office to make a decision: Do they let the talented attacker return to Uruguay? Or, give him a Designated Player salary to stay in New York?
David Lee & Co chose the latter, and to savvy effect. Just $1.3M in guaranteed compensation feels like a bargain for a young attacker who, at his best, can run with anyone in MLS. He can score, and he can create. He can be a playmaker, a CAM, a winger, or a False 9.
That level of talent, age profile, and versatility is hard to find, especially at this price point. Compare Santi’s $1.3 million to his counterparts at other teams such as Chicago Fire‘s Xherdan Shaqiri ($8.1 million), LA Galaxy‘s Douglas Costa ($4.5 million), Atlanta United‘s Luis Araújo ($4.4 million), or Inter Miami‘s Rodolfo Pizzaro ($3.5 million). I’d rather have Santi all day.
Talles Magno, $1.20 million
For the talent Talles Magno has already, and for the potential he could very easily reach, paying just $1.2 million per year for the young Brazilian’s services feels like a steal.
I know he’s garnered some frustration of late from NYCFC fans who want to see more production from the DP, but over the long haul, his current form feels far less relevant. In his 77 appearances for NYCFC, his 26 goal involvements equate to finding the scoresheet every three games. That production rate is worth a good chunk of change to begin with, but given he’s only 20 years old and under contract through 2026, there’s more than enough time for Talles Magno to reach new heights in an NYCFC jersey.
But perhaps most importantly, Talles Magno carries value in two ways: on-field production, and potential sell-on value. While The front office is thrilled with his production for NYCFC, I’m sure the execs are already pondering his price tag for when Europe comes calling.
Matías Pellegrini, $1.12 million
For a side that ranks 14th in spending league-wide, NYCFC have generally done well to avoid overpaying for talent. Unfortunately, Matí feels like an exception in that regard.
It feels like a case of paying for past pedigree, as Inter Miami had the Argentinian on DP money before dropping him for having too many players in that category. NYCFC picked him up on waivers last year, but given he’s yet to register a goal or an assist in city blue, paying over $1 million for him feels like a big miss.
The only reason his grade is still in the C-range is that he’s just 23 years old, and holds a decent transfer value of $3.5M according to Transfermarket. And while it’s certainly an over-pay, $1.1 million isn’t a roster-killing sum of money.
James Sands, $1.06 million
Recalling James Sands’s loan from Rangers FC and signing him to a new long-term deal was a really shrewd piece of business from NYCFC in my book. They got their asset playing regular football again, filled a big hole in their midfield, and did so for a really reasonable price.
Sands is one of the best No 6’s in MLS. Period. But, this contract looks even better when you compare it to some other notable central midfielders in the league. Players in similar roles exceeding his cap hit include Houston Dynamo’s Héctor Herrera ($5.2 million), CF Montréal’s Victor Wanyama (1.8 million), Austin FC’s Alex Ring (1.6 million), and LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta (1.3 million).
Call me a homer, but I’d rather have Jimmy than all of the above. Plus, with Sands’s desire to play in Europe still seemingly strong, NYCFC will retain good sell-on value for the young American.
This is a bargain.
Braian Cufré, $750,880
This is a bit of a tough one as the best of Braian’s abilities are likely still to be discovered an in NYCFC jersey, but for now it’s tough to cover this deal in glory.
While not a crazy sum of money, $750,880 pegs Cufré as the sixth-highest-paid player on the current roster, which is high up the leaderboard for someone recently relegated to bench duty by Kevin O’Toole, who is among the lowest-paid players on the roster at $85,444 (see below).
But the true value of this player remains to be seen in my eyes. Consider this grade temporary.
Alfredo Morales, $662,250
If you are viewing this contract strictly through the lens of this season, I’d say this salary would score lower than B-range. Alfredo has struggled to stay healthy, and looks more than a step slower out there than he has in years past.
But while the return of James Sands has really limited Morales’s minutes this season, let’s not forget how big of a role Alfredo played in our 2021 MLS Cup run. He was a rock for that whole back half of the season, and I thought he was a major factor in ultimately helping us lift the trophy.
Whatever that’s worth in dollars retroactively in 2023 is anyone’s best guess, but I think it should play some part in how we view the salary he’s currently receiving.
Gabriel Pereira, $659,500
The more I watch Gabriel Periera, the more I convince myself that he’s NYCFC’s best attacker these days. And the more I look into his stats, the more I’m realizing he may have been our best attacker for some time.
With 20 goal involvements in just 46 appearances, Pereira has shouldered a huge portion of the goal-scoring load in the post-Taty era for NYCFC. In a year in which most of our attack has been stagnant, GP has looked dangerous, leading all pigeons with six goal involvements in 12 MLS appearances this year.
The 21-year-old has 4 years left on his deal, which means there’s nothing but upside and sell-on value ahead for this player. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this has been the best bit of business for NYCFC recently.
Keaton Parks, $550,000
Keaton Parks is very good at soccer. Few should question that, despite his not having the best stretch of games of late. But, in his MLS Team of the Week performance on Wednesday, maybe he just gave us an extra reminder of the quality he possesses, and that you rarely find for just $550,000.
The main reason this grade isn’t higher for me is his injury record and overall health issues: His recurring blood clots that have ended each of his last two seasons prematurely.
In truth, this is something that concerns me far more with his health and wellness as a person than his relative contract value as a footballer. But, reliability plays a huge role in player value, and unfortunately, Keaton has not always been available for selection in his NYCFC tenure.
Maxime Chanot, $483,333
I’m not sure if you can put a price on loyalty, but if you could it would cost more than $483,333. Maxime Chanot is our longest-serving player and has been a true servant of the club since his debut back in 2016.
Playing alongside an assortment of different teammates and a handful of different coaches, Chanot has been the one constant in this team since their infancy. He’s been a consistent performer throughout his NYCFC tenure, and flaunts a combination of combativeness and composure in possession that’s rarely seen in this league.
While perhaps slowing down a bit this year at age 33, he’s still giving it his all every week to solid effect. He’s also hinted at transitioning into a coaching role with the club whenever he does hang up his boots, which is a true testament to his devotion to this organization. For that salary, NYCFC are getting far more than what they’re paying for.
Richy Ledezma, $396,000
Given Richy is on loan, it makes it a bit more difficult to judge how his salary relates to a grade given there is no sell-on value associated with the contract.
But given the quality you’re getting at the attacking midfield position for the sum of $396,000, it’s hard not to be impressed by this bit of business. Richy basically walked into our Starting XI from his arrival, and hasn’t relinquished his minutes since.
Tayvon Gray, $350,000
Tayvon Gray wasn’t just one of our very first homegrown players, but was also one of the first to re-sign a contract extension with the club, as he put pen to paper last fall that extended his NYCFC tenure through 2025 with an option for 2026.
And, at just $350,000 for a young player with a strong upside, there’s not a lot to dislike about this deal. NYCFC get a Starting XI-level player on the cheap, and he’ll likely continue to represent the club for years to come.
While I don’t necessarily see Tayvon as one of the young players we’ll look to sell to Europe for a big fee, I do look to him as a real leader in this locker room as time goes on, and someone who could have a very successful career in MLS if he chooses to stay. At this price point, you’ll take that all day.
Mitja Ilenič, $295,700
Not much to criticize here at all. NYCFC get an exciting young player with international experience, and who already has the quality to get serious First Team minutes in his debut season with the club. At just $295,700, there’s really only upside for this deal from an NYCFC perspective.
And based on his early performances, New York City could have quite the player on their hands. Mitja’s one to watch for sure.
Matt Freese, $180,000
I guess it’s a bit awkward that our backup goalkeeper makes more than our No 1, but hey, it’s only $180,000. If my calculations are correct, that makes him the 42nd highest-paid keeper in the league, which would mean he’s even a bargain by second-string standards.
Plus, regardless of the fact that he’s the backup right now, he’s clearly a very capable keeper in his own right. The dude played great in the US Open Cup despite the loss.
Justin Haak, $165,000
Honestly, I wish we were paying Haak more just because I like him.
He hasn’t quite taken the leap that I expected his game to take by now, but seriously, who’s complaining about $165,000k here? Haak gets decent minutes off the bench and in cup play, and has shown enough versatility to play CB and CDM. Nothing but upside there.
At this point in the list, there’s really not a lot to criticize when the salaries are this low.
Luis Barraza, $152,688
This is probably one of the craziest deals on the whole list. A starting keeper for $152,688?!?! That’s borderline ridiculous.
Despite some critics on Twitter, I think Barraza has had a really solid start to his NYCFC career as the No 1. He’s confident, he has good feet, and he’s managed to avoid any catastrophic errors through 13 matches. Pair that with a handful of big saves and you have yourself a more-than-capable goalkeeper in this league.
Now if he turns a few of those punches into catches, and starts stringing together a few more clean sheets, I can see his Twitter critics dissipating with every match. For $152,688 this is a bargain, pure and simple.
Andres Jasson, $142,144
Given his Yale education, Andres Jasson might’ve been able to take home this salary working a normal person’s job in the city and commuting back and forth from Connecticut. But hey, it’s 1000 X cooler to be getting pretty regular minutes off the bench for NYCFC in my opinion.
Andres offers versatility, work rate, and exceptional foul-drawing ability while proving pretty shifty on the ball in tight areas. Plus his vibes are off the charts, and he’s another feel-good homegrown success story.
For this kind of money, I better not be hearing any complaints about his grade.
Kevin O’Toole, $85,444
Lil Pump really wore a Kevin O’Toole jersey to a match this year, and I don’t want anyone to forget how funny and awesome that is. It makes it more hilarious to think his grill alone probably could’ve paid O’Toole’s annual salary, because $85,444 feels like nothing in the rap and footballing worlds.
But in all seriousness, Kevin O’Toole is a ridiculous bargain at less than $100,000. This guy just keeps benching higher-paid players — first Malte Amundsen last season, and most recently Cufré. He won’t take ‘no’ for an answer in all the best ways.
He’s dynamic, he’s confident, and he’s just a really good footballer in my opinion – he’s Kevin O’Goat.
Gabriel Segal, $67,360
Gabriel Segal’s salary is the league minimum of $67,360. Only Segal and defender Samuel Owusu, who has only featured for NYCFC II this season, are paid so little on this roster.
I don’t think the front office expected him to be scoring goals at the death vs expansion sisters Orlando City, but that’s exactly what Gabe did in his fourth First Team appearance of the season on Wednesday. For a league minimum player, that’s really impressive output already.
Until the transfer window re-opens this summer, Segal will likely have more and more opportunities to take his chance at First Team minutes on what’s supposed to be a top side in MLS. For $67K and change, that might be the best salary story on the roster.