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MLS Trade Value Rankings: Midsummer update Part 4, Nos. 30-1

New York Red Bulls – 25; CB; $115,935 (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome to part three of the MLS Trade Value Rankings, the midsummer update. With the MLS Player Union releasing the 2018 salaries and half of the season finished, it’s time to count down the top 100 trade assets in the league.

If you haven’t read part one, click here to see where I made mistakes, what I got right, who dropped out and how we’re evaluating MLS prospects with minimal minutes.

Check out part two here where we covered off  on the rules of the list and No. 100 Matthew Real through No. 65 Danny Hoesen on the list.

And finally read part three here where we went from No. 64 Bastian Schweinsteiger to No. 31 Justen Glad. All statistics included in all parts of the Trade Value Rankings are as of Aug. 1, 2018.

As a reminder, the theory in this ranking is simple: The higher you are in the rankings, the less likely you are to be traded to another MLS team for someone lower in the rankings.

Got it?  Good!  Let’s continue on!

YOUNG CENTERBACKS WORTH WEIGHT IN GOLD – PART 2

30. Tim Parker, New York Red Bulls – 25; CB; $115,935

29. Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls – 25; CB; $73,125

Tim Parker and Aaron Long make the spine of the strongest MLS defense to date. And that is worth its weight in gold. They’re both 25, on super team-friendly contracts and — I was wrong about both of them.

The first thing I had wrong: I didn’t have Parker on my original top assets list.  This was more of an oversight, and a dumb one on my part. In Vancouver, Parker partnered with Kendall Waston to make up the backline of, then, a stingy defense. He’s a young, American centerback with the talent and physicality to succeed.

The second thing I got wrong: I thought RBNY overpaid when it traded close to a million in assets (allocation and Felipe) for Parker. Actually, I was much harsher in my assessment.

That … did not age well. I thought Parker was going to make the Red Bulls better, but they were overpaying for it. They weren’t. He’s been a perfect fit within the Red Bulls’ system, with the ability and stamina to run the high press and connect on passes to break the counter. His play has led to a national team call-up and he could play a role in the next cycle. The only concern New York could have is the ability to re-sign him at the close of this season on what should be a TAM contract.

His partner in the backfield has been equally excellent, and was named an All-Star this year. Much like Florian Valot, Long is a credit to the Red Bulls system, including strong integration of their USL side. My impression of Long last year was that he was a good centerback,  but not good enough start on a team with championship aspirations.  This also was very wrong.

STILL GOT IT

28. Mauro Manotas, Houston Dynamo — 23; ST; $264,328

27. Héctor Villalba, Atlanta United – 24; CF; $770,750 (TAM-eligible)

26. Albert Rusnák, Real Salt Lake – 24; CAM; $907,820 (DP)

Houston can play very attractive soccer when on its game. But at the end of pretty play and chance creation from Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto, there needs to be an efficient and effective striker.

Manotas has been very good for two years now, but I’m a little disappointed he hasn’t taken it to the next level.  His xG+xA is a solid 0.65 per 96 minutes and he’s on a better scoring rate than last year. His xGoal Chain is a healthy 0.81/96 minutes. He’s still young and on a great contract. He isn’t an All-Star-level player, yet, but I’m still banking on that happening.

Villalba was part of the intense vertical attack in 2017 and played at an All-Star level. I wrote in the beginning of the year that while Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez are sure to be in Europe shortly, Villalba could be part of the core that stays in Atlanta for a bit. In 2018, the addition of Ezequiel Barco and early injuries limited his minutes. But for those who think Villalba has lost a step, look at the per-96-minutes numbers below:

  • Villalba 2017: 0.52 xG+xA, 0.44 goals, 0.31 direct assists
  • Villalbe 2018: 0.62 xG+xA, 0.29 goals, 0.29 direct assists

The numbers suggest Villalba has been more unlucky than anything else and his play has been stronger this year. Combine that with his recent decision to switch to the Paraguay national team — which means a showcase on that national stage — means his value is still very, very high.

Albert Rusnak was the talisman of a 2017 Real Salt Lake team that didn’t make the playoffs but was exciting and full of potential. This year, he’s had contract issues, specifically on being underpaid, especially when there were two strikers on seven-figure wages who did absolutely nothing. Then Sparta Prague reportedly put in a transfer offer at about $2.5 million and Rusnak gave this interview (it’s in English):

Ut-oh. Well Real Salt Lake has a decision to make.

While Rusnak’s numbers are down from last year, his expected goals and assists per game are actually up. His form is good and he’s got European bidders. RSL originally bought Rusnak for cheap, so even an offer in $2 million to $3 million range would produce the max allocation and some extra cash to put into the academy.

The decision gets harder if Real Salt Lake doesn’t make the playoffs.

NEW GUYS

25. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, New York City FC – 24; ST; $350,500

24. Adama Diomande, Los Angeles FC – 28; ST; $935,000 (TAM-Eligible)

23. Samuel Armenteros, Portland Timbers – 28; ST; $608,333 (TAM-Eligible)

All three of these players have been revelations for their clubs, but its not clear what’s sustainable for the future.

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has lit it up since arriving for New York City FC. He’s scored goals at an incredible 0.83 goals per 96 minutes, often taking on responsibilities vacated by Villa’s absence. His expected goals per 96 minutes lies at 0.17 per 96 minutes. This is incredible finishing, and, I’d argue, unsustainable levels of finishing. The best strikers in the league might outperform their xG by 0.2 or so, but not 0.66 like Shradi is doing. This is something to watch out.

Diomande has been downright historic since joining LAFC. At one point, he was averaging more than two goals and assists per 90 minutes.  He seems to be the second coming of Josef Martinez, but could he be as successful on a different team?

“I wonder what he’d do with Minnesota or Colorado or … heck, any coach that isn’t Bob Bradley,” pondered Harrison Crow from American Soccer Analysis. “I don’t know if it’s a system thing or what … but he just is less apt to take shots with other clubs. What’s really interesting is that his production really doesn’t change from the Championship to the Premier League, which is, again, weird. If I’m Seattle and you offer me Diomande for Will Bruin, or Houston and you offered me Diomande for Manotas, I’d consider both — but neither would be a snap decision.”

Crow is right to pumping the brakes on the hype train a bit, but Diomande has been excellent (and I would hang up really quickly if Seattle offered me Will Bruin).
 
Samuel Armenteros has been so good, he facilitated Fenando Adi’s exit. Unlike Tajouri-Shradi, Armenteros’ expected goal rate of 0.51 and actual goal rate of 0.77, which is in the range of an elite finisher. Armenteros did really well with Dutch club Heracles Almelo a bit more than a year ago, scoring 19 goals in 29 games.
 
He’s putting up Adi-like numbers at one-third the price for Portland, which puts him in my top 25.

STEPPING IT UP THIS YEAR

22. Romell Quioto, Houston Dynamo – 26; W; $252,500

21. Diego Fagundez, New England Revolution – 23; CF; $190,000 (HGP)

Romell Quioto is most likely the best player in MLS you haven’t heard of. He’s second in the league in assists and first in the league in expected direct assists per 96. His expected goals chains is 0.90, which is at the level of Darwin Quintero.

It’s the partnership with Honduran compatriot Alberth Elis that makes everything work so well, Quioto is in his prime, producing like a DP at less than half the price of players like Daniel Royer or Plata. It’s sort of crazy that a Liga MX club hasn’t come sniffing around for his services.  

When Lee Nguyen forced a trade out of the New England Revolution, the team’s creative keys were handed over to Diego Fagundez. Fagundez was a top MLS prospect at the age of 18, when he scored 13 goals and seven assists in 2013. Since then, his production fell off, leading us to wonder if he was more of a flash in the pan. This year, Fagundez is looking like the real deal.

  • 2013: 0.74 goals and assists per 90 minutes
  • 2014: 0.38
  • 2015: 0.52
  • 2016: 0.48
  • 2017: 0.55
  • 2018: 0.71

Fagundez may not be the world prospect we thought he was five years ago, but he is very good, still young and on an incredible homegrown contract.

TRUST THE PROCESS – PHILADELPHIA 76ERS EDITION

20. Auston Trusty, Philadelphia Union — 19; CB; $109,100 (HGP)

19. Mark McKenzie, Philadelphia Union — 19; CB; $64,500 (HGP)

Earlier on the list, I mentioned playing for potential can backfire if that potential is never realized. Real Salt Lake’s squad is filled with potential, but it hasn’t fully translated to results. The Philadelphia Union may feel a bit more optimistic, just like their basketball brethren, the 76ers, given the amount of homegrowns breaking through.

Trusty and McKenzie are a teenage centerback pair for a team right there in the playoff hunt. That alone is impressive enough, but they’ve also succeeded against the best talent in the league. Here’s Trusty dispossessing former MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco in open space:

Here’s McKenzie doing the same against FC Dallas forward Cristian Colmán:

They’re both wildly impressive given their age. McKenzie feels like the more impressive passer, completing 87 percent of his passes out of the back and 90 percent of his passes in the middle third, both of which are 4 percent higher than expected. McKenzie might have a higher ceiling, but Philadelphia has to be thinking this is the centerback pairing over the next two to three years. And if the process goes correctly, the Union will reap the rewards in a playoff push and a hefty transfer fee to a European club.

YOUNG DPs

18. Jesus Medina, New York City FC – 21; RW; $770,883 (Young DP)

17. Diego Rossi, Los Angeles FC – 20; F; $1.052 million (Young DP)

In a way, Medina and Rossi were part of a landmark transfer window for MLS. Instead of buying international players a bit past their prime, or even in their prime, these two represent buys that can be developed and sold for a future profit.

Rossi was bought for $4 million. Medina was also bought for $4 million and a future 20 percent sell-on fee. 

MLS keeps 25 percent of transfer fees for players who aren’t homegrown, meaning both NYCFC and LAFC believe in the potential of both those players to get a real payday. Quick math shows the selling price needs to be between $5 million and $7 million in order to get a full return from a transfer. To put that perspective, there have been exactly two transfers in MLS history sold for $7 million: Altidore and, recently, Alphonso Davies. 

Both Medina and Rossi have been productive, if not spectacular, at times this year. Rossi had six goals and six assists by the All-Star break and scored LAFC’s first goal ever:

Similarly, Medina had five goals and seven assists, and also has the penchant for the spectacular.

Both hover around 0.5-0.55 xG+xA/96, which is solid but not quite All-Star level. But both have shown flashes of greatness in their play today. And its their potential that puts them both on this list. 

THE BEST SIGNING OF THE SEASON

16. Darwin Quintero, Minnesota United – 30; CF; $1,650,000 (DP)

At the beginning of the year, Minnesota United had no homegrowns or designated players. Cross one of those off the list, because Darwin Quintero signed with the team from the land of 10,000 lakes. He was bought for pennies on the dollar and has lit up the league.

Mr. Chip-Your-Keeper has been exquisite:

The third goal is absolutely ridiculous. His underlying numbers show his greatness as well. His xG+xA/96 is 0.75, good for being top-10 in the league. But if you look at his expected assists of 0.38 (third in the league), he’s only gotten direct assists at 0.26. This means if his teammates start finishing better, he can have even more dominant numbers.

This is all on top of the fact that Minnesota got his services for $200,000 from Club America. Only TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND! Montreal received double that in allocation money for Raheem Edwards. Needless to say, I think Minnesota has the signing of the season.

HOMEGROWNS ALREADY CRITICAL IN MLS

15. Chris Durkin, DC United – 18; CDM; $89,167 (HGP)

14. Daniel Salloi, Sporting Kansas City – 21; RW; $81,625 (HGP)

The value of Homegrown players producing on the field who have future transfer value cannot be overstated. These two are new to the scene, but have shown to be of above-average starter quality with the potential to be MLS stars and transfer to a bigger league.

Chris Durkin reportedly had European suitors offer $1 million even before Durkin played an MLS minute. DC United smartly denied and then gave him starter minutes to develop and further showcase his talents. His passing ability out of the middle is already well above his years, averaging 3.5 percent better than expected average for passes in the middle. You can see this ability here:

While Durkin’s potential is sky high, here’s  a few mitigating factors:

“I believe he’s in the last 18 months of his deal,” Crow said. “DC United don’t have a ton of leverage left in transfer negotiations, which is going to limit the deal they get. Yes, he was part of the U.S. U-17 world cup, but that didn’t go far and they were beat severely by both Colombia (in the group stage) and then England in the quarterfinals.

“Admittedly, he helped his stock with scoring, but I’m not sure a German team is shelling out more than $2 mil for him at this stage. I’m more apt to believe they’ll play hard ball and allow him to finish out his contract than pay more, but they may pay a small seven-figure deal.”

The short window for DC to profit is true, but I think they could get a bit more than a small seven-figure deal given Benfica was willing to pay that even before Durkin played at the professional level.

Salloi has excelled for Sporting Kansas City. He’s a homegrown talent with a European passport and a nose for goal.

He, like Medina and Rossi, is averaging about 0.55xG+xA/96.  He also has a Hungarian passport and heritage, which provides an easy venue for a future European transfer.

Playing devil’s advocate, Crow had some good counterpoints to Salloi’s value. 

“I think a ‘guaranteed seven-figure transfer fee’ is a bit steep on Salloi, if only because he’s not done anything internationally (he has two caps for Hungarian youth teams), which limits the possibility of England,” Crow said.

It is odd that Salloi, with his connections, hasn’t gotten more of a look from Hungary. But with his age and his homegrown status, plus the fact that he’s already a borderline elite-level MLS player, puts him pretty close to top-10 in the league in value.

BRAND MATTERS

13. Zlatan Ibrahimović, Los Angeles Galaxy – 36; ST; $1,500,000 (TAM-eligible)

12. Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United – 18; F; $1,425,000 (Young DP)

Zlatan and Barco are on opposite sides of the same spectrum. One is a signing who unequivocally has torn up the league, and on a ridiculously small contract based on his value both on and off the field. But Zlatan is almost certainly on his last contract and wouldn’t want to move anywhere else. The other has been more muted in his arrival and cost a fortune, but is widely seen as one of the world’s top talents.

Nobody doubted Zlatan’s marketability in the league, and anyone who doubted his ability on the pitch was greeted with this:

It truly was one of the great moments in MLS history. And it wasn’t just once. By All-Star break, he had 15 goals and six assists in a bit more than 1,200 minutes, which comes out to a ridiculous 1.66 goals and assists per 90 minutes. It’s by far the most in the league, and if it wasn’t for Josef Martinez, he’d be the league leader in goals and the No. 1 attacker in the league. But his age and probability of having a no-trade clause in his contract means he’s not in the top 5.

For Barco, there’s quite a conversation to be had on why he’s underrated or overrated. It might go something like this:

Overrated: The most expensive buy in MLS history should be producing at a higher level immediately. Barco’s four goals and one assist in more than 1,000 minutes is not even close to Yamil Asad, who he replaced. Its Joe-Mason-esque.

Underrated:  He’s only 18 years old!  Who’s expecting him to be Yamil Asad in Year 1?

Overrated: All of MLS apparently.

Underrated: Well, that’s the fault of MLS fans. Plus, his expected Goal Chain per 96, is close to 0.99, which is elite. That’s much higher than players like Piatti, Valeri or Moralez. He’s widely seen as a top prospect in the world game. If he lives up to those expectations, Atlanta can reap huge profits

Overrated: How exactly will Atlanta make a profit? The structure of the deal, with the sell on and MLS’ take of any profit, points to Atlanta needing to sell him for $30 million to get some real profit in the near future:

That’s not happening.

Underrated:  It may happen after 2020 when he gets the team to run on his own after Miggy and Josef are sold. He’d also be done playing with the Argentina U20s and if he impresses there, the future is very bright.

Overrated: The league is filled with former Argentina U-20 players. That doesn’t promise anything. Also, are we sure he’s going to be around for so long after allegedly making advances on a fellow teammate’s girlfriend?

Underrated: That scandal is the best thing that’s happened for MLS Reddit!

It could really go on and on. It doesn’t change the fact that Barco is the most expensive buy in history and hasn’t played up to expectation yet, but has plenty of time to prove himself.

I think Barco finds his footing by the end of the year. 

MVP-LEVEL DPs

11. Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers – 32; CAM; $2.380 million (DP)

10. Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls – 32; ST; $1.635 million (DP)

9. Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders – 29; CAM; $2.3 million (DP)

Diego Valeri is reigning MLS MVP and is undoubtedly the face of the Portland Timbers franchise. He dropped a 21-goal, 11-assist season last year, which is rare if your name isn’t Giovinco. This year, his scoring seems down from his usually high standard (nine goals, 10 assists as of Aug.12), causing some to think age may be catching up with him. But again, his underlying stats per 96 minutes suggest something different:

  • 2015:  0.62xG+xA (0.31 xG, 0.31 xA)
  • 2016: 0.69xG+xA (0.37 xG, 0.32 xA)
  • 2017: 0.69xG+xA (0.44 xG, 0.24 xA)
  • 2018: 0.72xG+xA (0.36 xG, 0.36 xA)

If anything, Valeri has been mister consistency in level of expected production. Sometimes he focuses on his goal scoring, but this year his playmaking ability is shining. It shows that he’s not slowing down. To the contrary, he might be slightly getting better.

Speaking of fine wines, Bradley Wright-Phillips is having his best year as a professional in this league at the age of 32. He’s also the fastest to 100 goals in league history (although Martinez might overtake that in a year and a half).

It’s crazy to think that for a club that’s had Thierry Henry, Lothar Matthäus, Youri Djorkaeff, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Tim Cahill — that Bradley Wright-Phillips is going down as the greatest Metro ever. But that is definitely the case, and 2018 is his masterpiece.

With 15 goals and six assists in more than 1,500 minutes, he’s averaging 1.1 goals or assists per 90-minute match.

When it’s all said in done, BWP has a chance to leave MLS as the top goal scorer, which is pretty remarkable for someone who joined the Red Bulls as a trialist at 27 years old.

Nico Lodeiro may not have won or even been nominated for MVP, but he’s always played like one. He led the league in 2017 in expected Goal Chain, which shows how productive and important he is to the Seattle attack. His numbers might be slightly down this year, but with the addition of Ruidiaz, watch for Lodeiro and Seattle to accelerate. And unlike BWP and Valeri, Lodeiro is young enough to have international trade value — evidenced by Boca Juniors sniffing around earlier this year.

ELITE PLAYMAKERS

8. Kaku, New York Red Bulls – 23; LW; $709,090 (Young DP)

7. Alberth Elis, Houston Dynamo – 22; LW; $650,340 (Young DP)

6. Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC – 31; CF; $7.115 million (DP)

#KakuWatch dominated preseason for New York Red Bulls fans. The transfer drama with his former club, Atlético Huracán in Argentina, and his former agent was the “will he or won’t he” drama this league often misses in transfer silliness. It took a while for Kaku to get integrated into then Jesse Marsch’s system, but he’s been prolific since adapting. He leads the league with 14 assists and a chance to join Sacha Kljestan and Carlos Valderrama in the 20-assists club.

It’s all more impressive when you account he’d played less than 1,500 minutes by the All-Star break, with a 1.10 goals + assists per 90 minute rate (this, historically, is an MVP-candidate rate). Watching him live and knowing he’s only 23, there’s a feeling that he could do even greater things.

The realities of his contract, which like Barco’s has a significant sell-on, means the Red Bulls would have to sell him for close to the eight-digit range to get a significant profit.

Kaku’s latest switch to the Paraguay national team should help his value increase because he’ll hopefully play in high-profile tournaments like Copa America. He should be a force for the Red Bulls in near future.

Calls for Alberth Elis as an MVP candidate is MLS’s equivalent of “Harden over Westbrook’s averaging triple double in 2017” argument. What I mean by that is Elis is a darling for advanced statistics. He has an unreal 0.93 xG+xA/96, which ranks second in the league with players over 1,000 minutes. He’s third in expected goal chain, behind Atlanta’s dynamic duo.

The eye test also says Elis is a special talent who’s still only 22 and is on a favorable contract as a young designated player. If anything, the one thing holding him back in becoming a true MVP talent is his finishing ability. His difference between expected goals and actual goals is seventh worst in the league at -2.84. That list has some big names such as Almiron and Giovinco, but the difference is the former has an elite finisher to pass to and the latter has proven to be a great finisher (just a bad penalty taker).

Giovinco is only a few months removed from winning the Golden Ball in the CONCACAF Champions League. But for his high standards, he’s having a down year with six goals and 10 assists at All-Star break. He’s also 31 and on one of the most expensive contracts in MLS. It’s almost enough for someone to think about entertaining some of the rumors of Liga MX sides, such as Club America, interested in buying his services. 

But if you look at the underlying numbers, Giovinco is still at the height of his powers. Look at his xG+xA/96 by year:

  • 2015: 0.90
  • 2016: 0.87
  • 2017: 0.69
  • 2018: 0.87

Giovinco is still the best player in MLS history. He’s still good enough to maintain high value regardless of his age and salary. That makes him still a top-5 asset in the league.

ENJOY THEM WHILE YOU CAN

5. Tyler Adams, New York Red Bulls – 19 ; CM; $153,541 (HGP)

Adam’s time in MLS is likely over after this season. It’s almost all but certain he’ll join Jesse Marsch at RB Leipzig.

His likely last season Stateside culminated in an All-Star appearance and could result in Red Bull New York getting its second-largest transfer fee (after Jozy Altidore), a figure they will get to keep in full due to Adam’s homegrown status.

Much like Davies, Adams represents what the new model of MLS as a selling league could be. But beyond that, Adams has been spectacular as a center-mid on a top MLS team.  This is him effectively ending Kellyn Acosta’s FC Dallas career.

Here’s him containing Almiron and Barco in a New York Red Bull win in Atlanta:

He’s done it at the national team level as well. His future may be as wingback, where his never-ending motor can propel him to higher levels. But nevertheless, as long as he’s in MLS, he’s a top-5 asset.

THE $13 MILLION MAN

4. Alphonso Davies, Vancouver Whitecaps – 17; LM; $72,500 (HGP)

Special shout out here to the $13 million dollar man (and could be up to $22 million), who is headed to Bayern Munich at the end of the year. He’s 17 and a homegrown All-Star. He’s no longer just potential in this league, but already a top producer in MLS (five goals and 10 assists before All-Star break) and at the international level (he was best XI at the Gold Cup for Canada). There’s not much I can say about Davies that hasn’t been said, and since he’s already signed with Munich, he’s no longer a potential trade asset. He’s proven. But, let’s just enjoy him doing things like this in MLS while we can:

Davies will be a staple for the Canadian national team for the next 10 years, barring injury, and his success will hopefully convince talents such as Ballou Tabla to join him. The former refugee, Edmonton-kid and Vancouver homegrown is now the symbol of Canadian soccer and the future of what MLS can be. 

ALL-STAR CAPTAIN

3. Carlos Vela, Los Angeles FC – 29; CF; $6.29 million (DP)

When Vela was announced as a DP signing for LAFC, it signaled intent from the expansion club and the league in general. Vela was coming off a productive year in Europe, in his prime and chose MLS over Liga MX. Unlike the Dos Santos brothers, he was a central figure for Mexico’s World Cup squad that famously knocked off Germany.

His numbers in MLS have been equally impressive. He has a solid 0.75 xG+xA/96,  eight goals and six assists in limited minutes and has a track record of pulling off his own shot.

His level of play and impact in the league has felt a bit like Giovinco, except that Vela is two years younger and, for marketing purposes, still very important to the Mexican national team. That earns him a top-3 spot.

JOSEF. SCORE.

2. Josef Martínez, Atlanta United – 25; ST; $1.387 million (DP)

There’s something amazing about watching Josef Martinez’s drive to score goals. It’s an unadulterated need to put the ball in the back of the net at any cost. It feels as natural and inevitable as when Hulk wants to smash.

He came to the league last year with a scoring rate of 1.12 goals per 90 minutes. This was unsustainable, they said. Now in 2018, after 26 goals in 24 games, Martinez has averaged … you guessed it … 1.12 goals per 90 minutes this year.

He’s going to smash the MLS goal-scoring record this year. Before this year, BWP was the fastest to 24 goals in a year — and that was after 29 games. Martinez did it in 23. If he stayed in the league, he’d probably destroy the all-time MLS goal scoring record. In fact, if he stayed in this league until his early 30s, I’d say he’d have a good shot at 200 goals.

But the chance of him staying that long is slim to none. In comparison to other DPs, Martinez’s contract is very friendly. In fact, it’s technically within TAM guidelines. With these types of results, it’s only a matter of time before a European club comes in with an eight-figure transfer fee.  Some reports say Club America already made offers, and others say Atlanta said no last year to similar offers.

After this year, especially if Atlanta wins silverware, it’s going to be hard for Martinez and Atlanta to keep saying no. I think his leaving will be timed with teammate Miguel Almiron’s.  Speaking of …

LONG LIVE KING MIGGY

1. Miguel Almirón, Atlanta United – 24; CAM; $2.297 million (DP)

Almirón is the best player in MLS.  You can look at his raw numbers (eight goals, 11 assists).  You can look at his advanced stats (first in the league in expected Goal Chain). You can look at the $20-million price tag Atlanta put on him ahead of interest from Premier League clubs, which would blow away the transfer record for the league.

But honestly, all you have to do is watch the game. He has the largest amount of gravity of any player in the league. Every defender needs to track where he is, despite the fact that he’s actually an average finisher (he has 3.6 less goals than expected this year).

The only question is when he’s headed to Europe. Latest reports show Tata and Atlanta United convinced him to stay through this season and win some trophies with the club. That alone is a coup for the team and the league.

But the true legacy of Almirón will happen when he moves to Europe for a large fee. That will complete the promise of MLS being a legitimate place for top South American talent to come, develop and head to Europe. And I, for one, am looking to next year, when the league has two or three players vying to be the next Almirón.

That’s it! The Midsummer Trade Value Rankings are done. What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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