The US national team is fortunate to be deep in the central midfield position, with two of the key men both hailing from MLS in Toronto FC's Michael Bradley and Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman. And ahead of the teams' head-to-head meeting on Saturday night (9:30 pm ET, TSN2 in Canada, MLS Live in US), Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers raised a few eyebrows by saying teammate Beckerman is the better player in a Monday interview.
Which player is better? What should each player expect from his counterpart on the field in Saturday's game? The answer may lie in the stats.
Beckerman has been crucial to RSL’s success since he joined the Claret-and-Cobalt back in 2007 and led them to an MLS Cup title in 2009 and to the threshold of many other trophies. RSL’s captain is known for his physical play (he is the league's all-time leader in fouls committed) and for his exceptional passing ability, which bears itself out in the numbers.
In 2013, Beckerman attempted 69.7 passes per game, the most in the league by almost nine passes, and completed more than 82 percent of them. These figures are just a couple of the reasons why RSL were able to lead the league in possession and passing accuracy last year.
On the other side, Bradley is hoping he can turn Toronto into one of the great teams in MLS, just as Beckerman has with RSL. Although it has been only two games, Bradley has shown his talent and importance to his team in those games, and they have both resulted in wins for the Reds.
In their two games, Toronto haven't shown above-average ability or willingness to possess the ball; they have the lowest amount of possession and the worst passing-accuracy percentage of any team in MLS. However, when they have been dangerous going forward, Bradley has been their most important figure. While Bradley’s passing accuracy sits at a pedestrian 69.5 percent, the amount of passes he is attempting compared to his teammates is astounding.
Bradley has attempted 21 percent of his team's passes this season. This is by far the highest percentage among MLS players season. The only player who comes even close to this mark is Beckerman, who has attempted 18 percent of his team's passes this season.
Not only is Bradley uniquely integral to his team, but he has shown great versatility in his game. Through two games he has 10 tackles and 6 chances created from open play. While two games is admittedly a very small sample size, that feat is something very few players accomplish over any two-game span. Compare this to Beckerman's 2013 season, in which he had 47 tackles and 21 chances created from open play over 26 games, and you can see the difference in the two players.
Beckerman and Bradley are different types of players, and comparing the two is not an easy task. Saying who is “better” is really more a matter of opinion than fact, but there is little question that at this moment, Bradley is more important to his team than Beckerman.