by Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)
If you haven't yet, check out the top 50 MLS player rankings that we released last week.
The initial conversation that took place when we entered the planning stages for this project had us talking about a top-100. Looking back, that maybe would have lead to a lot less scrutiny. What's the saying: "aim small, miss small?" Had we posted a top-20 more comments and frustration would be directed to those that were included than those left out. I think 50 has been a good mark and I think that's what we're going to stay with.
One the biggest things that has been hardest to discern in this endeavor is what type of value one position has in relation to others. I think we can all agree that attackers have most of our attention, the problem that most of us have is determining at what point does the value of an attack diminish that a defender or goalkeeper becomes just as valuable? Obviously that answer isn't necessarily spelled out in this project but it's something that each of us that had to consider with our vote.
Beyond the existential questions that come with this sort of thing there are some interesting correlations and general observances that come too. Let's talk about some of these things.
While we talked about strikers being highly valued (six of 14 finished in the top-10) there were more midfielders included in total. However, you have to consider there are twice as many midfielders on the pitch taking up minutes.
Looking on the defensive side you have Omar Gonzalez finishing 15th as the top defender in the pool and Bill Hamid finished with top honors at 16th overall for keepers.
However, an interesting note is that Chris Tierney made the list (barely) while ranking fourth overall in expected assists while teammate Kelyn Rowe who is having a big season thus far and siting 20th overall in xG+xA.
The biggest take away from this is that no longer can MLS teams have a player or the top 2-3 players and dominate. DC United, while agonizingly frustrating to understand,* exist as a cohesive and effective compilation of talent. Sporting has five players voted in the top-50 and yet sit mid table. In other words, having the best players doesn't translate to having the best team.
Teams need depth and more specifically quality depth. The chart above is another example of why managing your budget and not just counting on landing quality designated players is so very important.
* Check back here tomorrow for more on how DC United consistently "beat" the model.