Stay with me here. I know a good portion of you might be up in arms simply because of the title. Before we get started, I’d just like to say that the intention of this article is merely to raise a few simple questions, rather than suggest that I know what the direction should be going forward. Let’s get going.
I’ll begin by stating a few facts. Jonathan Spector, one of Orlando City SC’s starting center backs, is 32 years old, will be 33 next March, and is currently being paid a base salary of $575,000 a year. He has appeared in eight of the 27 competitive games the Lions have played this season.
Let’s start with the first statement, Spector’s age, which in and of itself isn’t necessarily a problem. Yes, he’s on the wrong side of 30, but there are plenty of players over 30 in MLS who provide sizable contributions to their teams (Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sebastian Giovinco come to mind). However, that number does become of slightly more concern when considering the games Spector has played in this season. Doing the math, Spector has played in just under one third of all of Orlando’s competitive matches this season. Unfortunately the injury bug has hit Orlando hard this season, with Spector being one of the players most affected.
While that kind of percentage is to be expected for a player fighting for a place in the starting 11, Spector is one of the first names on the team sheet when he’s fit. He’s the team captain and the back line has tended to look more settled this season when he’s been helping to command it. Unfortunately, being sidelined by injury for so many games isn’t what you want to see from a starting player, especially one in whom you’ve made a significant investment.
While his transfer fee was not announced, Spector is the fourth-highest paid player at the club, with the base salary that I mentioned before, which rises to $636,942 in guaranteed money. That’s no small chunk of change, and when you go back and consider his age, number of games missed, and the reason for missing them all, I think it does bring up some concerns. There’s also his history of injuries; tearing a thigh muscle on two separate occasions during his time with Birmingham City, as well as injuries that have happened at Orlando City. Soccer is a demanding sport and it only takes more of a toll on the body the older an individual gets.
Like it or not, age is very much part of the issue here. If we’re talking about these things in regard to someone like Chris Mueller then there probably isn’t as much concern. A younger player has much more time to get fit and get playing time than someone over 30. The body is better at healing itself at that age, and transfer value has much more potential to go higher the younger a player is. The longer you keep an older player, the greater the risk of losing money, that’s simply part of the game.
Now, this isn’t to say that Spector is the only player at the club who fits the things I’ve talked about in this article. In fact, fellow center back Lamine Sané, while a year younger than Spector, is also paid over $200,000 more, and has had problems staying fit as well. So he isn’t the only one and by no means am I trying to single him out or outright call for him to be traded or sold during the off-season. But, I do think it’s an issue worth examining. For the record, I love Jonathan Spector. When he does play, he plays hard, smart soccer and makes the players around him better. But if him or any other player leaving or taking a pay cut is what’s in the best interest of the club as a whole, then that’s what should be done.