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Why Peter Vermes needs to start Claudio Bieler against Houston on Saturday night

Coming into this season, Sporting Kansas City targeted their striker corps as an area in need of improvement even though Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong had combined for 20 goals in 2012. Head coach Peter Vermes and the technical staff decided that the best way to do this was by acquiring Claudio Bieler as a Designated Player.

The Ecuadorian started 24 of SKC’s first 25 games, subbing in for the other one, and scored nine goals in that span. After that, however, Bieler played only 112 minutes over SKC’s final nine games.

Why is still a mystery. Whether Vermes dropped Bieler because of an injury or for tactical reasons is up for debate but there is not much debate that the numbers say he remains SKC’s best option up top.

In the table below, we can see that he shoots less often than most of his other competitors for spots up top. We can also see that he has been able to score goals at a vastly higher rate than his counterparts. The statistics in the tables below reflect each player's numbers including their stats from the playoffs.

PLAYER MINUTES PLAYED MINUTES PLAYED/SHOT (INCL. BLOCKS) MINUTES PLAYED/GOAL
Bieler 2,145 30.21 195.00
Sapong 1,777 44.43 444.25
Saad 1,396 24.07 349.00
Peterson 998 55.44 N/A
Dwyer 785 21.81 392.50
Bunbury 367 26.21 N/A

Looking at his shot conversion rate also spells out how he separates himself from his teammates. The rate at which he puts his shots in the back of the net is 67 percent higher than any other player listed in this table. His shooting accuracy, while not one of the best in MLS, is also higher than most of his teammates.

PLAYER SHOOTING ACCURACY SHOT CONVERSION RATE
Bieler 47.46 18.64
Sapong 46.88 12.50
Saad 35.71 9.52
Peterson 26.67 N/A
Dwyer 37.93 6.90
Bunbury 50.00 N/A

Converting big chances is also very important for forwards, especially given the fact that SKC were only in the middle of the pack in terms of big chances attempted. Bieler was able to convert these chances adeptly, finishing off 54.55 percent of his big chances, almost eight percent higher than the league average. The table shows that his teammates also converted big chances at an above average rate but they did so with far fewer chances.

PLAYER BIG CHANCE SCORED BIG CHANCE MISSED BIG CHANCE CONVERSION RATE
Bieler 6 5 54.55
Sapong 3 2 60.00
Saad 2 2 50.00
Peterson 0 4 N/A
Dwyer 2 2 50.00
Bunbury 0 1 N/A

Going by the numbers, Bieler outclasses the other forward options Vermes has at his disposal and gives SKC their best chance at scoring goals -- and finally beating the Dynamo in the playoffs.

Which is why he was brought to Kansas City in the first place.