Sherjill MacDonald

Major League Soccer’s Top Five overpaid players

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The updated MLS salary list came out late last week. We found five under-performers who were notable for not earning their highly-paid keep.

(Check back tomorrow for our list of MLS salary bargains)

The overly pricey players are listed in alphabetical order:

Toronto FC’s Richard Eckersley, $310,000 guaranteed: Anything more than $150,000 for an outside back in MLS needs careful examination. Paying twice that for a right back is just silly. Plus, if we ranked MLS right backs, TFC’s Englishman would be mid-pack at best.

Sporting Kansas City’s Benny Feilhaber $312,000 guaranteed: He didn’t work out in New England. He’s not exactly working out to plan in Kansas City, where the former U.S. international has been just OK while starting 15 of 24 matches for the first-place side. Depth is great and all, but not at this price.

Chicago’s Sherjill MacDonald, 527,000 guaranteed: You know, for half a mil, Chicago really should get at least one freakin’ goal out of this guy. One goal! The club has pretty much given up, and rightly so after no goals and just one, single assist in 13 appearances. Shame they couldn’t see the truth in this huge salary bust earlier. It’s not like the rest of us weren’t noticing; we told you back in April the guy was a bust.

(MORE: MLS salary analysis in chart, table form)

Real Salt Lake’s Brandon McDonald, $273,000 guaranteed: RSL is paying very little of his salary; D.C. United, which traded McDonald last month, continues to tote most of the note on this one. At Rio Tinto, he’s probably the third or fourth best center back when everyone is healthy (although he is providing some valuable service during the club’s time of back line injury crisis).

New England’s Juan Toja, $295,000 guaranteed: Seriously, guys, what gives? Why is he still around Gillette Stadium, still eating up a roster spot, not to mention all that salary? The Colombian midfielder is absolutely nothing like the guy who was so bright and lively at the 2007 All-Star game. He can’t run, and he’s simply not productive. Pay a guy that much in MLS and it’s fair to demand he be more than a part-time starter. (Toja has started 11 of New England’s 23 matches.) A playmaker, ostensibly, Toja has a goal and no assists this year.

Turning around the classic striker argument, and considering two failing MLS men

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The classic striker argument starts like this: “All he does is score goals.”

The nuts and bolts behind this little ditty of a debate is about whether a striker should do more than bury his share of chances? Should he hold up balls to help get teammates forward? Should he be creating as well as burying? Should be harass defenders and work the passing lanes dutifully when not in possession? Should he fight for second balls?

So, yeah, that kind of stuff. How much of all that should a striker do while he reliably finishes at reasonable rates?

The classic center piece of this debate was once Gerd Muller, the German hitman who poached and poked his way into the record book in the 1970s.

Closer to home (and more present day) it’s Alvaro Saborio, who has struck 43 goals in 83 matches for Real Salt Lake. Any rate above .5 goals a game is pretty much All-Star stuff. And yet, there are lots of fans around Rio Tinto who don’t like his game. Because, you know, “all he does is score goals.”

But what if we turn the striker argument around? We hear less of this argument than maybe we should – mostly because the guys don’t tend to stick around.

“What about the strikers who bust their bust their goal-getting keesters, who chase, harass, hold up and set up, doing it all at inspirational levels – but who just don’t freakin’ score enough?”

Yes, what about them?

Here are two great MLS examples. (Stop me if you’ve heard all this before. Because if you read this blog, you darn sure have heard me rant about these two. Fine gentlemen, I’m sure. But …)

D.C. United has its Lionard Pajoy problem. Pajoy is a striker with nine goals in 37 MLS matches. If that is your starting striker, don’t blame me when you only score just twice in five games. That’s where D.C. United is today.

Yes, playmaker and offensive engine Dwayne De Rosario has appeared in just two matches this year, and Chris Pontius cannot get the hand brake released. Still … nine goals in 37 MLS matches? That’s less than one goal every four matches. At some point, that big work rate just isn’t enough.

Then there’s Chicago’s Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald (pictured above). He would love to have Pajoy’s “high scoring rate,” darn near prodigious by comparison. Chicago’s starting striker has four goals in 19 MLS matches, just a little better than a goal every fifth match. The only possible argument in MacDonald favor here is that the sample of matches (yukky as the numbers look) isn’t big just yet. Said another way, MacDonald hasn’t stunk for as long as Pajoy.

Clubs need to be strong all over the field. They need to be strong in goal and at center back. They need something creative or something big on the wings through which to funnel the attack. But they also require a man with a nose for goal and the skill to do something about it.

Chicago and United are in 8th and 9th places in the East. That’s nowhere close to where anyone believed these two clubs – both picked to contend for the Eastern Conference crown – would be. Their inability to identify a starting striker in the off-season, and their ongoing stubbornness is sticking with these guys is a big reason.

What to make of the Chicago Fire’s horrible start?

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What might have been written off as early season “slows” in Chicago has devolved into a full-on crisis … and it’s one that must surely be jeopardizing coach Frank Klopas’ job.

You know things are bad when players use words like “embarrassment” to describe a result. But how else to characterize a 4-1 loss at home to Chivas USA? The Goats certainly look better in 2013 than most of us thought, but they are hardly a fast track to MLS Cup 2013.

Here’s what proud Fire veteran Gonzalo Segares said found himself saying humbly, quietly after Sunday’s dreadful setback, which left his team with one measly point from a possible 12 to open the season:

It’s embarrassing what happened today. I’ve got no words to explain how things were so bad. We had a pretty strong first half. When you don’t put away goals and when you give away easy ones, it’s a bad recipe.”  

It’s not just the 0-3-1 record, either. A closer look reveals something uglier still. Essentially the Fire has performed admirably just once this year. Attached to that was  one bad performance and two outright fiascos.

Fiasco No. 1 was the season-opening loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy. A 4-0 score could have been even worse.

That result looked even worse when paired with a 1-0 loss a week later to open the Fire’s home season. Getting shut out at home (by New England, a team that missed last year’s playoffs) served up a painful reminder of the Fire’s miserable record at Toyota Park in recent years, 19-13-17 over the last four seasons. That is a number that approaches “shocking.”

A scoreless draw at Sporting Kansas City is the Fire’s high water mark this year. Klopas’ team wanted to build off that on Sunday (on national TV). Instead, Chivas USA happened, and Klopas is suddenly the early favorite to be the first MLS coach let go.

Klopas sees the reality of the situation. “You have to look at everything,” he said after Sunday’s downer. “Right now it just seems like we’re not getting things done, so we have to evaluate it and make some decisions and do what’s best for the team.”

Here’s one thing that simply must happen around Toyota Park: they need to come to grips with the reality that Sherjill MacDonald was a DP mistake. The Dutch forward is on the Fire salary roll for about $500,000 this year. For that sum, a lot of green in MLS, the Fire has seen four goals in 18 matches. Not. Nearly. Enough.

Heck, two of those came in one match, late last year against the Red Bulls. That means MacDonald has failed to score in 15 of 18 matches.

Good teams acknowledge their mistakes and move on. The alternative is to stubbornly allow MacDonald to bring down the team – and quite possibly the coach, too.

Some good, some “just OK” from Chicago Fire preseason

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Pretty soon we’ll be all done-and-dusted with this preseason business, with attempting to cull knowledge from matches of lesser meaning, always a tricky exercise.

But, it is what it is for now.

So watch the Chicago Fire-Vancouver Whitecaps highlights, and then meet be below for some thoughts. (Oh, and pay special attention to the sweet pass from Jalil Anibaba, Chicago’s right back, at the 1:04 mark of the video.)

The highlights are from Chicago’s 1-1 draw with Vancouver in the Carolina Challenge Cup. Chicago won the preseason tournament based on most points.

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  • Anibaba has all kinds of competition for that right back spot, including Logan Pause’s move out of midfield and highly experienced trialist Pascal Chimbonda. Meaningful moments like that one could go a long way. He started 32 games last year, but Fire coach Frank Klopas clearly wants a little more from that right back spot.
  • On the other hand … at the end of that pass, striker Sherjill MacDonald fails to convert on a wonderful scoring chance. Chicago’s midfield is improved and the back line looks strong. Plus, there’s Chris Rolfe (pictured above right) and everything he brings to the attack (and the counter attack, at which Rolfe is especially proficient.) But if MacDonald cannot improve on his average finishing, Chicago will struggle to score in sufficient quantities. Four goals in 14 games last year was OK … but surely the Fire is looking for better than “OK” from its Dutch forward.
  • Klopas liked a lot that he saw in preseason contests, but says his team’s defensive mentality still needs work. (About the 1:35 mark of the linked video clip.) As he says, it’s mostly about “want-to,” about the desire to get into the right spots as soon as the ball is lost. True that.

Building preseason knowledge: Chicago and San Jose tangle

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A few things we learned from Chicago 1-0 win over San Jose on Saturday in Santa Barbara, Calif.

  • Joel Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz once again held the middle of Chicago’s 4-4-2. Chris Rolfe played beneath Sherjill MacDonald at the head of the attack.
  • Dilly Duka, Arne Friedrich, Patrick Nyarko, and Sean Johnson saw their first action of the 2013 preseason. Duka, the winger recently acquired from Columbus, started on the left.
  • The blog On The Fire reported that Gonzalo Segares was sharp on the left in this report. Less impressive, apparently, was Logan Pause, now stationed on the right along the back line.
  • Increasingly well-traveled MLS forward Quincy Amarikwa appeared as a guest player for Chicago, earning a late penalty kick.
  • From San Jose’s side, forward Chris Wondolowski and defender Justin Morrow made their first preseason appearances in a match for Frank Yallop. They have been in national team camp, of course.
  • Several starters were missing for the Earthquakes.

And now, ground-level match highlights with some peppy music:

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