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Rapids Cap-ology for 2017

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Open roster spots! An open DP spot! Fistfuls of GAM and TAM! Let’s play around with the Rapids roster and see what we got! BONUS: A return of the Palguta Depth Meter!

A snowy morning at Dick’s
Richard Fleming via Twitter

This article was edited 1/10/17 at 5:46pm to account for some mathematical errors. Forgive me. Thanks to Front Range and JasonMa for noting the errors.

Last year around this time, the Rapids had off-loaded a bunch of players after a rough 2015 season, in which they finished 19th out of 20 teams in the MLS table, in search of the right combination of players to improve on that result. After finishing 2nd in the Supporters Shield and making it to the Western Conference final, I’d say the right combination was found.

But the winds of change blow each December and January in MLS, as old players depart and new players are acquired. I did a four part series on Burgundy Wave regarding areas in which the Rapids have needs for 2017 and might want to upgrade; on defenders and keepers, defensive midfield and wingers, attacking midfielders, and strikers.

Here, we’ll look at the dollars and cents of the MLS roster rules. I’ll give you the basics. If you want a serious nerd-level deep dive, check out the official MLS roster rules here. I’ve read this document a dozen times, and I still get confused. In my day job, I study Talmud for a living, so that shows you how Byzantine the rules can be. I’ll do my best to explain.

Listed below is the current Rapids roster. MLS allows a team 28 roster spots, but requires that only 18 be filled. Only spots 1-20 count towards the cap. Players on loan, Generation Adidas players, and Homegrown players do not count against the cap, and thus are automatically assigned to roster spots 21-28. The salary cap for MLS was $3,660,000 in 2016, and I expect it will rise by 5-7% in 2017 to $3,843,000 . Salary numbers are courtesy of the MLS Players Union. (Note: this table will look bad if you view it on your phone. So, uh, don’t.)

Rapids Roster and Salary data, 2017, v2

# Name Position Age* Contract Length 2016 Contract (Budget Charge) Special Status?
# Name Position Age* Contract Length 2016 Contract (Budget Charge) Special Status?
1 Tim Howard GK 37 2017, 2018 2,575,000 (457,500) DP1
2 Zac MacMath GK 25 140,000
3 John Berner GK 26 63,000
4 Marc Burch D 32 120,000
5 Mekiel Williams D 26 90,000 INTL1
6 Eric Miller D 24 77,400
7 Bobby Burling D 32 116,000
8 Jared Watts D 25 68,000
9 Axel Sjoberg D 26 81,000 INTL2
10 Dennis Castillo D 22 51,500 INTL3
11 Sam Cronin M 30 227,500
12 Dillon Powers M 26 300,000
13 Micheal Azira M 29 65,800
14 Marlon Hairston M 23 113,000
15 Kevin Doyle F 33 2017 1,120,000 (457,500) TAM, INTL4
16 Shkelzen Gashi F 28 2017, 2018? 1,668,750 (457,500) DP2, INTL5
17 Dominique Badji F 24 53,400 INTL6
18
19
20
21 Ricardo Perez M 21 51,500? HGP
22 Juan Ramirez M 23 85,000 YDP, On loan
23 Kortne Ford D 21 51,500? HGP
24 Caleb Calvert F 20 82,500 HGP
25 Dillon Serna M 23 79,000 HGP
26
27
28
Total Budget Charge** 2,939,100

The term ‘budget charge’ means the portion of a players salary that can count against the cap: so HGPs aren’t included in the math, and only the first $457,500 is charged for Tim Howard and Shkelzen Gashi, our two DPs.

As you can see from the bottom line, the Rapids are around $903,900 under the Salary Cap, for starters. Then you add what are pleasantly referred to by MLS-o-philes as ‘Garberbuxx’ - General Allocation Money and Targeted Allocation Money. GAM rolls over from year to year. TAM does not.

All MLS teams received $150,000 in GAM for 2016, plus extra, undisclosed money if they either missed the playoffs or earned a spot in CONCACAF Champions League. The Rapids got a CCL spot (yaaaaaay!) so they get whatever is behind door number three. Let’s call it $100,000.

Then, every MLS team for 2017 gets another $1,200,000 in TAM from the league. That money is use-it-or-lose-it, and is spent for transfer fees, loan fees, or to pay down the budget charge of a player to sub-DP levels. This year, the Rapids look like they’ll be using $662,500 to get Kevin Doyle down from a DP player to a TAM player.

So that’s $250,000 in GAM, $537,500 in leftover TAM, and $903,900 in cap space. Which equals $1,691,400.

In addition, assuming the Rapids can make a permanent transfer of Young DP Juan Ramirez, who is on loan at Talleres in the Argentine First Division, the Rapids would have a third DP slot available. If Colorado doesn’t use it, they get additional GAM.

One last caveat to all this math: while MLS discloses salaries and the Salary cap, they do not disclose how much GAM and TAM a team has, which makes me eternally mad. GAM can be assigned to a team for transfer fees earned for player sales (which are also undisclosed), like the Rapids sale of Deshorn Brown. Both GAM and TAM are tradable too. Lastly, undisclosed transfer fees that an MLS spends to bring in a player from abroad can be amortized over the length of a players contract to take up GAM and TAM. The Rapids paid transfer fees in the recent past for Luis Solignac, Juan Ramirez, and Tim Howard. So we fans don’t know if the Rapids have significantly more or less than this million-dollar figure. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll leave it like it is.

Now lets turn our attention to needs. We will do this by assessing the level of depth at each position. The tradition upon this blessed website is to rate the team’s depth based on the ‘Scott Palguta Memorial Depth Meter’. For a full explanation, read this post. But, TL;DR: one palguta = things are fine. four palgutas = they very well may come get you out of section 127 to sub on for the team if someone gets hurt.

The Rapids currently have on their roster:

- 3 goalkeepers (Howard, MacMath, Berner)

Palguta Measure: 2 palgutas

Howard is hurt until at least April. MacMath is a fine backup and will be great for 4-12 games. If MacMath is hurt, Berner is a pretty big unknown.

- 4 fullbacks (Burch, Williams, Miller, Castillo)

Palguta Measure: 1 palguta

Burch had an excellent 2016 year, and showed no signs of slowing down. Miller was equally excellent, although I think his crossing could stand improvement. Williams as a backup is a luxury, in that he started on several occasions and looked great, and can play on either the left or the right side. Castillo needs more experience. This position is pretty deep.

- 4 centerbacks (Sjoberg, Watts, Burling, Ford)

Palguta Measure:

Sjoberg finished third for MLS ‘Defender of the Year’ this year. Jared Watts was good-to-excellent throughout the season. Bobby Burling was the starter to begin the year and was part of a slew of shutouts to begin the Rapids campaign. Kortne Ford is a highly touted CB from the Academy that was an integral part to the University of Denver’s run to the NCAA Mens soccer Final Four. If I could give half-a-Palguta here, I might.

- 2 defensive midfielders (Cronin, Azira)

Palguta Measure: 2 palgutas

Azira and Cronin were fantastic in 2016. They both started almost every single game. If either goes down, Dillon Powers is there to fill in (at least, for now). If Powers is playing in the attacking midfield or is hurt, then ??? We’ll need a new d-mid. Maybe that’s the rumored signing from Manchester City, Bismark Adjei-Boateng. Maybe, someone else.

- 4 attacking midfielders (Gashi, Powers, Hairston, Perez; plus Ramirez (on loan) and Serna (injured)

Palguta Measure: 3 palgutas

Gashi is clearly a top-class left wing. But meanwhile Powers has spent the past two years either being a suitable fill-in for the starting XI or the first guy off the bench. Hairston might be ready to step up and be a game changing player, but remember that the Rapids somehow preferred Sebastien Le Toux over him to start in the playoffs. And although Perez played for a very good NCAA school, he’s a pretty unknown quantity as to whether he’s MLS-ready. Odds are, he’s not. The Rapids will clearly add some pieces here before opening day, perhaps including the rumored transfer of Ghanaian winger Gilbert Koomson. But right now, if the team doesn’t get at least two new wings and a spare attacking center mid, a Scott Palguta-type dude is a viable option.

- 3 strikers (Doyle, Badji, Calvert)

Doyle and Badji have yet to light the world on fire. Calvert’s barely played with the first team. There’s enough depth, but it feels unlikely that any of these guys can even match the someone pedestrian scoring total of 10 goals that Deshorn Brown once scored way back in 2014.

In short, the Rapids have a DP spot and around $1.15 million on top of that - the DP will eat of the first 457,500 of the available $1.69 million - to play with in order to shore up the roster. That should allow them to buy a defensive midfielder, a central attacker, and a winger or two; they can also save some coin by getting a player or two in the MLS SuperDraft Friday that would only cost them around $53,000 for the year.

And now the fun part begins as we watch the roster come together.

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** One additional note: I stated the salary data purely based on the 2016 salaries. Several players, including Jared Watts, Axel Sjoberg, Micheal Azira, and Dominique Badji are all likely to receive raises, although not enough to bankrupt the club.