Soccer newsletter: Summer additions made the difference for the Galaxy – Los Angeles Times

Hello and welcome to the weekly L.A. Times soccer newsletter. I’m Kevin Baxter, The Times’ soccer writer, and today we look at the latest MLS salaries figures, Karim Benzema and Alexia Putellas being voted best of the best at the Ballon d’Or banquet and the real reason Paul Mullin signed with Wrexham.
All about the beautiful game
Go inside the L.A. pro soccer scene and beyond in Kevin Baxter's weekly newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
But we start with the streaking Galaxy, whose first home playoff win in six years sent them on to Thursday’s Western Conference semifinals against LAFC at Banc of California stadium.
There was an instructive moment near the end of that 1-0 victory over Nashville on Saturday that illustrated how the Galaxy got to the postseason in the first place. With two minutes left in regulation, coach Greg Vanney subbed out captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, and as he left the field, Hernández handed the armband to Riqui Puig, who in two months has become an unquestioned team leader.
But Puig refused it and handed it to Gastón Brugman, who gave it to defender Séga Coulibaly. Perhaps that’s whom Hernández had designated as his replacement as captain all along, but the unselfishness his teammates showed in passing the armband along didn’t go unnoticed.
“I thought it was almost a sign of each guy respecting the next guy a little bit more,” said Vanney, whose team’s only score came on a second-half header from Julián Araujo, just his second goal in MLS. “And it ends up on Séga, who’s a battler, who’s been here since the beginning of last year.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times
Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

“I don’t really know how and why it ended up with Séga, but again, I think it shows how the group respects each other and just kept passing it down.”
That respect wasn’t always a given. After a mid-July loss in Colorado, the Galaxy’s third in a row, defender Derrick Williams called out his teammates.
“We’re not playing as a team, there’s a lot of people playing as individuals,” he said. “The manager gives us clear instructions, and there’s times where people don’t want to do that. Some people just have their own agendas.”
At the time the Galaxy were imploding. The Colorado game was part of a streak that saw the team drop five of six to fall to ninth in the Western Conference standings. The playoffs seemed to be an unlikely goal.

But Brugman made his MLS debut near the end of that slide and Puig played his first game three weeks later. Together they changed the team and the way it plays and as a result, the Galaxy have lost just once in the 11 games the two midfielders have played together.
“They’ve helped kind of reinvigorate our group and just provide balance and stability and quality inside of our team,” Vanney said.
Yet they both deflect the credit.
“It’s not just me,” Puig said in Spanish. “I think four or five players arrived who have made the team take a step forward.”

Agreed Brugman: “The team found a game mode that Greg wanted from the beginning thanks to the additions, from winter to summer.”
But it’s the summer additions of Puig, Brugman and defender Martín Cáceres that have made the Galaxy MLS Cup contenders. Puig is the play-making midfielder Vanney has been searching for the last two seasons while Brugman has become a solid No. 6. And Cáceres, a three-time World Cup player for Uruguay, has solidified a back line that took Golden Boot winner Hany Mukhtar completely out of Saturday’s playoff game, a game that ended in the Galaxy’s first clean sheet since July.
None of the three was with the Galaxy for the team’s three previous matches with LAFC this season. But LAFC, which finished with the league’s best record to earn a first-round playoff bye, has changed, too. It added Giorgio Chiellini, Gareth Bale, Cristian Tello, Denis Bouanga and Sebastián Méndez since the last El Tráfico.
That will make Thursday’s playoff game, the second postseason match in the rivalry, something of an introduction despite the fact the Galaxy and LAFC have played one another 16 times in the last five seasons.

“We’ve each had plenty of additions to our roster, important additions to our rosters,” Vanney said. “History will certainly play a part, just in terms of the psyche. There won’t be an inch on the field that anybody’s willing to give away.
“Both teams have gained some experience since the last time we played. I like the way our team is playing. I think the leg up that our group has in some of these big games, we’re going to go there and play them straight up. We feel we can beat them.”
MLS playoff results and schedule

First round
Western Conference
Galaxy 1, Nashville 0
Austin 2, Real Salt Lake 2 (Austin advances on penalties)
FC Dallas 1, Minnesota 1 (FC Dallas advances on penalties)
Eastern Conference

Cincinnati 2, New York Red Bulls 1
Montreal 2, Orlando 0
NYCFC 3, Inter Miami 0
Conference semifinals
All times Pacific
Western Conference

Galaxy at LAFC, Thursday, 7 p.m.
FC Dallas at Austin, Sunday, 5 p.m. PT.
Eastern Conference
Cincinnati at Philadelphia, Thursday, 5 p.m.
New York City at Montreal, Sunday, 10 a.m.
LAFC’s summer spending spree, which included the re-signing of captain Carlos Vela, cost the team approximately $10 million and lifted the overall payroll over $19 million for the first time. The moves also paid off with the team’s second Supporters’ Shield in four years.

The Galaxy, meanwhile, spent about $3.4 million for Puig, Brugman and Cáceres, according to figures released by the players association. The team also saw the guaranteed compensation figures for Hernández and Douglas Costa jump a combined $4.24 million because of contract clauses.
Hernández, whose guaranteed compensation is now $7.443.750 million, is the third-highest-paid player in MLS while Costa ($5.8 million) ranks fifth. The Galaxy’s team payroll of $27.3 million is second only to Toronto’s MLS-record $32.2 million. LAFC’s highest-paid player is Vela, who signed an 18-month contract in June that guarantees him $2.738 million a season.
Chad C. Smith of SB Nation’s The Blue Testament website broke down Monday’s massive dump of salary information and found that 106 players have contracts worth an annualized $1 million. (Annualized because players such as LAFC’s Chiellini, one of 15 millionaires who joined the league this summer will, like the other mid-season additions, have his pay pro-rated based on the amount of time he spent with the team. In Chiellini’s case his true base pay will be about $588,000.)
The average annualized MLS salary is $514,720 — more than $100,000 higher than a year ago — while the median pay grew $48,688 from last fall, according to The Blue Testament.

Among those joining MLS this summer was the Toronto FC tandem of Lorenzo Insigne, whose contract is worth a league-record $14 million a season, and Federico Bernardeschi, who has a guaranteed salary of $6.27 million. The combined value of the two deals tops the total payroll for 24 of the 28 MLS teams, yet Toronto finished with the league’s second-worst record.
Insigne’s contract is worth more than the entire payrolls of nine clubs, including five that made the playoffs. Philadelphia, which finished atop the Eastern Conference standings with the league’s second-lowest payroll, was the wisest-spending team in the league in paying just $155,000 a point while Toronto was the biggest spender. It spent $948,000 per point.
LAFC spent $284,000 a point to win the Supporters’ Shield, a little more than half the Galaxy’s $546,000 per point. LAFC didn’t make the playoffs last season.

The newest MLS expansion team, which will begin play next year in St. Louis, already has nine players under contract for approximately $7 million combined.
Galaxy salaries
Base salary; Guaranteed compensation
Daniel Aguirre, F, $66,724; $66,724
Efraín Álvarez, M, $600,000; $706,250
Julián Araujo, D, $575,000; $678,750
Jonathan Bond, G, $425,000; $526,875
Gastón Brugman, M, $1.2 million; $1.409 million
Kévin Cabral, F, $1.65 million; $1.65 million
Martín Cáceres, D, $240,000; $294,400
Douglas Costa, M/F, $3 million; $5.8 million
Séga Coulibaly, D, $420,000; $457,000
Mark Delgado, M, $650,000; $726,250
Nick DePuy, D, $231,000; $231,000
Cameron Dunbar, M, $120,000; $136,750
Raheem Edwards, D, $275,000; $307,500
Adam Saldaña, M, $89,513; $89,513
Marcus Ferkranus, D, $100,000; $113,625
Chase Gasper, D, $375,000; $400,000
Samuel Grandsir, F/M, $900,000; $988,427
Carlos Harvey, M, $84,000; $84,000
Chicharito Hernández, F, $6 million; $7,443,750
Dejan Joveljic, F, $612,500; $612,500
Preston Judd, F, $65,500; $65,500
Jonathan Klinsmann, G, $200,000; $200,000
Sacha Kljestan, M, $84,000; $84,000
Kelvin Leerdam, D, $300,000; $335,000
Jalen Neal, D, $100,000; $113,625
Jonathan Pérez, M, $150,000; $171,750
Riqui Puig, M, $1.6125 million; $1.695 million
Richard Sánchez, G, $84,000; $84,000
Victor Vázquez, M, $440,000; $440,000
Jorge Villafaña, D, $450,000; $486,667
Derrick Williams, D, $750,000; $821,458
Eriq Zavaleta, $84,000; $84,000
LAFC salaries

Kellyn Acosta, M, $1.1 million; $1.215 million
Cristian Arango, F, $624,000; $683,000
Gareth Bale, F, $1.6 million; $2.387 million
Latif Blessing, M, $400,000; $416,667
Denis Bouanga, F, $2.083 million; $2.083 million
Giorgio Chiellini, D, $1 million; $1.075 million
José Cifuentes, M, $367,875; $411,750
Maxime Crépeau, G, $275,000; $302,500
Erik Dueñas, D, $100,000; $102,000
Franco Escobar, D, $550,008; $550,008
Mamadou Fall, D, $106,000; $118,750
Julian Gaines, F, $85,444; $87,444
Francisco Ginella, M, $450,000; $572,250
Ryan Hollingshead, $393,750; $393,750
Sebastian Ibeagha, D, $225,000; $252,125
Cal Jennings, F, $84,000; $84,000
Antonio Leone, D, $100,000; $102,000
John McCarthy, G, $110,000; $110,000
Sebastián Méndez, M, $600,000; $636,750
Jesús Murillo, D, $450,000; $509,500
Kwadwo, Opoku, F, $92,000; $133,095
Diego Palacios, D, $486,000; $510,000
Tomás Romero, G, $90,000; $95,000
Ilie Sánchez, M, $1.15 million; $1.15 million
Eddie Segura, $200,000; $224,000
Cristian Tello, $1.333 million; $1.725 million
Christian Torres, $90,000; $101,230
Mohamed Traore, D, $100,000; $100,000
Danny Trejo, F, $65,500; $65,500
Carlos Vela, F, $2.4 million; $2.738 million
Team payrolls
Toronto $32,234,728
Galaxy $27,303,314
Miami $24,194,278
Atlanta $22,431,357
Chicago $19,355,763
LAFC $19,001,888
New England $18,584,553
Columbus $17,892,808
Seattle $16,983,746
Houston $16,867,485
New York City $16,504,148
DC United $16,282,352
Cincinnati $16,281,087
Dallas $15,761,683
Vancouver $14,897,149
Kansas City $14,736,204
Austin $14,639,786
Salt Lake $14,609,198
Nashville $14,145,780
Montreal $13,059,176
Orlando $11,956,012
Charlotte $11,661,661
Portland $11,377,505
Minnesota $11,157,156
San Jose $10,702,272
Colorado $10,570,955
Philadelphia $10,360,287
New York Red Bulls $9,642,386
Source: The Blue Testament
15 Best-paid players

(guaranteed compensation)
1. Lorenzo Insigne, Toronto, $14 million
2. Xherdan Shaqiri, Chicago, $8.153 million
3. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Galaxy, $7.443 million
4. Federico Bernardeschi, Toronto, $6.256 million
5. Douglas Costa, Galaxy, $5.8 million
6. Gonzalo Higuain, Miami, $5.794 million
7. Hector Herrera, Houston, $5.247 million
8. Alejandro Pozuelo, Miami, $4.693 million
9. Luiz Araujo, Atlanta, $4,480 million
10. Jozy Altidore*, New England, 4,265 million
11. Christian Benteke, D.C. United, $4.183 million
12. Josef Martinez, Atlanta, $4,142 million
13. Lucas Zelarayan. Columbus, $3.7 million
14. Carles Gil, New England, 3.546 million
15. Rodolfo Pizarro#, Miami, $3.35 million
*-Altidore is on loan to Puebla of Liga MX
#-Pizarro is on loan to Monterrey of Liga MX
Karim Benzema was awarded the 2022 Ballon d’Or on Monday in Paris after a standout 2021-22 season in which he led Real Madrid to a Champions League crown and a La Liga title. Benzema scored a career-best 27 goals in league play and was the top scorer in the Champions League with 15 goals.

Sadio Mane of Bayern Munich and Liverpool finished second in the voting ahead of Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne. The Ballon d’Or, organized by the magazine France Football, has been awarded annually since 1956 to the world’s best player.
Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas won the women’s Ballon d’Or for a second consecutive year, becoming the first player to repeat since the women’s award was first handed out in 2018.

Putellas led Barcelona to a Spanish league title for the third season in a row although the team came up short in the Champions League, where it lost to Lyon in the final. Arsenal’s Beth Mead and Chelsea’s Sam Kerr finished second and third, respectively.
If you’ve been watching FX’s “Welcome to Wrexham,” the docuseries that follows actors Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds and their project to revive a fifth-division soccer club in the UK, you know the script calls for them to guide the team to promotion while giving a huge boost to the down-on-its-luck Welsh town the team calls home.
But documentaries don’t always stick to the script. So when Season 1 finished its 18-episode run last week, the team (spoiler alert!) remained in the National League. (Actually, that’s not really a spoiler alert since Season 1 chronicled the 2021-22 campaign, which is a year old. You can Google it.)

But the team did find a star in striker Paul Mullin, whom the Hollywood stars are reportedly paying $265,000 a season, an exorbitant price for a team that plays outside the English football league system.
Mullin isn’t the only one making more than minimum wage, though. Wrexham reportedly fielded four of the five best-paid players in the league last season, each making at least double the average wage, leading critics to charge Reynolds and McElhenney with conspiring to buy promotion and inspiring rival owners to call for a salary cap.
Mullin, not surprisingly, has a different take.
“If you own a business, why can you not invest in the business to take it to the next level?” he asked by phone. “Wrexham has obviously had a lot of exposure through Rob and Ryan being the owners. The league has also got much more recognition, so they brought a lot of revenue basically just off the back of Wrexham owners.

“It’d be a shame if rules came in to stop wealthy owners being able to basically pick up a community and take them forward as well as a football club.”
Money, however, wasn’t the main thing that brought Mullin to Wrexham. After scoring 32 goals in 46 games to help Cambridge win promotion in 2020-21, Mullin declined a new contract and agreed to drop down two levels with Wrexham after a phone call from McElhenney. In the call, the owner shared his vision for the club, the third oldest in world football, and the town, which revolves around the team.
Even that wasn’t the clincher, though. What Mullin really wanted was to be closer to home and Cambridge is 200 miles from the edge of Liverpool, where he grew up. Wrexham is less than 45 miles away.
“The ultimate decision was I wanted to be with my child and my partner every night and that’s something I couldn’t ever swap,” he said.

Mullin said his young son is autistic.
“He’s waiting to be diagnosed but I can say myself that he has autism,” Mullin said. “I couldn’t upset his happiness. And that was something that’s obviously really close to my heart. The main reason for me signing for Wrexham FC was basically to be as close as I can to my child every night and to come home to see him every night and to help him progress in life.”
Mullin scored a league-best 26 goals in his first season at Wrexham, but the team missed a chance at promotion when it lost in extra time in the playoffs. This season, an eight-game unbeaten streak helped lift the team to second in the table after 13 matches. Mullin ranks second in scoring with 11 goals, leaving him on pace for a third consecutive season with at least 25 goals.
At 27 — he’ll turn 28 next month — Mullin belongs in a higher league where he’d command more money, but he instead signed an extension with Wrexham that will keep him in Wales past his 30th birthday. Which isn’t to say he isn’t interested in getting back to League Two or even League One. It’s just that he’s decided to get there the way the script says, with Wrexham winning promotion.

“I signed for Wrexham based on the project and the ambitions of the club and I want to take this club as high as they can go,” he said. “The owners have said the ultimate dream is to get the Premier League and obviously people laughed at that, but it has been done before. Teams have climbed up the pyramid. That’s the beauty of the English game, it’s a pyramid system and you can always build your way up.
“Hopefully I can stay here and climb the leagues with Wrexham because I love this club. The fans are brilliant. The community is great and the owners are good.”
So is going home to your son every night.
Episodes of FX’s “Welcome to Wrexham” are now streaming on Hulu.

FIFA will pay clubs approximately $10,000 for each day a player on their roster remains with a national team during the Qatar World Cup. That could mean as much as $60,000 a day for LAFC, which has six players from World Cup teams on its roster, and $20,000 for the Galaxy. Four years ago FIFA paid more than $209 million to 416 teams in 63 member associations. … A first-half goal by Stanford’s Elise Evans snapped UCLA’s 13-game winning streak and handed Margueritte Aozasa her first loss as a college head coach. Aozasa spent the previous seven seasons as a Stanford assistant. … Orange County’s Milan Iloski finished the USL Championship season with a franchise-record 22 goals and became the first player in franchise history to win a Golden Boot. All 22 scores came from the run of play for OCSC (7-14-13), which finished last in the 13-team Western Conference after winning the league title a year ago.
LAFC’s transformation into MLS Cup title contenders comes with a $10-million price tag
USWNT falls to Spain, losing consecutive matches for the first time in five years

Don’t miss my weekly podcast on the Corner of the Galaxy site as co-host Josh Guesman and I discuss the Galaxy each Monday. You can listen to the most recent podcast here.
“You find the fun and the joy and intensity and uncertainty in places when it’s tough. Competition is when you know you can lose. That’s competition. If you know you can beat every single team, that’s not called competition.”
Galaxy captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández on enjoying the pressure of the MLS playoffs

Until next time…
Stay tuned for future newsletters. Subscribe here, and I’ll come right to your inbox. Something else you’d like to see? Email me. Or follow me on Twitter: @kbaxter11.

Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Follow Us
Kevin Baxter writes about soccer and other things for the Los Angeles Times, where he has worked for 24 years. He has covered five World Cups, three Olympic Games, six World Series and a Super Bowl and has contributed to three Pulitzer Prize-winning series at The Times and Miami Herald. An essay he wrote in fifth grade was voted best in the class. He has a cool dog.


High School Sports

High School Sports

USC Sports

Subscribe for unlimited access
Follow Us


Leave a Comment

Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

Welcome to FactsPrime

Sorry, We have detected that you have activated Ad-Blocker. Please Consider supporting us by disabling your Ad Blocker, It helps us in maintaining this website. To View the content, Please disable adblocker and refresh the page.

Thank You !!!