Over-rated and over here: NYCFC & the ESPN MLS Players Poll

There are a lot of great things about living in New York City, not the least of which is the giant target you wear on your back.

Because outsiders hate New York City. They haaaaaaate it. They think it’s dirty and noisy and crowded and confusing – which of course it is. And they think the people who live here are foulmouthed over-caffeinated parochial divas who believe the sun rises just east of Queens and sets on the Hudson River and if you’re not from one of the five boroughs, you should probably just go back to whatever hole you crawled out of because we neither want nor need you and your sorry little story here. Suh-nap.

So when ESPN FC came out with their second MLS Players Poll and when I saw that three – count ‘em, 3! – of the NYCFC boys were in the top 4 answers to the question “who is the most over rated player in the league?” I thought, well, this is just more of that “I HATE NEW YORK” invective that all of us have endured ever since the Dutch and the Canarsee swindled each other out of Manhattan.

Or is it?

Now, no one knows what criteria the players used – but it’s reasonable to assume it involved some triangulation of press, pay, and production. If someone is high profile on your team, and you’re paying them a lot, and they’re not producing, they’re over-rated, right? So let’s check our lads just to be sure.

Were Mix Diskerud , Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo the focal point of the team? Without question. Yes, of course, David Villa was too, but one can’t deny the number of posters, billboards, banner ads and emails featuring the captain with one or all three of the players in question. Pirlo’s signing and eventual appearance on the pitch was the biggest thing for NYCFC since, well, Lampard’s signing and HIS eventual appearance on the pitch. And as for Diskerud, the case has been made here and elsewhere that one of the reasons he was signed was to guarantee a “name” to pair with Villa when Lampard’s arrival became, um, delayed.

So clearly they had the press. Did they have the pay?

Oh yeah.

Last year Lampard made around $6 million, Pirlo around $2 million and Diskerud a paltry $750 K (“paltry” but still nearly 10x more than what Tommy McNamara and Josh Saunders were making – players the team was NOT promoting and who had arguably more of an impact than Diskerud did).

And that’s a lot of lettuce. Especially in a league where the median salary is about $225,00 and the mean salary is around $92,000.

What did NYCFC get for that?

From Lampard, 3 goals, 1 assist and 733 minutes on the pitch. From Pirlo, no goals, 5 assists and 1074 minutes. And from Diskerud, 3 goals, 1 assist and 2073 minutes of play.

Which is pretty paltry, I’ll admit. It works out to about $400,000 per Pirlo assist and a cool $2 million for each of Lampard’s goals.

It’s even pretty embarrassing by the standards of the other players on the MLS Players Poll “most over-rated” list:

2- Jozy Altidore – $4,750,000 – 13 goals, 0 assists, 1796 minutes

5- Steven Gerrard – $6,200,000 – 2 goals, 3 assists, 1164 minutes

6- Giovani Dos Santos – $4,000,000 – 3 goals, 5 assists, 803 minutes

7- Michael Bradley – $6,000,000 – 5 goals, 6 assists, 2250 minutes

8- Clint Dempsey – $4,000,000 – 10 goals, 1742 minutes

9- Aurelien Collin – $500,000 – 2 goals, 1 assist, 2407 minutes

10- Benny Feilhaber – $350,000 – 10 goals, 15 assists, 2731 minutes*

*Yeah, I don’t know why he’s on this list. Did he shoot someone’s dog?

Even when you double Lampard’s and Pirlo’s numbers (because they played essentially only half a season) it’s still what our white shoe brothers would call a “low return on investment”.

Which raises an interesting question about this list. Four of the players (Lampard, Pirlo, Gerrard and Dos Santos) essentially played half a season. So what are the players basing their “over-rated” ranking on in the MLS Players Poll? Rumour? Clips on Sportscenter? Look, if Dax McCarty wants to call Frank Lampard over-rated because he met him on the pitch and dumped him on his ancient English ass (which he did, I was there, I saw it), that’s one thing. But how many of the players polled actually did anything like that?

The fact is, I don’t think it’s so much that Diskerud, Lampard and Pirlo are over-rated as that they were just experiencing what a lot of players go through in their first MLS season. Remember when Thierry Henry got here? 11 games, 2 goals 3 assists. Marco de Vaio? 17 games 5 goals 3 assists. David Beckham? 5 games, 0 goals, 2 assists.

Were they over-rated? Perhaps. But with 39 goals and 16 assists in their combined second seasons, that’s exactly the kind of “over-rating” New York City fans will be more than happy to pay for, regardless of what the MLS Players Poll says.


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