OPTA Spotlight: Koevermans out, now what for Toronto?

OPTA Spotlight: Koevermans

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What will Toronto FC do now?

That was the question on most observers’ minds as Danny Koevermans lay in a crumpled heap clutching his left knee on the Gillette Stadium turf. And as the Dutch striker was carted off by stretcher, the answer to that question started to become clear: What ever TFC do, they’ll do it without their attacking talisman.

On Monday, the club confirmed Koevermans would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Just as the Reds were starting to find themselves, compiling a 5-2-4 record in their last 11 games following a dreadful start, they lost arguably the most irreplaceable cog in the team.

“We all devoted this win to one person,” goalkeeper Kocic told MLSsoccer.com following Toronto’s 1-0 victory. “We lost a big part of our team. Danny’s 30 percent of this team. We played this game for him.”

We hate to get technical, but Kocic’s impromptu calculation actually did his teammate a disservice.

Player Team Minutes Played Goals Min/Goal Team Goals % of Team Goals
Chris Wondolowski SJ 1611 17 94.8 41 41.5%
Danny Koevermans TOR 1189 9 131.78 22 40.9%
Will Bruin HOU 1496 10 149.60 26 38.5%
Kris Boyd POR 1486 7 212.29 19 36.8%
Saer Sene NE 1333 8 166.63 24 33.3%

From a goalscoring standpoint, Koevermans has been more like 40 percent of Toronto FC this season – 40.9 percent, to be exact. To be blunt, he’s been their only consistent goalscorer, and trails only Chris Wondolowski in scoring contribution relative to his team’s total production in 2012 (see chart at right).

Toronto FC didn’t just lose a big part of their team, they lost the one player that seemed capable of providing the goals needed to do damage in the CONCACAF Champions League or mount an improbable run in MLS.

What are Toronto FC losing?

The simple answer is goals, and lots of them.

Since Koevermans played his first MLS minute almost exactly a year ago, he’s accounted for 17 of the 41 goals (41.5 percent) Toronto have managed in MLS play. He racked up those numbers despite starting just 21 games and playing a total of 1,942 minutes, significantly less than his immediate competition atop the scoring charts during the past year.

Top goalscorers in MLS since July 20, 2011
  Minutes Played Goals Shots Shot Conversion Min/Goal
Chris Wondolowski 2941 27 105 25.7% 108.93
Danny Koevermans 1942 17 62 27.4% 114.23
Thierry Henry 2054 15 70 21.4% 136.93
Álvaro Saborío 3009 21 87 24.1% 143.29
Dwayne De Rosario 2850 17 91 18.7% 167.65
Kenny Cooper 2784 16 76 21.1% 174
Landon Donovan 2585 13 55 23.6% 198.85
Sébastian Le Toux 3266 16 50 32.0% 204.13

Among the league’s top goalscorers, he has the second-best shot-conversion rate, scoring on 27.4 percent of his efforts. The only player he trails in minutes per goal? Again, the seemingly unstoppable Wondolowski (see chart at right).

Even more importantly, Koevermans' contributions seem to coincide with better overall performances from Toronto FC from both an offensive and defensive standpoint.

With Koevermans on the field this season, the Reds have scored every 65.9 minutes while conceding every 53.9 minutes. Without him in the lineup, they've scored every 130.8 minutes and conceded every 40.2 minutes. Needless to say, those are significant differences, albeit ones that can’t completely be credited to Koevermans.

In short, correlation does not necessarily equate to causation.

Still, those discrepancies can't be ignored. Extrapolating those rates over the course of the season’s final 15 games results in a difference of just over 10 goals scored and eight conceded, an 18-goal swing.

Can Toronto make up that difference, even if the numbers are admittedly a little imprecise? Unfortunately for Reds fans, that’s extremely unlikely.

Who will replace Koevermans?

The smart money is on Ryan Johnson, who will presumably move into a lone striker role while Luis Silva comes off the bench to push forward from midfield.

The question, though, is whether or not Johnson possesses the kind of ruthlessness in front of net to thrive as the spearhead of Toronto's attack. Because of Koevermans' presence in the lineup, the Jamaican international has mostly played facilitator this season despite partnering up top with the Dutchman.

Koevermans   Johnson
1,186 Minutes 1,710
9 Goals 3
2 Assists 4
25% Goals to Shots Ratio 7.7%
12 Chances Created 24
0 Big Chances Created 2
11 Crosses attempted 77
0% Cross Completion Rate 18.2%

He's only scored three goals in 2012 while playing all 1,710 possible minutes for Toronto. Johnson has, however, added four assists, created double the chances Koevermans has this season and attempted seven times more crosses (see table to the right). In short, he's been leaned on to set the table and watch as Koevermans feasts on the spread.

Now, he'll have to do a little bit of both.

And while Paul Mariner needs Johnson to find at least a little bit of the form that saw him score 11 goals for San Jose in 2009, the Reds can't afford for one of their most creative influences to shirk setting the table, either.

If he can combine those duties – a difficult prospect, it must be said – we could see Silva jump to the top of the Rookie Rankings and Toronto cling to the recent jump in form. If not, Mariner may be forced to look outside the roster for forward reinforcements.

Either way, Toronto face long odds when it comes to replacing the man who has shouldered much of the scoring mantle for the past year.