The trend in Major League Soccer is to pay big bucks on the attacking side with less spending at the back. Although New York City FC’s salary structure fits that mold in 2018, a boost in cash was distributed to the last line of defense.
The MLS Players Association released its annual salary guide Thursday. In 2017, NYCFC payed out an average salary of $159,000 for its group of defenders, led by Maxime Chanot ($350,000 in total compensation). NYCFC finished second in the overall standings and was fifth-best in goals conceded (43) with an assembly of backs that included four players under the $100,000 threshold. The emerging regular at left back, Ben Sweat, came in at just $65,000 last year.
This year, New York City’s average salary at the back is nearly $100,000 more at $245,000.
Most of that increase is due to Alexander Callens’ salary. With a desire to keep the Peruvian centerback long term, NYCFC agreed to an escalating multi-year contract that paid him $180,000 in 2017 and $500,000 in 2018. Callens is tied as the 18th highest-paid back in MLS. The addition of Sweden’s top-tier Defender of the Year Anton Tinnerholm ($350,000) at right back also played a role.
Chanot received a slight boost at $375,000. When healthy, Callens and Chanot have formed a secure rear guard that rates among the best pairings in MLS.
Sweat arrived as a trialist from the North American Soccer League’s Tampa Bay Rowdies last year. While filling in for the injured Ronald Matarrita, the Floridian eventually won the job on a full-time basis and has assumed that role again for the low price of $67,000, just a $2,000 raise. Matarrita earns $275,000.
Benin international centerback Cédric Hountondji earns $220,000 in his first year with the club and has yet to play a match. Head coach Patrick Vieira instead has favored 2017 United Soccer League Defender of the Year Sebastien Ibeagha as the spot starter and late-match substitute to secure results. Ibeagha earns $67,000.
Sean Johnson, in his 9th MLS season and a central figure in New York City’s rise in the standings over the past two seasons, is ranked 10th among MLS goalkeepers at $250,000 this season.
On the attacking side, New York City FC’s average salary is $1.2 million, led by designated players David Villa ($5,610,000), Maxi Moralez ($2,000,000) and Jesus Medina ($650,000).
The impactful newcomer from Libya, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi ($320,000), is well below Malmös leading scorer from a season ago, Jo Inge Berget ($600,000). Before a hamstring injury, Tajouri-Shradi was the leader of the forward line with four goals, including a brace in a 2-2 draw at New England. Berget has recorded his only MLS goal in a 4-0 rout of Real Salt Lake.