Top Talent at Bargain Prices: The 2014 MLS Moneyball Team

Last week, Business of Soccer compared the 2014 MLS Castrol Index with the Player Union’s salary data to identify the League’s biggest value players.  The analysis below continues the trend by using the same data to compile a starting eleven of some of the best bargain players in the League.

Moneyball is a term popularized by the 2003 Michael Lewis book about Major League Baseball General Manager, Billy Beane, later portrayed by Brad Pitt in the 2011 film adaptation.  Faced with a limited payroll, Beane used unconventional and overlooked stats to build a team of what many considered misfits and washed up baseball players to achieve above average results.  Soon, the term Moneyball became synonymous with finding game changing talent on a budget.

The 2014 MLS Moneyball Team starting eleven was selected with the goal of identifying the best talent at the lowest prices in MLS.   The lone criterion utilized in selecting the team was a 2014 guaranteed compensation below the League Median of $92,000.  Nine of the eleven selected finished in the top 25% of the Castrol Index, indicating that the players noted below deliver above average results and talent at rock bottom prices.  One could consider the lineup below to be an MLS General Manager’s offseason wish list.



Jeff Attinella, Real Salt Lake; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $49K

Attinella, playing behind star keeper Nick Rimando, started only ten matches this season.  However, his performances brought him a Top 15 finish among goalkeepers in the League, per the Castol Index, finishing ahead of several starters making more than twice his wage of $49K.  His two wins and four draws, including three shutouts, combined with his Castrol Index score, indicate that Attinella might be one of the better kept goalkeeping secrets in the League, and perhaps a solid choice for a team in need of a goalkeeper.


Zach Scott, Seattle Sounders; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $53K

Scott brings a veteran presence to the Sounders’ back line with the versatility and experience to play at any position across the back four, both of which come at a serious discount for $53K.

Nick Hagglund, Toronto FC; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $49K

Hagglund, a former Big East Defensive Player of the Year at Xavier, enjoyed a successful rookie campaign, with two goals, and three assists in twenty three starts.  He was the 62nd highest ranked player in the Castrol Index during the 2014 MLS season, and appears to have a promising career ahead of him.

David Horst, Houston Dynamo; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $73K

Horst is a seasoned veteran that has been in the League since 2008.   This year he started 31 matches for the Dynamo, adding a goal and an assist.

Dan Gargan, Los Angeles Galaxy; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $49K

Gargan was MLS’ second best value in regards to compensation this past season.  The veteran outside back had five assists in 27 starts, and finished just outside of the Top 50 in the Castrol Index.  Gargan would be an ideal acquisition for any squad looking for a veteran presence on the backline, with the capacity to get forward and contribute to the attack.


Marco Pappa, Seattle Sounders; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $75K

Pappa recently caught some heat for giving up a thoughtless penalty versus FC Dallas in the postseason, but statistically delivered solid play throughout the regular season at bargain prices well below the League median salary.  He complemented the likes of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins in the Sounders’ attack, chipping in with five goals and six assists.  Pappa finished in the Top 50 of the Castrol Index, and packs serious value for $75K.

Victor Ulloa, FC Dallas; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $37K

Ulloa was just last week ranked as Business of Soccer’s top value in MLS when considering compensation levels.  The young midfielder was a regular in the FC Dallas lineup this season, starting in 26 matches and helping the squad reach the postseason.  Ulloa and goalkeeper Jeff Attinella were the only players on the Moneyball Team not in the top 25% of players ranked in the Castrol Index, but still were considered genuine values with legitimate upside.

Luke Mullholland, Real Salt Lake; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $56K

Mullholland has proven to be a nice pickup from NASL side Tampa Bay Rowdies in January.  The 25-year-old English midfielder had six goals and seven assists to his name in 31 appearances.  He’s a promising talent that has had success in the PDL, USL-PRO, NASL, and now Major League Soccer.


Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $76K

Castillo finished in the Top 15 of the Castrol Index with ten goals and four assists, leading the team in scoring and helping them to the postseason.  He’s an explosive player that’s capable with both feet, and equipped with a knack for finding the back of the net.

Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $70K

Plata scored thirteen times and added six assists for Real Salt Lake this season, fueling his Top 10 finish in the Castrol Index.  He had his best campaign to date and played a major role in getting Real Salt Lake to the playoffs.

Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew; 2014 Guaranteed Compensation – $66K

Finlay enjoyed a breakout year for the Crew, leading the team in both goals and assists with eleven and seven, respectively.  He did this through 21 starts and 29 total appearances, and finished with a Top 35 Castrol Index finish.


What are your thoughts on the Moneyball Team?  Are there bigger values in Major League Soccer that should make the cut?  Let us know in the comments section below, or via Facebook or Twitter.

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