Friday, May 18, 2012

MLS breakout players, redux

If you'll go way back to the ides of March, that MLS-less time when we all had to look across the shore for our footy fixes, I came out with my all-Two Door Cinema Club XI. It was a group with an eye toward breakout seasons from 11 of the league's unheralded stars, some young, some old. The very nature of the business of predictions involves making yourself look unbelievably stupid at times, which I am not above. You're talking to a guy who once videotaped a friend concrete water-skiing behind a car in rollerblades with nothing but a jockstrap on in the parking lot of a popular neighborhood grocery store in high school. Stupid, I know thy name.

Anyway, since we're now entering the "I can sort of start digesting your season" stage, let's take a preliminary look at my breakout stars and how they've fared over the first two months or so.

Goalkeeper
Zac MacMath, Philadelphia Union

The correct answer was NYRB's Ryan Meara, though none of us could've accurately predicted that in March. Meara has been arguably the most consistently impressive rookie in all of MLS this season with a string of consecutive shutouts already to his name. Indeed, Meara was only in the starting lineup with a light grease pencil at the start of the year. He's now entrenched there. MacMath has not been a disaster by any stretch, and he's already accumulated 810 minutes, 26 saves and a 1.33 GAA, which is better than Meara's. But Meara's order has been tall: a disorganized back line with the occasional disaster mixed in for fun. MacMath's defense hasn't been airtight, but it's been north of the trainwreck that NYRB's has been at times.

Left back
Seth Sinovic, Sporting KC

I never really expected a left back to garner any sort of national breakout recognition, but Sinovic has certainly continued his strong and steady approach he left off 2011 with. SKC hasn't been wonderful at the back the last three games, but Sinovic has done his part in keeping the left side pinned down. Most of Sinovic's competition, guys like Connor Lade and Nemanja Vukovic, are well below him in the latest Castrol Index and haven't necessarily played comparable minutes. Plus, this is a terribly weak position across the board in MLS.

Right back
Lee Young-Pyo, Vancouver Whitecaps 

I might've hit on a serious one with Y.P. Lee. The 34-year-old has already amassed 900 minutes with the Whitecaps, is in decent position in the Castrol Index and has already uncorked one unholy strike less than two months into his MLS tenure. Guy has been a boost to Vancouver's mostly tenacious defense this year, the New England debacle notwithstanding. With the start to the season he's had, San Jose's Steven Beitashour would have been an equally adroit choice. 

Center back
Brandon McDonald, DC United

Another nail-meet-head situation, if I do say so myself. Since returning from a suspension on April 14, McDonald has played every minute for DC. No other player on the roster can say that. McDonald is a physical presence and an imposing aerial threat, which opposing teams have struggled to counter appropriately. There's something to be said for a player who can withstand the rigors of a pressing league schedule, and DC has relied more on McDonald in that respect than anybody else.

Markus Holgersson, NY Red Bulls

This pick would've looked like a total miss a few weeks ago, but Holgersson hasn't been an abominable train wreck lately. Which is saying something considering the form with which he started the year. I'll never forget Chris Pontius merely walking around a languid Holgersson at the edge of the box en route to an easy goal last month. He's been a stand-up center back in the worst way at times, and Erik Soler's recent deal for Heath Pearce does not speak highly of Holgersson's immediate future. Though he doesn't have the full-time minutes yet, a guy like the Crew's Josh Williams might've been a better choice.

Midfield
Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution

Rowe started the year like gangbusters, a natural continuation of arguably the best preseason of anybody in the league. But, typical of rookies, Rowe has run into injury problems. His balky hamstring kept him out of New England's 4-1 beating over Vancouver and has allowed Nick Deleon and Tony Cascio to pull ahead of the Revs midfielder in early rookie of the year ballots. Rowe still has the ability to catch up, but both Deleon and Cascio would have been better picks here as of now.

Jaime Castrillon, Colorado Rapids

This one is a cinch. Colorado is playing up Oscar Pareja's soccer-as-art style 4-3-3 better than almost anyone else in the league, and Castrillon has had a big hand in that. He's currently an outstanding 17th in the Castrol Index and has been a boon for an offense that's been one of the league's best over the first two months.

Marvin Chavez, San Jose Earthquakes

Chavez's form over the first six weeks of the season brings into question what FCD was thinking by releasing the guy. The wind-walking flank player has been unstoppable when he's played, single-handedly setting up both goals in a recent 2-1 win over Philly and creating all kinds of havoc with his incandescent feet. The only problem is injuries. Chavez was lost for 2-4 weeks last week with a hamstring strain. If he can stay healthy, San Jose's offense is among the league's most dangerous.

Marco Pappa, Chicago Fire

Pappa has hit some monster goals in his career, few bigger than this stoppage time winner away to Chivas this year. And then you scope out his Olimpico goal against Seattle and you wonder why this guy isn't in league MVP discussions. He's still a little flighty for me. He can look brilliant and blase in the same game. I still like this pick, but the jury is very much out on how he keeps his form into the summer. More than Oduro or Nyarko, Chicago needs Pappa to light it up to drive a stake through the Fire's unthinkable postseason drought.

Forward
Darlington Nagbe, Portland Timbers

The Timbers haven't had a whole lot go right this year, so it doesn't surprise that Nagbe hasn't been at his best at times. That said, he has three of Portland's seven goals this year and has already scored an impressive brace, which highlighted most all of his fine attributes. He's certainly been mostly better than DP Kris Boyd, but he's still young. He'll still show agonizing flashes of greatness interspersed with the numskull decisions of a petulant youngster. Nagbe is the kind of guy that may score six goals in four games this summer and then not score again all year. Saer Sene would've been a solid choice here, as would have been David Estrada.

Will Bruin, Houston Dynamo

I guess this was more of a, "Houston needs this guy to be this," rather than, "He will be this," but Bruin has been the only Dynamo player capable of scoring with any regularity. His four goals in nine games are fully half of Houston's total as a team, and 16 of his 27 shots have found the frame. Maicon Santos, by comparison, has 13 shots on goal out of a whopping 42. If he can side-step the injury problems that plagued his freshman campaign, he'll be among the league's most prolific scorers in 2012.

- Will Parchman

4 comments:

dikranovich said...

will, it is interesting how you go inside the numbers on the forwards. like santos, he has 13 shots on target, but he also has six goals. really what that means is when he gets more shots on target, dc united is going to get a lot more goals. plus dc united players like to take chances. long balls and shots from outside the box, with a possession game to boot. salihi has three goals from ten on target from only 19 shots.

Will Parchman said...

Santos snaps off a lot of shots. There's nothing particularly wrong with that if your offense is designed around it. That also doesn't mean you're not wasting possession at times. Santos has a 30 percent rate of return on the shots he takes. Bruin's is 59 percent. You weigh that with the goals produced (Santos' six to Bruin's four) and decide whether or not that's something you can tolerate. As long as DC keeps winning I doubt Ben Olsen cares.

In my mind, you can't look at the goals v shots on target without looking at shots on target v shots. The stat I cited doesn't prove Bruin is a better forward than Santos, just more discerning.

dikranovich said...

gosh, the champions league final was all set to be a perfect illustration of our debate, then drogba had to go and hit the equalizer.

watching the game, it really struck me how many shots were blocked by chelsea defenders, not including the keeper. chelsea was all out on defense and saved chech, who himself was out of his mind.

i guess the point is that there is definately a cummulative effect when it comes to shots taken, whether it wears down a defense, or just softens them up, shots do add up over time, yet, still there is such thing as a bad shot.

will, i have to admit im intrigued by your stance, seeing that you are a texan and texas favorite son is a big shot taker. im curious what brauns rate of return is against that of clint dempseys.

who needs santos when you got de ro anyway.

dikranovich said...

ej, 4 shots on goal, 3 goals, plus a dish to boot. ej should be at his peak come 2014.