Armchair Analyst: 5 surprises in the MLS Castrol Index
Check out the first-ever MLS Castrol Index here.
5 - Let’s all admit that the first thing we did with the index was scan for the “big names” in MLS and see where they rank. Henry at No. 1 makes some sense - especially if you can forget all the missed sitters through the first month of the season - and most of the other more recognizable names are there as well.
But... Landon Donovan at 104? After last summer the consensus was there weren’t 100 players in the world better than Donovan.
While it speaks to the indifferent start Donovan had to his season, it also speaks to a small sample size. Patience.
4 - Diego Cháves as the best newcomer in MLS?
The season’s young, and lest we all fall in love with Cháves too quickly, harken back to the days of Fabian Taylor. The then-Metrostars brought in the Jamaican striker to shore up a barren attacking corps in 2004. Through six games he notched four goals, then scored just one more over the course of the season.
This isn’t to say that Cháves will suffer a similar fate, but as good as he’s been, the Fire are off to as bad a start as they’ve ever had. Let’s not count chickens.
3 - A real dearth of wide midfielders at the top of the heap
MLS is dominated by flank play, with not a single team in the league launching most of their attacks up the middle. So where, then, are the league’s best wingers? Donovan’s already been covered. Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards and Marco Pappa are all in the 50s.
The highest-rated winger, Seattle’s Steve Zakuani, is No. 2 overall and, unfortunately, out for the season. The only other wide midfielder in the top 20 is Eddie Gaven, and he splits time between the wing and the middle of the pitch.
2 - El Gato on the bottom
Every ‘keeper on the Castrol Index below Kevin Hartman is either a backup filling in for a benched starter ... or a benched starter.
It’s again a work of small sample size. For all the upheaval at FC Dallas, the defense has held firm and not allowed a ton of shots on Hartman’s net. That means the goals he has conceded - one to Cháves comes to mind - weigh heavier, and drag his rating down.
(By the way, on Wednesday night Hartman added seven saves to his season tally in a 1-0 win over TFC. So he’ll probably be on the upswing.)
1 - Atiba Harris???
Full disclosure: I’m a huge Atiba Harris fan. He’s a big, strong center-forward with the speed, vision and versatility to play on the wing. He wins balls in the air, drags defenders away from creative midfielders and generally creates a metric ton of space for his team.
However, he’s definitely not a top-5 player over the course of a whole season. But for the time he was on the field this year? Absolutely.
It’s no coincidence that Vancouver’s offense went bone-dry when Harris went out. And the top-5 rating is reflected by the fact that, not only was Harris doing his regular donkey work, but he was adding goals and assists as well. He’d come into his own playing alongside Eric Hassli, and the ‘Caps miss him badly.
As does FC Dallas. For all the pain of Dax McCarty’s departure, it’s Harris who’s been missed most in Big D.
Still though... top 5?