Replacing the Irreplaceable: SKC and Dom Dwyer / by Harrison Crow

2016 David Villa, New York City FC 2763
2016 Dominic Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City 2759
2015 Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew 2740
2014 Dominic Dwyer Sporting Kansas City 2698
2016 Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes 2697
2016 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls 2694
2015 Octavio Rivero, Vancouver Whitecaps 2650
2015 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls 2594
2016 Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers 2577
2014 Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders FC 2534
2014 Erick Torres, Chivas USA 2512
2015 Dominic Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City 2498
2016 C.J. Sapong, Philadelphia Union 2496
2014 Giles Barnes, Houston Dynamo 2489
2014 Quincy Amarikwa, Chicago Fire 2480
2016 Maximiliano Urruti, FC Dallas 2449
2014 Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy 2429
2015 Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC 2413
2015 David Villa, New York City FC 2390
2014 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls 2385
2016 Cyle Larin, Orlando City 2375
2014 Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes 2340
2015 Will Bruin, Houston Dynamo 2273
2016 Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC 2238
2016 Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders FC 2133
2016 Yura Movsisyan, Real Salt Lake 2092
2014 Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls 2070
2014 Will Bruin, Houston Dynamo 2029
2014 Fabian Espindola, DC United 2026

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.

96 minutes is the average length of an MLS game.

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.

*Minutes for Diego Rubio include 2016, Soony Saad minutes are only for 2017. **RoP xG p96: Run of play expected goals per 96 minutes

*Minutes for Diego Rubio include 2016, Soony Saad minutes are only for 2017.
**RoP xG p96: Run of play expected goals per 96 minutes

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.