Armchair Analyst: Shea doesn't rise as expected
The one thing that’s becoming clear from the Castrol Index is that not all goals are created equal.
Thierry Henry, who had two goals in four June games, held on to the top spot for the third month straight. It’s not a surprise, since Henry topped the original Castrol Index back in Europe and has arguably been the league’s MVP. He was certainly one of the few bright spots in what was a dismal June for the Red Bulls, a month of squandered leads and shifting formations.
So, fair enough. Titi’s No. 1.
But given his form and that of his team, wouldn’t you expect FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea to climb into the number two slot? There’s precedent, after all — Álvaro Fernández of the Seattle Sounders, a winger like Shea, climbed to number two in the Index after a very impressive May (he dropped six spots to eighth this time through).
Apparently it’s not to be. Shea did climb — he moved up 36 spots, the third-highest jump of anyone in the top 20 — but pulled in at just 18th overall. This despite scoring three goals in four games over the course of the month. Dallas won three of those four games, to boot, while Henry’s side — for example — won just once last month.
Another attacking winger who had a more modest climb than might have been expected is Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi. Zusi won the league’s Player of the Month award for June, and has been a major part of Sporting’s turnaround on both sides of the ball. His nose for goal and clever passing in the final third are nicely complemented by a tenacity and work-rate defensively that have helped play a part in Sporting’s unbeaten run.
But while Zusi climbed, it wasn’t very far. He moved from 273 overall to 215 — a function, perhaps more than almost anyone else, of small sample size.
For comparison’s sake, Zusi sits 37 spots behind Teal Bunbury, the man he displaced from Sporting’s starting XI.
Elsewhere, much remains as it was in May. Attackers and central defenders dominate the top 20, with Osvaldo Alonso the only central midfielder to crack that group (he pulls in at 16th, up six spots from last month).
The highest-rated pure central attacking midfielder is once again Chivas USA’s Nick LaBrocca, who actually dropped a spot to No. 46. Other central midfielders who cracked the top 50 tended to be more box-to-box types like Geoff Cameron and David Beckham or outright d-mids like Alonso.
And if there’s anything that the Castrol Index has confirmed this year, it’s that: MLS is a league in need of more creativity in the center of the pitch. LaBrocca — who’s really having a wonderful season — is carrying the torch right now, and there are few who look likely to follow. After some promising performances, both Collen Warner and Corben Bone fell off. Dilly Duka got hurt, Dwayne De Rosario got traded, and Simon Dawkins has yet to establish himself as a true No. 10 in San Jose.
If and when we see much movement in the Castrol Index over the rest of the year, it will probably be because of a breakout performance from one or several from that group. Otherwise, the principles of the thing — pure attackers and pure defenders dominate — seem set in stone.
Matthew Doyle can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @MLS_Analyst.
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