Boosted by Bastian Schweinsteiger's big salary, Fire rank fourth in MLS payroll

Boosted by Bastian Schweinsteiger's big salary, Fire rank fourth in MLS payroll

The Major League Soccer Players Union releases player salaries twice a year and it always makes for good statistics and headlines.

While the numbers the Players Union release aren't always perfectly accurate, for the most part it gives a good view of who makes what and what teams are spending big or not. Some players are listed lower than their actual salary for a variety of reasons, but teams stay quiet on this matter so this remains hazy.

It's also important to note that these salaries are not what the player costs against the cap. Transfer fees factor into a player's cap hit and are among the other costs that aren’t included in the salaries listed.

With that in mind, today the MLSPU dropped the salary numbers, dated April 15, 2017. Here are some of the interesting notes on the salaries:

  • The big news from a Chicago Fire standpoint is that Bastian Schweinsteiger's $5.4 million salary is seventh-highest in the league and is a big reason why the Fire moved from 20th to fourth in payroll since the last time the Players Union released salaries. By the time the numbers were released last September, the Fire had already shed designated players Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike. Those two combined to make just over $2 million, which would have put the Fire just outside the top 10 in the league rankings.

  • Schweinsteiger makes more than the listed payrolls of four teams (Minnesota, D.C., Montreal and Houston). Montreal was the biggest drop in payroll in terms of rank (eighth to 21st) with Didier Drogba ($2,116,667) coming off the books. The LA Galaxy shed the most amount of money from a year ago, just over $6 million, with Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard coming off the books.
  • Schweinsteiger is the fourth-highest paid midfielder.

Jorge Bava ($267,133) is sixth-highest paid among goalkeepers. Last year's Fire starter, Sean Johnson ($220,008), is ninth.

Nemanja Nikolic ($1,906,333) is the seventh-highest paid forward. David Accam ($820,937.50) is 15th and Michael de Leeuw ($564,212.50) is 25th.

Johan Kappelhof ($570,000) is ninth among defenders.

  • Among returning Fire players, Luis Solignac has the biggest listed raise. He had his option declined by the Fire in the offseason, but still re-signed, implying that the option was for more than what he ended up signing for. Solignac's listed guaranteed compensation went from $85,000 to $328,312.
  • The next biggest percentage raise is Jonathan Campbell, who went from $78,125 as a rookie to $109,875 this year. This is a bit ironic considering Campbell has already been on the bench more this season than in all of 2016, when he led the team in minutes played.
  • Homegrown player Djordje Mihailovic is the highest-paid among the rookies, coming in at $80,000.

Here are the players listed as making $2 million or more:

Kaka (Orlando): $7,167,500.00

Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto): $7,115,555.67

Michael Bradley (Toronto): $6,500,000.00

Andrea Pirlo (NYCFC): $5,915,690.00

David Villa (NYCFC): $5,610,000.00

Gio Dos Santos (LA): $5,500,000.00

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Fire): $5,400,000.00

Jozy Altidore (Toronto): $4,875,000.00

Clint Dempsey (Seattle): $3,892,933.50

Diego Valeri (Portland): $2,607,500.00

Tim Howard (Colorado): $2,475,000.00

Miguel Almiron (Atlanta): $2,297,000.00

Maxi Moralez (NYCFC): $2,000,000.04

For more number nerdiness, Jonathan Tannenwald has some league-wide numbers and charts at He has the MLS average salary at $326,319.23 and the median salary at $135,002.

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon


Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

If you were looking for entertainment, goals, plot twists and storylines, the Fire’s season opener had all of those boxes checked.

What it didn’t have was even a point for the hosts against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Toyota Park.

The first half showed a Fire team which very much looked like the “incomplete” roster that general manager Nelson Rodriguez referenced just before the season. KC led 2-0 and the Fire failed to get a shot on target, showing a lack of chance creation and any semblance of a dangerous attack.

The second half showed a Fire attack which was capable of turning the heat up on the visitors, but also a defense which couldn’t defend. Sporting's 4-3 win revealed that there’s plenty of work to do for the Fire to resemble the team that finished third in the MLS regular season last year.

“Especially in the first half we saw that we weren’t ready to compete with a team that had an advantage that they had one competition game before us,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “That was the main difference in the first half, but the adjustment in the second half was tremendous. I think just showing that we can score three goals that quickly and create even more opportunities was a positive.”

However, Paunovic wasn’t about to let his team off the hook by only speaking about positives.

“What we learned today is that we have to get better on every side of the game and in every aspect of the game,” he said. “We are not there. We didn’t have a good game. I think overall a lot of innocent and naive mistakes.”

After trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Fire revved things up in the final 25 minutes and Bastian Schweinsteiger keyed the first goal with a slick assist to newcomer Aleksandar Katai. Nemanja Nikolic showed the scoring instincts and finishing ability that won him the league scoring title a year ago by scoring two more goals to give the Fire the lead in the 82nd minute.

Then it all fell apart, with two KC goals within four minutes of Nikolic giving the Fire the lead. Dax McCarty, your thoughts?

“You’re 10 minutes away from the headline and the storyline being Chicago Fire show great character, make a fantastic comeback, win the game 3-2 and yet here we are sitting here, somehow losing that game, which is insane,” McCarty said. “It’s totally insane.”

The defensive struggles, which Paunovic pointed out mirrored last year’s early playoff exit in a 4-0 loss, will need to get resolved internally. Johan Kappelhof, Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster all started on a competent defense last year and McCarty and Schweinsteiger helped play damage control in midfield. This isn’t what the weakness of the team was supposed to be yet after one game, it’s all anyone on the team could talk about.

“We gave up four goals,” Kappelhof said. “That’s not good. Simple.”

While more additions may be coming in-season, as Rodriguez has mentioned, and injuries haven’t allowed the Fire to start 2018 fresh, this game wasn’t a good sign for what’s to come for the 2018 Fire. A lack of any offensive creation in the first half and a lack of defensive concentration, as Paunovic put it, throughout the game showed a team that has plenty of pock-marks currently.

“We don’t know how to defend, quite frankly," McCarty said. "From back to front, front to back, the defending aspect of our game was pretty poor. A lot of things to learn."

The good news is even if the Fire take some time to correct the errors from Saturday’s season opener, MLS is a forgiving league. A majority of the league, 12 of 23 teams, makes the playoffs and league-wide parity means teams can go through slumps and still end in good standing. A year ago, the Fire lost six games out of seven and still had the third best record in the league. It’s OK if the team takes time to iron out some organizational issues defensively, just don’t take too long.