You've probably heard coaches talk about "getting stuck in," "winning 50-50 balls" and so on. Perhaps you've used that jargon yourself. But who is actually best at emerging with possession when the ball is there to win?

Now that the 2021 MLS regular season is over, let's sift through the Opta duels data. And New York Red Bulls fullback Kyle Duncan tops the list, followed closely by Minnesota United FC playmaker Emanuel Reynoso.

What does that signify? A duel is any 50-50 contest between two players of opposing sides in the match. For every duel won there is a corresponding duel lost depending on the outcome of the contest.

However, we rank duel winners by overall quantity rather than win percentage for a couple of reasons.

Not all duels are true 50-50 splits in terms of the possibility of winning the ball. Part of this depends on the position on the field where a player is trying to win the ball. Forwards typically have low duel win rates because they're trying not only to win the ball in the moment but keep possession. Defenders have high duel win rates because often it's good enough just to clear the danger. A team's style of play also matters. A high pressing team like Duncan's RBNY will engage in more duels over the course of their average match.

And while the win rate is a meaningful statistic, engaging in a duel is a choice. Some players show more willingness than others for a variety of reasons.

Here's the list of the top 30 duel winners in MLS this season, ranked by total duels won.

2021 MLS regular season duel leaders
Player
Duels Won
Duels Contested
Success Rate
1. Kyle Duncan (RBNY)
268
471
56.90%
2. Emanuel Reynoso (MIN)
267
552
48.37%
3. Marcelino Moreno (ATL)
239
441
54.20%
4. Eric Remedi (SJ)
220
373
58.98%
5. Damir Kreilach (RSL)
219
441
49.66%
6. Cristian Dajome (VAN)
216
409
52.81%
7. Luciano Acosta (CIN)
215
446
48.21%
8. Fafa Picault (HOU)
209
445
46.97%
9. Taty Castellanos (NYC)
207
479
43.22%
10. Pedro Santos (CLB)
200
379
52.77%
11. Alvaro Medran (CHI)
198
351
56.41%
T-12. Yeimar Gomez (SEA)
191
294
64.97%
T-12. Adam Buksa (SEA)
191
380
50.26%
14. Lucas Zelarayan (CLB)
190
422
45.02%
15. Jamiro Monteiro (PHI)
184
356
51.69%
16. Julian Araujo (LA)
183
356
51.40%
17. Hassani Dotson (MIN)
182
363
50.14%
18. Gregore (MIA)
181
365
49.59%
19. Latif Blessing (LAFC)
180
348
51.72%
20. Djordje Mihailovic (MTL)
178
309
57.61%
T-21. Junior Urso (ORL)
176
313
56.23%
T-21. Joao Paulo (SEA)
176
337
52.23%
T-23. Ezequiel Barco (ATL)
175
258
67.83%
T-23. Sean Nealis (RBNY)
175
293
59.73%
25. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (MIA)
172
292
58.90%
T-26. Nathan (SJ)
171
294
58.16%
T-26. Sean Davis (RBNY)
171
310
55.16%
28. Yuya Kubo (CIN)
170
322
52.80%
T-29. Ryan Hollingshead (DAL)
168
317
53.00%
T-29. CJ Sapong (NSH)
168
345
48.70%