MLS recently announced a list of the 25 greatest players in league history and this got many thinking, who are some of the worst players to have played in MLS? Well, that list is long, there have been quite a few characters that have come to MLS and have stunk up the jersey they put on.
While it’s always great to think about players like Carlos Vela, David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Carlos Valderrama, and David Villa, one can’t help but remember some of the duds, flops, and misfires of some of the teams in MLS. Honorable or infamous mentions go out to Marquinho of Colorado Rapids fame, who told the front office he missed Brazilian food or Saša Ćurčić of the MetroStars who forgot his cleats to practice on four occasions, there have been some eye raising signings that were massive flops.
While this is not a ranking per say of the worst signings in MLS history, we will cover the 25 years of the league and not just the DP era. Many names you will recognize, others we will need to remind you, but in 25 years the league has had some major flop signings. Here are 15 of the worst signings in MLS history.
15. Wellington Sánchez
Lost in the sands of time was the signing of Ecuadorian midfielder and heir apparent to álex Aguinaga, Wellington Sánchez by the MetroStars in 1998. This was a major move for the young league as Sánchez was seen as a hot prospect in South America. Expectations were high on the man who was given the number 7 jersey and asked to replace Roberto Donadoni, who had returned to A.C. Milan. What followed was strange indeed, Sánchez played only 1 game as a substitute for the MetroStars, he was traded to the L.A. Galaxy and in 2 years played only 12 games for L.A. scoring 1 goal.
14. Nelson Haedo Valdez
The paraguayan forward Nelson Valdez came to the Seattle Sounders with a pedigree of a goal scorer, which he was. While Valdez left everything on the field, you can’t blame his lack of trying, it just never clicked. He scored 1 goal in 31 games, and scored a critical playoff goal that got the Sounders to the 2016 MLS Cup final.
13. Rubén Darío Hernández
Rubén Darío Hernández was the original MetroStars savior, that player that would elevate the team to greatness. He didn’t, in 1996 the skilled but goalless forward left the MetroStars after 10 games and 0 goals to make way for Anthony De Avila. Hernández began a legacy of high profile players that produced little for the MetroStars/ Red Bulls.
12. Nery Castillo
MLS has another legacy they don’t like to admit, a legacy of flop Mexican superstar signings, Nery Castillo, came to the Chicago Fire to try and save a career that was falling apart. Castillo already had a history of being difficult on and off the field. The Fire took a gamble and it failed miserably. Nery Castillo played a total of 8 games for the Fire in 2010.
The first World Cup winner to ever play in MLS was from the reigning champions at the time, Brazil (1994). Branco was a top left back, once, who came to MLS in 1997 to play for the ailing MetroStars. To say that Branco was a flop is an understatement. He played in only 11 games and scored 1 goal, he was sent off twice, once for spitting at an opponent. He chained smoked, was overweight, and was let go quickly as the 97 season ended.
10. Kris Boyd
Kris Boyd was the Timbers second DP in their history, he arrived with great expectations in 2012 from Scotland where he had scored 164 goals in 296 games. Boyd could only score 7 goals in 26 outings in MLS. He played only 1 season in Portland and was cut by 2013, he earned $1.5 million for his lone season.
9. Lothar Matthäus
The definition of everything MLS does not want to be. Matthäus MLS journey began shortly after the 1999 Champions League Final against Manchester United, you can say that the 38-year-old, 1990 World Cup winner, was one of the best players on the field until he was subbed out. When he did arrive in New York to be presented to the media he told local media, while posing for pictures in Times Square, he was a German basketball player signed by the Knicks. It seemed to Matthäus that playing in MLS was a joke, it looked that way, he played 16 games, when he was “injured” Matthäus was photographed in St. Tropez getting a tan. Incredibly Matthäus speaks wonders about the emerging MLS as a pundit in Germany. Go figure…
8. Claudio Reyna
This one is hard, because we all know Reyna wanted to make it work, but unfortunately injuries had caught up to Claudio Reyna. After a storied career in Europe, one of the USMNT all-time greats came to the New York Red Bulls to finish his career, and it looked that way as Reyna played only 28 games in two seasons and scored 0 goals.
7. Luis ángel Landín
Luis ángel Landín might not have been the biggest global name to come to MLS, but he was known to Liga MX fans. The Houston Dynamo’s first ever DP came to the league in 2009. Landin was hurt more often than not and only played 16 games and scored 2 goals.
Toronto FC struckout a lot in their early DP history, Spanish forward Mista was one of those strikeouts. Mista played 10 games in 2010 and that was about it. He did nothing for Toronto FC and was cut soon after.
Told you Toronto FC struckout, Gilberto was a Brazilan forward that TFC paid a $3 million transfer fee for. In his two seasons with the club the big target man did not set the league on fire, he scored 7 goals in 28 games. TFC traded him to Chicago where he played even worse in 2 seasons he scored 5 goals in 19 games.
Denilson won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 after being the highest transferred player ever when he moved from Sao Paulo to Real Betis in 1998. By 2007 Denilson was an unwanted commodity having bounced around France and Saudi Arabia, still on the national team he showed incredible talent. The Brazilian came to F.C. Dallas with high hopes but unfortunately, he did not play well at all. He scored 1 goal in 8 games.
3. Luis Hernández
Luis Hernández might not be the worst in terms of production, but he makes the top three because even Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, has stated in various interviews it was one of his biggest mistakes as a Commissioner approving the $4 million transfer of the Mexican fan favorite. While Hernández scored 15 goals in 40 games for the Galaxy, despite the initial buzz when he signed with the team, by 10 games it had faded. Luis Hernández was signed to put MLS on the map at least in the North America/ hispanic community level, and it just did not happen.
2. Frank Lampard
Nothing went right for Frank Lampard in MLS, at the last minute he stayed in England to play for sister club Manchester City to help them win the EPL title, which they did not, once he did arrive in MLS he found the travel and hot weather difficult to bear. While Lampard showed flashes of brilliance, he scored 15 goals in 29 games, 10 games in 2015 and 19 games in 2016 is not enough for a player making $6 million dollars a year.
1. Rafael Márquez
Unanimously voted by MLS fans as the worst player ever signed by MLS, Rafael Márquez was a case of the blues every way you look at it. Márquez played three seasons with the New York Red Bulls, mostly because no team would take him by year 2, he was red carded often, including getting a red card in an important playoff game that left the Red Bulls in a massive hole. Rafael Márquez publicly criticized his teammates as beneath him, let’s not forget two of his teammates were Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill. Márquez endeared himself more to MLS fans when he called his move to the league the worst decision he ever made in his career. There is a word for a guy like this…