Howdy folks! Welcome to this edition of the Upgrade, a new series tracking MLS players in EA SPORTS FIFA 17. Check out the previous installment here. This week, we’re honing in on the biggest winners from Week one of MLS action.
The first match day of the 2017 MLS season gave us the debuts of two new clubs along with a bunch of newcomers -- what a weekend! As you might imagine, this involved a lot of soccer, and, naturally, some standout performances. My job here is to pick out the five players who most deserve an upgrade in FIFA 17 and convince you that I’m correct. Let's take a look.
Nick Lima, San Jose Earthquakes
My goodness, what a promising debut from this lad. The rookie fullback trotted out against Montreal in a San Jose starting XI which reflected a ton of turnover from last year’s squad; he ooked like he fit snugly. What really makes this impressive is that Lima was tasked with containing Montreal's Ignacio Piatti, which our own Matt Doyle thinks is the toughest possible job a rookie can get in his pro debut.
Not only did Lima contain Piatti, but he shut him down completely. Piatti completed just three forward passes in San Jose’s half of the field while Lima racked up five interceptions, five recoveries, and two tackles en route to a shutout.
And that’s not all he did. Lima proved dangerous in the attacking half as well, which could be a big boost for his upgrade potential in FIFA 17. He completed more passes in or into the attacking half than Piatti did and combined well with Tommy Thompson. He even managed to get himself into a couple dangerous shooting positions, most notably when he narrowly missed on a curling effort from outside the box. I expect we’ll see a respectable boost to his current OVA of 60 and POT of 65.
Expect FIFA 17 upgrades to: Short passing, positioning, vision, standing tackle, interceptions, agility, curve, marking, reactions
David Guzman, Portland Timbers
This dude was everywhere, plain and simple. In a thoroughly impressive MLS debut, the Costa Rican masterfully set the tempo of the game for the Timbers and showed off an impressive passing range. He completed 57 of his 65 passing attempts, including 10 long balls on 13 attempts. That is exceptional. When you add six interceptions, three tackles, and 12 recoveries, it looks … it looks real good.
This stat line paints a picture of a guy who was just about always in the right place at the right time, and he knew what to do when he got there. For any defensive midfielder in MLS, that is a tall order, and there are only a handful of guys who can do it. Guzman did it in his league debut!
The best part about this monstrous outing is that a lot of what made it great is easily quantifiable, and should translate well to FIFA 17. Interceptions, long passing, and positioning are all in-game attributes, and, well, you get the point.
Expect FIFA 17 upgrades to: Interceptions, long passing, positioning, agility, reactions, marking, vision, composure
Romell Quioto, Houston Dynamo
The Dynamo kicked off their season with a very impressive win over the defending champion Seattle Sounders with the help of some Cubo Torres free-kick catharsis and this stunner from Romell Quioto.
I am sorry, Stefan Frei, but you’re simply not allowed to stop every gorgeous shot. Those are the rules.
I think the explanation for Quioto being rated in FIFA 17 with an OVA of 64 and a growth potential of just five points is that, prior to arriving in Houston, he was ostensibly an unknown quantity and EA didn’t want to overrate him. I am totally fine with that philosophy. Make 'em earn it.
I think Rommel earned at least a little somethin’ after his performance this past weekend, and it wasn’t just about the goal. He was active all the way up and down Houston’s left flank. He also created a couple of chances, completed a good number of passes in the attacking third, and beat his man on the dribble more than a couple of times. Off the ball, Quioto put himself in dangerous positions more than once, most notably early on when he deftly snuck in between two Seattle defenders (but then blew an excellent opportunity).
Anyway, I expect Quioto to get a nice little bump this week, and I think he’ll continue to receive said bumps throughout the season as he establishes himself as one of Houston’s main attacking threats.
Expect FIFA 17 upgrades to: Shot power, curve, positioning, dribbling, reactions, long shots, ball control, interceptions
Derrick Jones, Philadelphia Union
In a match that featured six players with USMNT caps, Canadian starlet Alphonso Davies, and Fredy freakin’ Montero, you could argue that Derrick Jones was the best player on the pitch.
The 20-year-old Philly homegrown was lucky enough to earn his debut about 3,000 miles from Philadelphia in a hostile environment, in a season opener, and in a high-pressure position as a defensive midfielder in a 4-3-3. What a treat!
Well, he went out there and did the darn thing. Jones completed 42 passes, won 10 duels, made four tackles, notched a couple of interceptions, and logged a bunch of recoveries. He played like a beast, showing no signs of trouble adjusting to the physical nature of MLS in his first-ever match.
I was extremely impressed with his precision and composure on the ball, his positional discipline, and his willingness to shoulder the responsibility of being a No. 6. This impressive debut, plus his role as a starter at a young age, should boost his POT rating up from a pretty measly 68 to somewhere in the 74 to 76 range.
Expect FIFA 17 upgrades to: Positioning, vision, composure, balance, reactions, long passing, ball control, dribbling
Tommy Thompson, San Jose Earthquakes
That’s right, gang. Another year, another ticket to ride on the Tommy Thompson Hype Train.
Folks, let me tell you what’s what: Thompson is an extremely talented soccer player, and as soon as he starts contributing to the box score on a regular basis, his FIFA ratings are going to shoot upward like a geyser or something. I think this is the year.
Dom Kinnear has been stubbornly resistant to giving Thompson consistent minutes over the last few years, so to see him start and go a nice 69 minutes in San Jose’s opener is very promising. San Jose are decidedly younger this year, and Thompson’s presence is essential to that youth movement.
Tommy, to his credit, is also evolving as a player. He’s always been technically gifted, he’s always been athletic, and he’s always been good at popping up in dangerous spots. He hasn’t always made the most of any of those attributes. But he’s starting to do so!
On Saturday, he set his teammates up with good chances multiple times, dribbled wisely, and got off a couple dangerous shots. He also looks to have added solid, workmanlike defense to his game. That’s huge. Versatility matters a lot in this league, and if he can perform on both sides of the ball, it’s going to be impossible for Kinnear to keep him on the bench. He’ll earn a couple upgrades this week, but much like Derrick Jones, this is a performance that signaled that the future might just be right now.
Expect FIFA 17 upgrades to: Composure, vision, interceptions, strength, marking, reactions