By Ian L. (@ahandleforian)
Ok fine. Nothing Josef Martinez has or will do is within the jurisdiction of analysis. He is perfect in every way. He has created 28 goals from nothing. Where once there were scoreless games Josef declared “let there be goals” and he saw the goals and he saw that they were good. I cannot see how Atlanta fans will take issue with this, so I can’t wait to see the ways in which they will. I’m going to say something nice about Philadelphia now, because I’m jealous that other soccer writing people get their pull quotes immortalized in the awesome brushtip font on Twitter. So here we go:
"If we were to assign Game of Thrones houses to Major League Soccer teams, Philadelphia would be the one with that super rad dude who almost killed The Mountain with a poison tipped spear." -Ian L., author, speaker, model - American Soccer Analysis
You’re welcome Philly.
Luis Felipe Fernandes Update:
Luis Felipe Fernandes is back baby! I’m building the Luis Felipe Fernandes hype wagon, and I plan on piloting it straight into the sun if need be. The kid is a star in the making. I’m going to do for him what Matt Doyle and Will Parchman did for Kellyn Acosta. After a predictably pedestrian match following my effusive praise two weeks ago, Fernandes threw down against Vancouver. Five tackles, an interception, a blocked shot, and 91% accuracy over 41 passes. Against FC Dallas? Five tackles and four interceptions. Yes friends. It seem as though my beautiful Brazilian/American son is a ballhawk. Testify. I’m not saying this kid is the next Alonso/Chara, I’m just saying that if any teams out there are worried about life after Alonso/Chara you should probably trade for this guy just in case. You can expect regular Luis Felipe Fernandes updates in this column. Oh, and we should go ahead and cap him too as he’s eligible for the USA and Brazil. Just in case. We cannot afford to take chances.
Diego Chara: Potential MVP
Diego Chara has gotten a lot of love this season from MLS pundits, and you can probably expect a good deal more of that following a goal scoring man of the match performance against Toronto FC. For the most part, the attention is quite rightly deserved. He’s been repeatedly referred to as the most underrated and underappreciated midfielder in the league. That’s a bit much (as that’s obviously Luis Felipe Fernandes). About the 10th time somebody calls you underrated you’re no longer underrated. Chara has long been a stalwart of the Portland Timbers, and this year we’ve seen him step up his game a bit.
The case for MVP:
I mean, ok. Obviously Josef Martinez will win MVP and nothing Diego Chara has or could do will change that reality, but I suppose they announce a shortlist and it’s fair to ask if he should be on it. I think this was a lot more palatable a few weeks ago when Portland looked like they weren’t going to lose a match ever, but how things can change in a month. Where once they were one of the season’s best stories - a team of grit that went back to basics under a new coach and came out baptized anew in camaraderie and defensive discipline, they now sit just above the playoff line while early season punching bags Seattle have are level with them on wins and nipping at their heels. I think Portland will probably recover and make the postseason with plenty of room to spare, but Chara looks a bit less shiny on a team that isn’t on a huge unbeaten run. That notwithstanding, let’s see how he stacks up to the league’s leading defensive midfielders/defensively minded midfielders and also Luis Felipe Fernandes because this is my column and I do what I want.
Defensive midfielder is one of those positions where a lot of people will tell you to throw the statistics out the window. I’ve heard very reasonable people say that a DM’s statistics are more reflective of the team they’re on or the system they play then they are individual skill. That’s fine I suppose, but I don’t like putting a lot of stock in the eye test department. I’m very suspicious of eye tests. I know that there are a lot of you out there that are probably quite good at appraising players that way, but it’s never been something I’ve been comfortable doing. Confirmation bias is real and with so much soccer to pay attention to at once I think a bad foul, missed tackle, or one highlight reel slide tackle can make or break a players reputation for a long time. Statistics, even for defensive midfielders serve as a kind of backstop. It helps me make sure I’m not missing something. For example: Look at Rasmus Schuller up there. Unless you’re an avid fantasy player you probably weren’t aware of his absurd defensive action production. What is even happening? Reading his numbers you’d think that someone jabbed a syringe full of adrenaline and espresso into his heart 10 minutes before kickoff. Is Schuller actually a great defensive midfielder? I’m not convinced, but I’m definitely paying attention.
Anyway, Diego Chara. Right. Yeah looks good. I think definitely a top 3ish player on that table, but I don’t even know that he’s the most valuable player on this list, much less the league. We can safely assume Martinez and Miguel Almiron are going to take two of the five MVP shortlist spots, but should Chara get one of the other three? I don’t know. I think there are more deserving candidates and he’d have to shrug off at least one of Zlatan, Maxi Moralez, Bradley Wright-Phillips, and I’d assume Carlos Vela. So. Maybe not MVP, but could we all stand to appreciate Chara a bit more? Why not. Here’s my favorite Diego Chara play.
Diego. I see you. I hear you. You are valued.
Narrative: Clint Dempsey retired
I was in the middle of typing up something else entirely when this happened, and it seems stupid to talk about anything else. Simply put, for many (including myself), Clint Dempsey is the best American to ever play the game.
You know what? This is coming out all wrong. Let me try again.
Webster’s Dictionary defines Clint Dempsey as:
- Arguably the greatest American soccer player of all time.
- A hip-hop and fishing enthusiast.
Examples of “Clint Dempsey” in a sentence.
- Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins are one of the greatest attacking partnerships in MLS history.
- Following further review Clint Dempsey will be suspended an additional three matches for violent conduct.
Dempsey (as in Clint Dempsey)
1 :to try (expletive)
2 :to take an object from someone and tear it asunder
Example of Dempsey (as in Clint Dempsey) in a sentence.
"Johnson’s quarterly report was filled with what I believed to be inaccuracies so I Dempseyed it and scattered it all over the floor of his office."
"So then Joshua looks like he’s about to tread and I didn’t really have time to form an exit strategy so I Dempseyed my way out of there and here we are."
I know a lot of you will say Landon and that’s fine, I think reasonable people can disagree on this point, but you can write your own article. I’m not sure where he’ll wind up in the annals of Major League Soccer history. It’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t have been amongst the all time goals leaders if it weren’t for his exploits abroad. As it stands 72 goals in 178 matches is nothing at which one should shake even the tiniest stick.
It seems like it might be kind of fun to go back and take a look at some of Clint’s underlying numbers from our dataset, so I’m going to do it. Without a doubt his best MLS season was 2014. He and Obafemi Martins each put up 20 xG+xA (20.6 and 20.7 respectively). If we sort our whole dataset from when Clint signed with Seattle to present day with a minimum of 250 shots, Deuce registers as the 4th highest xG+xA per 96:
- David Villa 0.85
- Sebastian Giovinco: 0.84
- BWP: 0.75
- Deuce: 0.73
If we knock out this season where Dempsey has suffered from injury, he even manages to slip ahead of BWP.
I think that if we were to divide MLS into eras, Clint Dempsey’s return to the league was probably the start of MLS’ best era to date. I’d say it’s over now, and we are firmly in the Atlanta era now, but for those four seasons you don’t even need one whole hand to count the players better than Clint Dempsey.
Athletes rarely get to go out on top. That’s just not how a career based on physicality is likely to go. It makes me inexplicably sad to see him go out while tied for two goal scoring records, but if anything that just goes to show that it really was time. Clint Dempsey, loved by all when wearing the national team colors and loathed by all when wearing green. The league just became a much less interesting place.
That’s all that I’ve got for you this week. Let’s keep an eye on Seattle’s inexplicable and in hindsight blindingly predictable rise, Chris Wondolowski chasing that all time goal scoring record, and whether or not Colorado can keep up whatever has fooled people into thinking Colorado might be actually good. If FC Dallas fans are having that familiar sinking feeling, well, I certainly don’t blame you.
We’ll be back next week to talk about what we’re talking about