MLS Best Budgeted Starting XI

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If I asked could you build a competitive MLS team with a million dollar budget, could you do it?  Would it be able to compete with mine? Give it a try and submit your roster on twitter to @HomeSweetSoccer or send an email to HomeSweetSoccer.com.  The winner will receive a new copy of FIFA 19. All salaries use base salary and come from the salaries from the beginning of the 2018 year. You can find the salaries here!

GK – Alex Bono (Toronto FC)

Base Salary - $82,000 (Before extension)

Alex Bono has probably had the biggest year of his career. After an amazing CONCACAF Champions league run, getting his contract with Toronto extended, and his first start for the USMNT in a 3-0 victory against Bolivia, it’s not hard to see why Bono has drawn interest this year from the Belgium league, Liga MX, and others. Even with a down year for Toronto in MLS play, Bono has remained one of their brighter spots at their best value.  (Except the past 3 games)

CB – Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union)

Base Salary - $54,500

A year ago Mark McKenzie was an unknown and now he’s taking on the league’s best strikers one on one.

The 19 year old Philadelphia homegrown player had played only 8 games with USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel before getting the keys to defend the back with fellow homegrown teenager Auston Trusty. Whether it was the cheapness of the club or the patience, McKenzie has taken the opportunity to prove himself and has made the most of it. While his positioning may not be as good as his fellow center back, it’s his quickness for his size that sets him apart. With 74 balls recovered this year, McKenzie makes up his lack of experience with his athleticism, strength, and speed.

Video provided by Matt Doyle

[CB- Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls)

Base Salary- $73,125

In 23 games this season, Aaron Long has had 2 goals, an assist, 91 clearances (3 games with double digit numbers), 151 recovered balls, and oh yea, only 1 yellow card to show for it. After not playing a single minute from 2014-2016 and jumping to three different teams during that time, Aaron probably doesn’t mind that he is now close to his 2nd consecutive season with over 2,000 minutes on the field. In this budgeted backline, Long has proven to be the most consistent and solid.

RB- Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)

Base Salary - $67,500

Reggie Cannon played for literally one minute in the 2017 MLS season and has now played over 2,000 in 23 games for 2018. Reggie Cannon may be the best valued right back in the league and he does it on both sides of the ball.

Video provided by Harrison Hamm

Reggie’s ability to steal a ball and then immediately help in the offensive counter, makes him a dangerous back for wingers to deal with once they’ve given up possession. His ability to handle most wingers 1 on 1 has helped Dallas secure their number 1 spot in the west with only 30 goals conceded. (Only Seattle has conceded less in the West) (Written prior to Texas Derby week)

LB – Edgar Castillo (Colorado Rapids)

Base Salary -  $100,000

The only defensive player on the roster to hit 6 figures is also one of the hardest values to find in MLS.  Left backs this year have been dominated by the eastern conference with great seasons from Kemar Lawrence, Justin Morrow, Milton Valenzuela (Again, written before rivalry week and that horrible giveaway), and others. However, the West has shown some great play from the likes of Ashley Cole, the high risk high reward attacking back Jimmy Medranda, and the surprising season of Colorado’s Edgar Castillo.

Coming on loan from LigaMX, Edgar has quietly had one of the most consistent seasons of any LBs in the league. With his ability to take charge on the offensive end, Castillo has 3 goals and 5 assists on the season, making him tied for the 2nd most assists by a defender this season. (Afful). His ability to shoot from outside the 18 has to be respected and players try to close in early because of it. This allows Edgar to then beat them around the edge or set up a pass In the middle, which is why he’s had 33 key passes this season.

CDM – Mark Anthony-Kaye (LAFC)

Base Salary - $75,000

If you need to know who’s the best value at CDM, you need to know, and want me to tell you baby girl cause you need to know, the answer is Mark Anthony. Before his injury, Kaye had the huge defensive responsibility of covering the space left behind from LAFC’s fast attacking front, as well as assisting them and tracking back when he did. The 2 goals and 5 assists showed his assistance in the attacking was important but it was his 24 interceptions and 134 recovered balls that showed his most important contribution was being the sole responsibility in between the attack and the defense. The minute Kaye went down in the 1st half of El Trafico, the Galaxy would come back to score 2 goals in the 2nd half and LAFC would lose their next 2 out of 3 games. Coincidence? If you think I believe that, then “No Me Conoces!”

MF – Latif Blessing (LAFC)

Base Salary - $75,000

Staying with LAFC, what a blessing it was when Bob Bradley was able to get Latif in the expansion draft. Already with 5 goals and 6 assists on the season, Blessing causes havoc no matter where he is on the field. One of the biggest ways he’s had his biggest impact is when he uses his speed out wide.  With a FWD/Mid of Dio, Vela, Felihaber and Nguyen, you can expext great passes through the middle which causes defenders to shift inwards, leaving this to happen…

With the addition of Ramirez to the LAFC roster, it’s not very clear how Bob Bradley will rotate his players and what Latif’s role will be moving forward. Even if he becomes a supersub, Blessing is still a major contributing player on the team and has been LAFC’s best value of the season. (Minus on PKs in USOC)

MF- Julian Gressel (ATL UTD)

Base Salary - $92,500

The sophomore slump is very real. It happened to Jordan Morris, Kegan Rosenberry, and countless others after a great rookie season. One player who has not slumped is Atlanta United’s Julian Gressel. With 2 goals and 8 assists this season, Julian is on track to match his rookie season numbers offensively and has taken a big defensive role this year, playing predominately as a wingback. With 37 crosses on the season, Gressel has set up Martinez in the air more than any player on the team. He’s also shown the ability to take the space given to him on the side and work the ball back into the middle where’s he’s created 37 key passes. (Only one behind Barco). With Barco still being in the dog house and Nagbe recovering from injury, it may not show on the stat sheet but with the 9th highest salaried roster in the league, Atlanta is definitely getting more than their money’s worth with Gressel.

MF- Alphonso Davies (Vancouver Whitecaps)

Base Salary - $72,500

Seventeen years old, moving on to Bayern Munich on a record transfer fee at the end of the season, and can do this…

With 5 goals and 10 assists so far this season, Davies is one of the most exciting and one of the greatest values in MLS. Versatile in many positions, Davies can be put pretty much anywhere on the field and be a headache for opposing players. While Vancouver will be gentle with the playtime and situations of play with their precious cargo, enjoy the greatest $72,000 that’s ever played in MLS while he’s still here.

FWD- Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo)

Base Salary - $240,000

Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re spending almost a quarter of your roster salary going to Romell Quioto? Sure am.

3rd in the league in assists with 11, it may be Elis, Manotas, and Martinez that get on the highlight reels but it’s Quioto who is the anchor of their offensive scheme.

 

El Romantico (Yes, this is what they call him) has a very unique style of leading the offense. Most offenses rely on a crafty number 10 in the middle to lead a counter or send in through balls, however, Quioto when given the ball likes to take it up the sides and slow down his run. This allows for runners to sprint to the box in which then Quioto uses his skills and speed to bypass a winger 1 on 1 and send in a cross or allows him to cut back inside and take a shot.  Add his free kick ability and he is the perfect person to be the heart of the attack on a team with a lot of speed.

FWD- Cory Burke (Philadelphia Union)

Salary - $67,500

When the Philadelphia Union brought in Burke from their USL affiliate club Bethlehem Steel, to be the backup to CJ Sapong, they probably didn’t believe that he’d have a team high 7 goals after only 7 starts. After a 2017, 16 goal and 5 assist season that lead to a contract extension for CJ Sapong, Cory was thought to be a great sub in the late minutes to help with defensive headers and hold up play. But because of CJ’s off season with only 3 goals and 1 assist, it seems as of late that Cory will indeed be the striker for coach Jim Curtin’s system.

In a very stubborn and predictable system, Jim likes to have a lone striker on top that has the strength to hold the ball up while wingers make their way down the pitch and the ability to win headers for corner kicks and set pieces. Burke has proven to be able to fit in Jim’s system perfectly and looks more comfortable with each start he gets.

One thing you won’t see many people talk about is Cory’s determination to pressure players after losing the ball. While he doesn’t win every hold up play situation, when the ball is taken from him, Cory immediately pressures the ball which has led to two turnovers and goals this year. And with the Union moving towards a high pressing system, it’s important for Cory to use his size to throw opponents off the ball.

After scoring 2 goals to send the Union to the US Open Cup finals, Cory is on a hot streak and looks to have already earned his salary as the Union try to bring home their first championship and make a late playoff push.