Stejskal: What's next for Mix Diskerud? | McInerney an attractive option

Mix Diskerud - New York City FC - head shot

After months of uncertainty, it was announced on Thursday that New York City FC have bought out the contract of midfielder Mix Diskerud.

The announcement brings an end to Diskerud’s stint with NYCFC, and, at least for now, his time in MLS.

As outlined in the league's roster rules, every MLS team is allowed to buy out the guaranteed contract of one player per year. If the buyout occurs in the offseason, as was the case with Diskerud, the player’s salary will not count towards the team's salary budget. Such buyouts are always at the expense of the individual MLS club, meaning NYCFC is on the hook for whatever amount they agreed to pay Diskerud to walk away.

A source told on Thursday that NYCFC made a commitment to Diskerud when they signed him ahead of the 2015 season that they would not trade him. Because of that commitment, the club agreed to not put him on waivers on Thursday, which would’ve allowed him to be picked up by another MLS team. Without going on waivers and with NYCFC no longer even able to trade him due to not holding his rights, the source said that there is no mechanism for Diskerud to join another MLS team. 

Despite that, Diskerud isn’t a free agent – NYCFC said in their announcement that he’s still under contract with MLS, with the source saying his deal runs through 2018. That will affect his next steps. At the moment, Diskerud has three options. He can decide to ride out the term of his contract, collect his buyout and not play anywhere, he could could strike a deal with MLS to terminate his contract and sign as a free agent in a different league, or MLS could transfer him to a club in a different league with his approval.

Diskerud could eventually return to MLS, but it would have to be on a different deal than his current one. If he does one day return to the league, the source said he would go through waivers.

It’s not clear where Diskerud will end up next, but Thursday’s news was no doubt a positive step for the US international’s career. After appearing in 27 games with the club in 2015, he fell completely out of favor with first-year head coach Patrick Vieira last summer, with his final regular season appearance for the club coming on June 2.

NYCFC were open this preseason about their position that Diskerud was not in their plans, and the Norwegian-American was not even with the team until the last couple of weeks. Even then, he was only with the squad to stay sharp – there were never any plans for him to be on the roster this year. That left him in a bizarre soccer purgatory, one that he appears to have taken a step toward exiting on Thursday.

McInerney likely to draw widespread interest

Stejskal: What's next for Mix Diskerud? | McInerney an attractive option -

Diskerud wasn’t the only notable MLS player to be released by his team this week, as Portland announced ahead of Wednesday's MLS roster compliance deadline that they had waived forward Jack McInerney. The 24-year-old striker will now be available to the other 21 MLS clubs via the waiver process.

For the Timbers, this move was all about creating cap space. According to the MLS Players’ Union, McInerney made $270,000 in 2016. That’s a significant salary budget hit for any player, let alone one who was locked into a part-time role behind Fanendo Adi and made more expendable this winter when Portland traded up to select US U-20 forward Jeremy Ebobisse with the No. 4 overall pick in January’s SuperDraft.

As noted by Stumptown Footy, releasing McInerney will give the club the financial flexibility needed to sign a starting-level center back to replace Gbenga Arokoyo, who suffered a torn Achilles early in preseason and will be out for the entire year.

Timing-wise, league rules forced the Timbers to make the move on Wednesday. If they’d hung onto McInerney beyond Wednesday’s roster compliance deadline, his salary would’ve counted towards their 2017 cap. In theory, they could’ve moved his salary off their books by trading him within MLS, but, given his high budget charge, it would’ve been difficult to convince another team to take his full cap hit in a potential deal.

McInerney will now be available to all other MLS clubs via waivers. Here’s how that process works:

  • Any team interested in McInerney will have until 5 pm ET on Friday to notify the league of their intention to claim him and the amount of his salary cap hit they’re willing to absorb.
  • The team willing to absorb the highest cap hit will be awarded McInerney’s rights. If two or more teams tie for the highest budget charge submitted, McInerney will be awarded to the team with the lower point total from 2016. Expansion teams Atlanta (ranked No. 21) and Minnesota (ranked No. 22) are last on the waiver priority list.
  • MLS will pay McInerney the amount that the team that claims him bids during the waiver process. Portland will be on the hook for paying the difference between that number and his guaranteed salary for 2017. Regardless of what that number is, he won’t count at all towards the Timbers cap.
  • If no one claims McInerney off waivers, then he’ll be available to all teams on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Given his age and decent MLS goal record (43 goals), I fully expect several teams to place a waiver claim on McInerney. In theory, a club could claim him for the minimum senior salary budget charge of $65,000 and place him on their supplemental roster, in which case he wouldn’t count towards their cap at all. That’d be essentially acquiring him for free. He’d still get paid his full, guaranteed salary for 2017, but most of that money would come out of Portland’s pocket and wouldn’t count towards anyone’s cap.

For a player with 43 goals in 167 career regular season appearances who probably still has his best soccer ahead of him, that’d be an absolute steal. I wouldn’t be shocked if both expansion teams made a run at him, and any team in need of depth up top would be wise to at least take a flyer on McInerney. 

Game of the Week (Plus 2017 predictions) 

Stejskal: What's next for Mix Diskerud? | McInerney an attractive option -

I’d normally be all over Saturday’s contest between LA and Dallas at StubHub Center (4 pm ET; Univision in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada) as my top game of the week, but then this isn’t exactly a normal week.

I just can’t bring myself to pass on the season opener, especially when it includes an expansion team playing their inaugural MLS match. Minnesota United FC may be heavy underdogs, but their match at Portland on Friday (9:30 pm ET; FS1 in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada) is sure to be memorable for a variety of reasons.

Not only will the Loons be making their MLS debut, but Portland will be rolling out their new and improved front six of Diego Chara, David Guzman, Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and Fanendo Adi. For my money, that’s the best midfield/forward group in the league. They should be a ton of fun for the Timbers, who – as things currently stand, anyway – will probably need to score a boatload of goals to be competitive out West.

I’ll usually end the notebook here, but, being that it’s opening weekend, I thought I’d get a few predictions on record before I cut out. No chance these come back to bite me, right?

MLS Cup: Portland Timbers
Supporters’ Shield: Toronto FC
MVP: Sebastian Giovinco
Golden Boot: Sebastian Giovinco
Defender of the Year: Walker Zimmerman
Goalkeeper of the Year: Tim Howard
Newcomer of the Year: Nemanja Nikolic
Rookie of the Year: Ian Harkes
Coach of the Year: Tata Martino

Enjoy the games, everyone.