The DP Grades: The Good, Bad, and Hideous

The DP Grades: The Good, Bad, and Hideous

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On February 8, 2010
  • Claudio Lopez, Claudio Reyna, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, David Beckham, Designated Player, Freddie Ljungberg, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Juan Pablo Angel, Luciano Emilio, Marcello Gallardo

Is Blanco the best DP MLS has seen so far? (Getty Images)

I’ve had this thought for a little while, on the surface the Designated Player rule is good as it brings quality players into Major League Soccer that do help in more areas than just on the field itself. We know the cons against it like teams spending so much money on one player but I started looking at all the past and present DPs and started wondering if this rule really is worth it.

Now first of all I’m not going to advocate for or against this rule today. I just merely want to point out who’s done well with it and who’s not. We’ve seen this rule in place for a couple seasons now and so far only a few clubs have ventured out with this rule. Now it seems like most clubs are going away from the rule, currently only five clubs have a DP (Toronto, New York, LA, Seattle and Houston).

Also, so far five clubs (or six if you count Philly too) have yet to use their DP slot. RSL won MLS Cup 2009 without one so maybe they aren’t worth the money.

So let’s take a deeper look into each DP. What worked about it and what didn’t work on and off the field. We’ll go from worst to best in this instance. I’d also like to note that two fo the DPs on this list have only played a little under a half season with their clubs so grading and discussing them at length seemed unfair at this time. If you are wondering about who I am talking about here those two are Houston’s Luis Angel Landin and Toronto’s Julian De Guzman. (For the record I like De Guzman but don’t care of Landin…but saying that I am very curious about their upcoming seasons.)

Denilson (FC Dallas):

What worked: This may be the one DP in league history that had very little good come from it. Possibly the only good that we can see is it will keep teams like Dallas from spending money on a washed-up player like Denilson in hopes of putting more butts in the seats.

What didn’t work: Nearly everything on and off the field. When former Dallas GM Michael Hitchcock made this move it seemed like he was reaching a good bit at the time on this one. No doubt it was a weak attempt on his part and the rest of the Dallas front office part to sign Denilson. The hope was to put more fans in the stands and improve the on field product in the process due to the flashy Denilson. What happened was no one in Dallas cared and Denilson was a waste on the field.

Final thoughts: I think it is safe to say this is the worst DP in league history. No one in Dallas cared that he was here and most that did care were happy to see him go. Looking back I’m sure Dallas wishes they hadn’t wasted the money on him but that’s what happens when you gamble, sometimes you waste your money.

DP Grade: F


Claudio Reyna (New York Red Bulls):

What worked: When Renya was healthy you’d see a quality New York team on the field back in 2007. The midfield was a little more complete and the offense had a nice spark to it with him. I think had the timing been right when him coming to MLS we probably would have even seen a decent pump in attendance with him but probably nothing major like Beckham.

What didn’t work: Injuries and overall poor management on New York’s part really did this number in for me. Reyna was never going to be 100% while playing on turf (see Juan Pablo Angel for that too) and with the Red Bulls changing coaches every year stability was always going to be an issue.

Final thoughts: I liked this move at first for the club back in 2007 but as time wore on this move really showed some early flaws in the DP system.

DP Grade: D+


Marcello Gallardo (DC United):

What worked: He probably came in with too much hype and in some way he wasn’t really the guy DC actually wanted at the time (remember the Juan Sebastian Veron debacle?). Injuries did him in quickly and he was only limited to 15 games. In that time he scored four goals and assisted on a couple others but that was it.

What didn’t work: From what I recall there was always some attitude issues with Gallardo. At times it seemed like he didn’t want to be there and I’m sure that sports hernia didn’t help one bit either.

Final thought: Early on I thought Gallardo could be a big time impact player for DC but after a couple games that thought quickly went away. He disappeared in games that he was needed in and injury aside was just not a good fit for DC or MLS. Then again about every player DC brought in back in 2008 was not a good fit for both.

DP Grade: D+


Claudio Lopez (Kansas City Wizard):

(Note – Lopez was originally a DP but KC reworked his contract to not be a DP after 2008)

What worked: Late in 2008 we saw exactly how dangerous Lopez could be with the Wizards. The Wizards had a late surge towards the playoffs and were even able to upset Chivas USA in the opening round of the second season. A lot was thanks to Lopez and his efforts on the offensive side of the ball.

What hasn’t worked: He was truly never worth the DP money at the time, also he’s shown his age just a bit while in KC. Also he hasn’t been the offensive spark that some thought he’d be in KC. Only 15 goals in 57 games for the Wizards isn’t DP worthy.

Final Thoughts: Thankfully for KC they got his contract below the DP mark after one season. Since then he’s been doing okay as a non-DP player. I’d say he may still be a little more than he is worth right now but his leadership has been solid nonetheless in KC.

DP Grade: C


Luciano Emilio (DC United):

What worked: No one can deny that when Emilio was on he was on. After the 2007 season he earned his way into a DP contract with his MVP performance. The only thing was after his stellar non-DP year of 20 goals his production dropped in the final two years with the Black-and-Red with only 21 more goals, 10 of which did come in 2009. Still when he was on his game he was one of the best strikers in the league.

What didn’t work: I suppose his downfall was getting the DP contract after 2007. DC traded for the DP slot from Colorado, only then to trade it back. As mentioned his production dipped considerably after earning the DP money. A pretty typical thing of most athletes that earn a big contract after a strong year.

Final Thoughts: I liked Emilio as a DP last year for the most part, he was one of the few offensive bright spots for DC. After going for 20 goals in 2007 there was a lot expected of Emilio. He got the DP contract and still got 11 goals in 2008 and 10 in 2009 but its hard to live up to what got him the DP contract, that 20 goal tally. DC was smart to low ball him going into 2010 and in a way he was smart to reject it and go home to Brazil.

DP Grade: B-


David Beckham (LA Galaxy):

What’s worked: For the most part anytime he is on the field people are watching. He brings a lot to the table for Bruce Arena’s side and does create still create a decent amount of buzz for the league.

What hasn’t worked: For starters this loan thing with AC Milan has been a pain for the league. Second of all things did get off on a bad foot (excuse the pun) when he first came over with his injuries. He was expected to some to bring MLS into a lot of people’s houses but let’s be honest he really hasn’t spark that big of an interest in casual sports fans across the country like some thought he would.

Final thoughts: Hey the rule was made for him. He’ll eventually own a team in this league and his footprint will be all over when it is all said and done. While I have seen some issues with him making so many more money in a single season (or half season in his case now with this loan) than a couple clubs combined. But I’d still be willing to bet the positives have outweighed any negatives from him being here. He’s still done more for the league than most who have come over and tried their hand at playing in MLS.

DP Grade: A


Freddie Ljungberg (Seattle Sounders FC):

What’s worked: When he’s fit he is a dangerous part of the Seattle offense. Even though he’s only been in the league for a single season he has brought a ton of credibility to the league in my eyes. I knew it was a good signing for Seattle last year and I’m standing by it again today. The thing I do like about this signing is he wasn’t brought in to put more butts in the seats at Qwest, he was brought in to facilitate the offense. I think if Ljungberg is fully fit again this year he could have an even more productive campaign.

What hasn’t worked: Injuries have been an issue thanks to his age and the nasty field turf at Qwest. His off the field comments this winter also sparked some issues with teammates for him not showing up on time to camp.

Final Thoughts: Still one of my favorite players all together (gotta stick by my Swedes). Ljungberg will continue to be what’s right with the DP slot. Quality talent on the field and for the most part good stuff off the field that gets fans excited.

DP Grade: A


Juan Pablo Angel (New York Red Bulls)

What’s worked: He’s been a goal scoring machine, despite some injuries and playing on the lovely field turf at Giant’s Stadium. He loves New York and it seems like he is definitely at home in MLS.

What hasn’t worked: Injuries and lots of coaching/management turnover has probably cut into his production. I often wonder at times if he had gone anywhere else in the league as a DP would he be setting some scoring records each year?

Final thought: A move to Red Bull Arena this year will definitely help out with his injuries, which should definitely help New York get some wins this year for a change. Angel has been one of the better DPs the league has seen, some will even say the best. He brings a lot to the field and a good bit off of it.

DP Grade: A


Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus Crew):

What worked: While GBS only spent a single season as a DP he was still very much a good one. Not only did he help get the Crew to their second straight Supporter’s Shield trophy but he also did help them be the only MLS club to make it through the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League.

What hasn’t worked: Injuries, his age, and the constant threat of him leaving (which has pretty much vanished this winter).

Final thoughts: Even though he was only a DP for a single season he is still one of the best DPs the league has had up until this point. He brings so much to the field and from the sounds of things he brings a good bit of things off the field. He’s a player you build your club around and who knows maybe he’ll become the first DP to turn into a coach in this league.

DP Grade: A


Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Chicago Fire):

What worked: Its really hard to pinpoint something that didn’t work out right for Blanco in Chicago. He was an instant success on and off the field. While the Fire never got to a MLS Cup with Blanco they did see some quality soccer on the field and in a way the Fire help get his international career back on track. I won’t even mention what he brought to the table for the league in terms of growth in the Latino department.

What didn’t work: Blame it on coaching or management but the one big flaw with Blanco was that he never was able to lead them to any sort of domestic or international Cup while in Chicago. Oh and that US Open Cup mess wasn’t anything fun to discuss either.

Final thoughts: For me Blanco is and will continue to be the best DP the league has seen so far. GBS is a close second for me but Blanco edges him out because of what he brought to the game and the crowds he brought in when the Fire were on the road. He had his issues like any other player but he was well worth the DP price in my book, even though I’m still not the biggest Blanco supporter.

DP Grade: A


  • Feb 8 2010
Ljungberg's most notable injury this season was induced by wine sauce, triggering a migraine during the All-Star game. Ljungberg was recovering from surgery for the first couple of games before he joined the Sounders, so that can't really be blamed on FieldTurf either.

Qwest's FieldTurf is way safer than Houston's sandbox.
  • Feb 9 2010
Ljungberg's most notable injury this season was induced by wine sauce, triggering a migraine during the All-Star game. Ljungberg was recovering from surgery for the first couple of games before he joined the Sounders, so that can't really be blamed on FieldTurf either.

Qwest's FieldTurf is way safer than Houston's sandbox.