Examining the top 10 earners in MLS

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Well, this happens every single season. But it always creates plenty of hype, discussion and debate.

Major League Soccer usually releases players salary figures a few months into the season, fans, pundits and just about everyone has a say on who is a bargain, who is overpaid and what clubs are doing fantastically well within their salary cap.

MLS announced the 2013 salaries yesterday, with plenty of surprises on hand.

Just one player eligible to play for the USMNT is among the top ten earners, Landon Donovan, and a whole host of nationalities can be found, including a Frenchman, Irishman, Australian, Italian, Dutchman, Scotsman and two Colombians.

So, without further adieu, let’s crack on and find out who are the top ten earners in MLS (total salary), and examine whether or not they’re worth it. It was good enough for the Roman amphitheater’s back in the day, so we are going to use a simple “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” method to judge MLS’ superstars.

1. Thierry Henry – $4,350,000

New York’s talisman has had a few injury problems over the past year, but when he is fit and fired up not many defenders can get near him. Henry looks to have embraced Mike Petke in charge and is helping the Red Bulls fight back after a poor start to the season.

Thumbs Up

2. Robbie Keane – $4,333,333.33

The Irishman has also had his injury struggles but being handed the LA Galaxy captaincy proves his worth to the side. He was on fire in the second-half of last season, acting as the catalyst for LA’s MLS Cup success. Keane is without doubt the best finisher in the league. Totally worth the big bucks.

Thumbs Up

3. Tim Cahill – $3,620,000

A month ago, this would have been a big thumbs down. But Cahill has turned his season around. Some may argue he isn’t doing much different. And you would be right. The Aussie has played the same all season, but recently he has found the back of the net with regularity. Clutch goals are worth their weight in gold.

Thumbs Up

(MORE: Bargains around the league, based on the numbers)

4. Landon Donovan – $2,500,000

A lot of deliberation about this one. Yes he is one of greatest US players of all time and has been LA’s main man for several season now. But Donovan’s winter sojourn has cast some shadows on his importance to the team. And he has played well in spells since coming back but also missed two PKs and looked rusty at times.

Thumbs Up

5. Marco Di Vaio – $1,937,508

The Italian is incredible, scoring several terrific goals so far and showing no signs of stopping. He accepts he won’t start every game for Montreal, but he slots perfectly into the squad rotation system. Di Vaio’s experience and natural talent to finish should lead the Impact deep into the postseason.

Thumbs Up

6. Obafemi Martins – $1,725,000

Injury-hit and taking his time to adjust to MLS, Martins has shown pockets of brilliance so far for Seattle. Once he gets into his groove, much like Keane in the second half of last season, expect the Nigerian to rip it up.

Thumbs Up

7. Danny Koevermans – $1,663,323.33

Harsh to give him the thumbs down, but Koevermans has just been so injury prone. When he does play, the goals are always flowing. But for Toronto’s new look side, a more mobile striker is needed to chase long balls. Koevermans just doesn’t fit the bill.

Thumbs Down

8. Kenny Miller – $1,132,492

The Scot endured a tough first season in MLS last year. And things haven’t got much better this season. Despite having the captain’s armband for some games, Miller has not delivered the goals Martin Rennie would have hoped for. You can never fault his effort but he should be grabbing goals for Vancouver.

Thumbs Down

9. Fredy Montero – $856,000

Strange one this, as Montero is currently on loan with Millonarios back in Colombia. But in the salaries released his is right up there still. Obviously the Sounders are getting a fee for his services while he is on loan. He is worth big money in MLS, no doubt. But he is too hot and cold for me.

Thumbs Down

10. David Ferreira – $730,000

Great to see the diminutive Dallas attacker back fit and healthy. The 33-year-old is still the heartbeat of FCD and if they can keep their good early season form going, Ferreira’s form is key. The number of chances he creates is incredible and a few more goals from the Colombian could help Dallas go far.

Thumbs Up

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.

Alaves eyes upset of Barcelona in Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) The final of the Copa del Rey pits Barcelona’s star power against a tiny Basque Country club whose biggest weapons are its grit and gnawing hunger for a taste of glory.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Win or lose, Alaves is savoring the cup final on Saturday as the perfect finish to its first season back in Spain’s topflight in an decade.

[ MORE: Three key battles ahead of Chelsea-Arsenal FA Cup final ]

But to have a chance of winning the first major trophy in its 96-year history, Alaves’ ragtag collection of journeymen has to be squeezed of every ounce of effort by coach Mauricio Pellegrino to upset the cup-holders led by Lionel Messi.

One statistic illustrates how daunting their task will be: Messi, all by himself, has scored exactly as many goals as the entire Alaves squad this season, with 53 across all competitions.

“We will need to play a very complete match to have a chance, but we are a team that always competes to the maximum,” said Pellegrino, who is completing a noteworthy first season with the club.

The final will be the last competitive match at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium. An exhibition match the next day will be its farewell before demolition.

The final will also be the last match for departing Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who could bow out with a third straight Copa del Rey.

Here are some reasons Alaves can believe in an upset for the ages:

DONE IT BEFORE

Alaves has already toppled Barcelona this season.

A shocking 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Sept. 10 was Alaves’ first win since its return to the first division following 10 years in the second and third tiers.

That surprise victory set it on its way to overachieving all campaign. It reached the Copa del Rey final by defeating the more talented Celta Vigo in the semifinals, and finished the league in a meritorious ninth place.

The bad news is that Barcelona showed no mercy back in Vitoria, where Luis Suarez scored twice in a 6-0 rout.

NO SUAREZ

But Suarez won’t be available for Barcelona on Saturday, when he serves a one-game suspension after being sent off during the semifinals against Atletico Madrid.

Luis Enrique could start Paco Alcacer in his place up front alongside Messi and Neymar.

OLD AND YOUNG

Alaves is not devoid of talent.

The 19-year-old right back Theo Hernandez, who is playing on loan from Atletico, is drawing rave reviews and interest from European powerhouses, including Real Madrid.

Marcos Llorente, a 22-year-old Madrid reserve player also on loan, has impressed as a defensive midfielder.

Captain Manu Garcia, at 31, is the only player who has been with the team through its rise from the third tier in 2013.

“Our coaches are telling us that by working as a team just like we have all year, we have a chance to win,” Garcia said.

OH SO CLOSE

Alaves came ever so close to winning the 2001 UEFA Cup when it defied expectations in its first European campaign by reaching the final against Liverpool.

Jordi Cruyff, son of Dutch great Johann Cruyff, scored late to level the thriller at 4-4 and force extra time, only for Alaves to succumb on an own goal by Delfi Geli.

“I want our fans to enjoy the day,” Garcia said. “I remember (the final in) Dortmund from when I was young. I have many memories of that day and that’s why I ask our fans to be proud of Alaves, and that they make the Calderon into our stadium because that is what we will need it to be.”

MLS at Week 13: Rivalries all around, TFC goes for eight games unbeaten

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Week 13 is here and we’ve got ourselves some pretty tasty matchups, after the weekend got off to a fast start on Thursday night when the Chicago Fire downed FC Dallas.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 13 ]

Meanwhile, the match of the weekend likely comes in the form of Toronto FC taking on the Columbus Crew, as Greg Vanney’s side puts their seven-match unbeaten run on the line at BMO Field.

Several other intriguing fixtures, including multiple rivalries, will take place as well, particularly in the Pacific Northwest as the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers do battle.

Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew — 7 p.m. EDT on Friday

It’s been seven straight matches for the Eastern Conference leaders since they last lost and Toronto FC has become the clear favorite to hoist MLS Cup through the opening two months-plus. Of course that can change in the blink of an eye. We’ve seen that with the Crew as of late, who started out hot before losing four out of their last six and falling to fifth in the East.

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers — 2:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday

There’s nothing like a Cascadia Cup match. Although both clubs aren’t exactly up to par at the moment, it’s still a rivalry match. That has to mean something, right?

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. D.C. United — 7 p.m. EDT on Saturday

The Whitecaps have picked up some steam lately, winning three of their last four, and unfortunately for D.C. they haven’t had any similar fortunes. Ben Olsen’s group are at the bottom of the East, and had it not been for the Rapids there would probably be more attention on how poorly they are playing.

New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution — 7 p.m. EDT on Saturday

Jesse Marsch’s club picked up an important tie against a red-hot Toronto last time out, but now they’ll meet a familiar rival on Saturday as they try to get back to winning ways. Meanwhile, the Revs have played significantly better as of late, scoring six goals in their two most recent outings.

Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC — 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday

Simply put, they only good thing the Rapids have on their side is that the match is at home, where the team has captured both of their wins this season. Sporting KC, meanwhile, continues to tear it up at the top of the West.

Minnesota United vs Orlando City — 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday

Orlando has come back down to earth recently, so it’s time for Jason Kreis and co. to reset. Adrian Heath and the Loons continue to suffer through the growing pains of being a new side, something Kreis can relate to from his time in New York, but Minnesota has shown positive signs during the young season.

Real Salt Lake vs. Philadelphia Union — 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday

The Union are looking really good as of late, and the winners of four straight could very well keep it up on the road against RSL, who have struggled to pick up results for much of the season.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy — 10 p.m. EDT on Saturday

The Cali Clasico takes shape at Avaya Stadium as both west coast sides look for bragging rights out west.

Atlanta United vs. New York City FC — 5 p.m. EDT on Sunday

It was Patrick Vieira’s side that got the best of Atlanta when the two clubs met a few weeks back, and it’s bad news for Tata Martino’s men as NYCFC has caught more steam as they continue to rack up positive results in the Eastern Conference.

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo — 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday

We’ve got ourselves a Texas Derby down in Dallas, and this could be quite the interesting matchup as both sides enter Sunday on a bit of a downturn. It’s evident both clubs have exciting offensive firepower but which side will come out on top?