When the Major League Soccer Players Association revealed its league-wide salary data in 2021, FC Cincinnati was revealed to be one of the top-spending clubs when it came to player wages.
At the time, on-field results were lacking. The appearance of spending big to little effect was an uncomfortable one for the club.
On Tuesday, the MLSPA put forth its first of two salary-data dumps for 2022, and it showed an improving situation for FC Cincinnati with the impact of first-year General Manager Chris Albright already being felt.
The FC Cincinnati of today as reflected by the latest dataset reflects a middle-of-the-pack spender – Cincinnati’s wage bill makes it the No. 12 MLS team in terms of payroll – that’s finally seeing a return on investment on the field.
As it had in the past, MLSPA revealed players’ current annualized base salary along with annual average guaranteed compensation, which includes a player’s base salary and all signing and guaranteed bonuses annualized over the term of the player’s contract, including option years.
The spring 2021 salary guide contains salary information for all MLS players under contract as of April 15.
Inside FC Cincinnati’s numbers
Albright inherited the majority of the contracts currently held by the team, including four seven-figures deals from the previous regime at the club.
But the salary data reflects Albright has ushered in club-friendly additions and one designated-player deal that’s already paying off.
Obinna Nwobodo, with a base salary of $900,000 and a total compensation package of $1,028,100, stands as the most significant signing of the Albright era to date.
Nwobodo, 25, of Nigeria, and previously a player for Turkish first-division club Göztepe SK, became Albright’s first designated player signing for FC Cincinnati in mid-April.
FC Cincinnati salaries:
(Player – base salary; total compensation)
Luciano Acosta – $1,943,500; $2,222,854
Isaac Atanga – $350,000; $364,000
*Dominique Badji – $500,000; $555,000
**Zico Bailey – $84,000; $84,000
Alvaro Barreal – $350,000; $350,000
Tyler Blackett – $807,600; $807,600
Geoff Cameron – $387,000; $440,667
*Roman Celentano – $84,000; $84,000
Allan Cruz – $1,140,000; $1,254,000
*Ray Gaddis – $230,000; $230,000
**Nick Hagglund – $84,000; $84,000
Calvin Harris – $85,444; $100,444
*Alec Kann – $200,000; $220,833
Yuya Kubo – $1,091,000; $1,206,750
*Nick Markanich – $65,500; $65,000
Ronald Matarrita – $750,000; $806,875
**Haris Medunjanin – $225,000; $248,750
Ben Mines – $84,000; $88,840
*Junior Moreno – $325,000; $373,750
*Ian Murphy – $65,500; $67,750
*John Nelson – $65,500; $73,500
*Obinna Nwobobo – $900,000; $1,028,100
Quimi Ordonez – $65,500; $69,037
*Alvas Powell – $150,000; $167,000
*Harrison Robledo – $65,500; $86,391
Brenner Souza da Silva – $1,680,000; $2,218,600
Brandon Vazquez – $275,000; $304,167
Kenneth Vermeer – $84,000; $84,000
* = first-year player for FCC added since Albright was hired in October.
** = re-signed or contract option exercised.
More:FC Cincinnati acquires Obinna Nwobodo from Turkish club Göztepe
Nwobodo won’t be the last relatively big expenditure for Albright, but as the first, it’s a move that’s been welcomed by FC Cincinnati supporters and observers of the club.
Nwobodo was a statistical outlier in Europe for his trademark aggressive, ball-hawking tactics as a defensive midfielder. He commanded a premium price on the open market, but the early returns since his arrival – not the least of which is that FC Cincinnati is 4-0-0 since he first appeared April 30 at Toronto FC – have widely been perceived as positive.
Analytics support that Nwobodo’s acquisition has been a good one for FCC.
More:FC Cincinnati ‘very pleased’ with Obinna Nwobodo’s debut against Toronto FC
Nwobodo’s salary figure, along with FC Cincinnati’s other seven-figure earners, are well short of the top-10 earners in the league, which starts with Carles Gil ($3,550,000 million) at No. 10 and works its way up to the top earner, Chicago Fire’s Xherdan Shaqiri ($8,150,000).
After Nwobodo, the priciest addition Albright and Co. made to FCC’s 2022 squad are Dominique Badji ($500,000), Junior Moreno ($325,000), Ray Gaddis ($230,000) goalkeeper Alec Kann ($200,000) and Alvas Powell ($150,000).
The rest of the players added, re-signed or who had contract options exercised under come in at less than $100,000, respectively. That includes players that have started regularly for FCC at times this season like John Nelson and Nick Hagglund.
FC Cincinnati’s highest-paid player, both in base salary and total compensation, is Luciano Acosta. And it’s hard to argue with the return Acosta’s provided, particularly early in 2022 as he’s a mainstay in the early Most Valuable Player conversation.
Since joining the club in winter 2021 under former GM Gerard Nijkamp and head coach Jaap Stam, Acosta’s tallied 12 goals and 13 assists. After scoring seven goals in 2021, Cincinnati’s captain already has five goals in 12 league games in 2022.
FC Cincinnati still has areas of concern. Brenner Souza da Silva ($1,680,000) and Allan Cruz ($1,140,000) basically have no end-product to show for their efforts in 2022, although it’s not for lack of effort.
It’s fair to note that Brenner’s battled immigration issues that shortened his preseason, as well as persistent injury concerns.
For Cruz’s part, he’s admirably attempted to contribute amid personal issues away from FC Cincinnati.
One irrefutable fact about FC Cincinnati’s current expenditures is that the club’s getting better value for its expenses than at any previous point in the club’s history in Major League Soccer.
Through 12 matches, FC Cincinnati earned a 6-5-1 record and sits fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
The six victories matches the club’s previous single-season high in MLS (six in 2019) and marks the latest stage in a season the club has had a winning record.
Something to keep in mind when navigating the MLSPA salary guide: The guide is a useful tool for measuring spending from team to team, although it doesn’t give the complete picture of club expenditures, including transfer fees, or player earnings.
There is no accounting for how all the salary numbers work relative to the salary cap and how clubs use roster-management tools such as guaranteed allocation money (or “GAM”) and targeted allocation money (or “TAM”) to pay down contracts, although that information is reported on independently in some cases.