By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)
With Dom Dwyer sold to Orlando, Sporting Kansas City is now without their mainstay attacking option of the last four seasons. This inevitably means that they need to find someone midseason who will step into those shoes.
Dwyer had eaten 77% of available minutes at the position over the last four years for Sporting, an extremely high rate for a position that that generally sees plenty of turnover. Over the last three seasons he's averaged 2652 minutes played per year.
Only 29 times over the last three years has a striker surpassed the 2,000 minute mark, and only five names aside from Dwyer (Bradley Wright-Phillips, Chris Wondolowski, David Villa, Sebastian Giovinco and Will Bruin), were able to reach the plateau more than once.
Now, as Sporting turns the page on their offense from the last four years, the question begs, who is able to step into that role? The organization already has two very young and exciting options in Latif Blessing and Diego Rubio, with maybe Soony Saad being the dark horse candidate. Another potential option in Krisztian Nemeth, of whom the team is rumored to be in hot pursuit.
While it’s not a lot of data, we do have some and I think it’s worth exploring to see if any of these are viable candidates. But first let’s have a quick look at the current playoff teams and what they are getting out of their current striker options.
Take a look at the graph below, which shows the expected goals created from the run of play by all the strikers whose teams are currently in a playoff position.
Looking at the median, we’re hoping to hit on about 0.31 goals created per game, and from what we saw in my article last week, they were getting just a bit more than that from Dwyer at 0.33. Currently SKC is sitting in the top half of teams fouled, so we know they’re probably getting a bit extra from set piece situations, too.
Typical small sample size warnings apply, but Blessing has had the most success, though Rubio hasn’t been a total slouch either. Both are interesting options. Saad perhaps brings intangibles neither of the youngsters have that Peter Vermes may value and we can’t see through the lens of expected goals. Still, he doesn't look to be the best attacking option on hand.
At only 20 years of age, Blessing is a really exciting option going forward and he’s who I would choose as the main replacement. He has a high work rate on both sides of the ball and has shown to be good with the ball at his feet. Rubio is probably a bit more ready however, at 24, and has been around longer, even putting in time down at Swoop Park Rangers, SKC's USL team.
The other question mark is whether or not Nemeth comes into this frame as well. While we know he was productive in his time with Sporting in 2015, netting ten goals and providing another six assists, the underlying numbers all come from a position on the wing that doesn't always translate well to what we would expect from a striker. His time in MLS previously may not necessarily be representative of what Vermes will want out of a striker. For the same reason, because we know that data for him came from him playing a different role, it’s hard to say if he would be a good or bad option as a striker, since he’d be fulfilling a different place tactically within Vermes' line-up.
Sporting Kansas City is in a unique situation where they traded away one of top players on their team, despite sitting within striking distance of the Western Conference crown and rival FC Dallas.
That said, the move will give them more financial freedom than Peter Vermes or any other technical director in MLS history has probably ever known. Even if Nemeth doesn’t end up on the roster by the end of the transfer window, it's a good bet that this roster is equipped to absorb the Dom-sized hole and make a honest run at the MLS Cup in November and December.