By Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)
When you look at all designated players across the league, there are few that have seen the type of playing time that has been afforded Claudio Bieler, and I'm not talking about that in a good way.
As of right now there are only seven other DP's out of a league wide 45 that have seen less time with their respective clubs this year. Though he's not last in that department, let me actually break it down a bit further to provide adequate context so you can jump on board this train.
Of those seven that have seen fewer minutes, only two started the season with MLS clubs. A grand total of TWO. That's one, two...two. You can't even squeeze a Hobbit into two movies let alone provide for only two other DP's to accrue less time off the bench.
The two mentioned are Alexander Lopez of the Houston Dynamo and Jerry Bengston of the New England Revolution. To make matters worse Bengtson has been on loan for over a month and could have possibly caught up with Bieler as you can see provided by the image below.
The peculiar issues of Bengston and club-vs-country form have been an issue for some time. It culminated with the Honduras national team star being found in a loan situation to help resolve what has turned into a very sour situation.
The situation down in Houston with Lopez is more unique to itself and a bit complicated due to factors of age and... well, let's skip over this and just stay focused squarely on the Argentinian product, Bieler.
Bieler---once a striker for Sporting Kansas City and now firmly planted on SKC's left bench---hasn't seen much time for a variety of reasons this season. The most commonly cited concern fitness or injuries. This isn't to say he's not able to physically keep up with 90 minutes of soccer, but rather he can't keep up with the 90 minutes of Kansas City soccer. A brand in and of itself that demands high tempo pressing from the first minute until the last.
Bieler isn't probably the best fit for this type of team-emphasized system, and for a lot of reasons that we just don't need to get into. It turns out, the guy that KC wants and needs in that position is already on the team. Dom Dwyer has developed into the perfect piece for the organization, and with the current depth in the roster the need for Bieler at this point seems redundant, and more than anything it forces KC out of their normal element.
Forgetting about why he's been locked or frozen out of the starting line-up by head coach Peter Vermes, the opinion from most pundits is that Bieler is still a good player and maybe even a borderline great player with the right team in place around him. As a point of reference look at his xGoals.
Just last year he produced 9.29 xGoals for the season finishing 11th overall on accumulation. That was a nudge over 20% of all of Kansas City's expected goals accumulated. Over a full season, he would be on pace for the 10+ xgoal range, which would put him somewhere in the assumed Top-15 of total goal scorers in the league. Think about that, and then realize that he's currently one of the cheaper DP striking options in MLS---beaten only by Erick Torres ($152,000)---at a gutbusting $225K annually.
El Taca's Designated Player status is largely wrapped around the fee that was paid to acquire him from LDU Quito, which is rumored to be a little over a million. Should that be correct, and based upon what information is available, that DP tag could fall off this off-season. Making him one of the top targets around MLS, assuming Bieler is willing to stay in the states.
The word at last season's end was pretty much that Bieler was done in KC and that he would be looking for... something else. That didn't happen. So you have to wonder if a season with far less opportunities is going to prompt him to "run for the hills". That said a legit contract and playing time could always tempt a player of his situation into staying with the league.
He honestly makes perfect sense for far too many clubs that will seek to resolve issues with their attack. A couple quick examples would be: The club formerly known as Chivas, Houston and Vancouver would all three be really interesting cases to look at. That's not even accounting for New York, LA and Seattle all having potential questions marks with their men up top going into next season.
This is all a waiting game but I would be excited to see what Bieler could do to this league if given a chance.