The 2023 MLS regular season crawls towards its end, with the playoffs fast approaching.
Fans have relished exciting roars in jubilation over victories and endured their fair share of disappointing defeats.
While we have witnessed nerve-racking displays of skills and impacting contributions from some players, others have disappointed their supporters with lackluster performances.
European imports like Douglas Costa and highly-valued promising stars like Talles Magno have failed to impress this season.
However, they are not the only ones in the naughty corner.
We have examined performances, analyzed figures, and compared expectations to put up a list of the worst players in MLS this season.
The Worst Players in MLS Right Now
10. Josef Martínez
- Team: Inter Miami
Inter Miami third-highest paid star, Josef Martínez, contributed largely to first-ever trophy, scoring three goals and serving two assists in the Leagues Cup.
Nevertheless, he arguably sits amongst the league’s top flops this season.
The club’s effort to compete prompted them to bring the 2022 MLS Goal of the Year Award winner from Atlanta United.
However, the club would only escape a bottom-place position following Lionel Messi’s addition.
Martínez’s contribution to the team’s offense has been insufficient, with only six goals and an assist in 21 league games.
Contextually, the Venezuelan striker was Inter Miami’s highest earner before Lionel Messi, with a four million-dollar base salary and $4.39 million, including guaranteed bonuses.1
9. Lorenzo Insigne
Team: Toronto FC
Insigne arrival to the MLS was with much fun-fare and anticipation as evidenced by his his contract, one of the biggest in MLS history.
Insigne signed a four-year pre-contract to join Toronto FC as a designated player on a free transfer.
The deal was reportedly worth $15 million per year, a portrayal of the winger’s profile and expertise.2
Despite his notable speed, nibble feet, and goal-oriented movements, the former SSC Napoli man has struggled to impact the Canadian side that currently sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.
Lorenzo Insigne has scored eleven goals and served five assists in thirty games for Toronto FC, with eight G/A in eighteen appearances this season.
Nevertheless, these stats are unsatisfactory considering the Italian’s heavily priced contract.
8. Jonathan Lewis
- Team: Colorado Rapids
Colorado Rapids has endured a poor season to remain at the bottom of the Western Conference.
The Pids have only squeezed out 19 points from a possible 78, having played 26 games in the regular season. S
adly, the underperforming Jonathan Lewis has contributed to their misfortune with little productivity from the left side.
The 26-year-old Jamaican-American has found the back of the net only four times this season and set up his teammates towards goal only once.
While these stats may be impressive for a squad player, Lewis is a first-team regular with 1,219 minutes in 23 appearances.
He has a G/A every 244 minutes ratio, which is nothing to write home about.
7. Kévin Cabral
- Team: Colorado Rapids
Lewis’s insufficient contribution is only one reason for Colorado Rapids’ turbulent season.
The right flank, led by Kévin Cabral, has lacked cutting-edge creativity and the required goals to get the Colorado side to winning games.
The Frenchman has only scored twice and assisted two goals in 27 appearances across all competitions this season, playing a total of 1,204 minutes.
Colorado Rapids acquired Cabral from LA Galaxy for up to $1 million in General Allocation Money.
Sadly, the board’s attempt to improve the team has not yielded positive results.
6. Talles Magno
- Team: New York City FC
Magno won the FIFA U-17 World Cup with Brazil and made The Guardian’s “Next Generation” in 2019.3
More so, he helped the Eastern Conference side to win the MLS Cup in 2021 and the Campeones Cup in 2022.
He also finished the later year as CONCACAF Champions League’s Best Young Player and appeared in the Best XI.
Sadly, he has suffered a lackluster run of form this season, scoring only three goals and providing two assists in 28 games in a New York FC shirt.
The club hopes the Brazilian finds his scoring boots in the next campaign, but he has underperformed this season, with one goal every 585 minutes.
5. Xherdan Shaqiri
- Club: Chicago Fire
The stout forward was popular in Europe for his knowledge of the game as an unpredictable forward who was decent with both feet and clinical in front of the goal.
Chicago Fire signed the forward from Olympique Lyonnais for $7.5 million, making him the club’s most expensive designated player ever.
More so, he earns $8.15 million a year plus bonuses, once holding the status of the league’s highest-paid player.4
Unfortunately, these investments have done no more than keep the club at the bottom half of the table, with the Swiss amassing only ten goal contributions in 28 appearances this season.
this stat may be impressive for many players, it is not enough to summon Shaqiri’s highly-paying contract.
4. Cade Cowell
- Team: San Jose Earthquakes
Cade Cowell featured in the 2021 MLS All-Star in 2021.
Today, he may secure a starting spot in the league’s worst XI.
The San Jose Earthquakes find themselves in the middle of the Western Conference table, drawing more games than losing or winning.
However, they can finish among the top four if Cade Cowell is more clinical or decisive in the final third.
The winger has scored only once in 20 appearances this season despite playing 1,284 minutes in the league.
Stans may argue that there is more to the game than goals, but Cowell has done no better setting up his teammates for goals, providing only three assists in the current campaign.
3. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández
- Team: LA Galaxy
Chicharito became popular for his impact from the bench, playing for Manchester United and Real Madrid.
He also performed for West Ham United and has displayed stints of his abilities in Los Angeles.
However, he has struggled to maintain a string of outstanding performances in the MLS due to personal issues and injuries.
Chicharito secured an All-Star appearance last year.
Sadly, he has failed to impress this season with one goal and one assist in twelve appearances across all competitions before sustaining a season-ending injury in June.
This incident signifies another unfortunate campaign for the Mexican, but he fails to garner sympathy as the club’s highest-paid player, earning $6 million per year.5
2. C.J. Sapong
- Team: Toronto FC
Many still try to understand the reason behind Toronto FC’s decision to acquire C.J. Sapong.
He scored only 17 goals in 74 league appearances for Nashville SC and has little or no impact on the Canadian side.
Sapong has started 67% of his 25 appearances for Nashville SC and Toronto FC this season and has only one goal contribution for both teams, which is lamentable for a center-forward.
The MLS named C.J. Sapong the 2011 Rookie of the Year, but the 34-year-old striker has since struggled to live up to his promise.
1. Douglas Costa
- Team: LA Galaxy
Douglas Costa is the perfect example of the expression:
“From grace to grass.” He was among Europe’s most promising talents when he broke into the limelight at Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.
However, injuries plagued his developments at Bayern Munich and Juventus before moving to the MLS last year.
His career at LA Galaxy has shown stints of his abilities, but he has not put up an outstanding performance to prove his worth.
As such, he is among the reasons for Galaxy supporters’ recent rants against the board.
The Brazilian winner has racked up more yellow cards than goals in seventeen appearances this season.
While he has registered five assists in the league, he has not found the net in 14 league appearances.
The MLS makes the news for many commendable developments but has consistently lacked world-class players.
In recent years, the league has attracted troves of European stars which has helped put it in pace to be compared with European top-flight leagues.
Unfortunately, some of these players are worse than the lot.
These players may lack commitment and the essential fitness required to perform.
The likes of Douglas Costa have been shocking and have their fans covering their eyes in shock.
However, despite their inclusion in the worst players in MLS list, we do not deny their abilities or consider them worthless, but they are not much cop and have not lived up to expectations this season.
References & Notes
- Josef Martinez tops Inter Miami salary list at $4 million. Here is full team salary list. Miami Herald
- Toronto FC’s Lorenzo Insigne feels no pressure as MLS’ top earner. ESPN
- Next Generation 2019: 60 of the best young talents in world football. The Guardian
- Chicago Fire’s Xherdan Shaqiri edges LA Galaxy’s Javier Hernandez as MLS’ highest paid. ESPN
- What will Chicharito’s salary be at LA Galaxy in 2023? AS Soccer