Roger Espinoza Mark-Anthony Kaye - LAFC Sporting Kansas City
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Nashville's Walker Zimmerman, Philadelphia's Mark McKenzie top list of best duelers in MLS

Duel success rate is a stat that's a favorite of a lot of soccer coaches, not just in MLS, but many you'll talk to across the world.

Opta defines a duel as a "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 a contest."

In era where attacking players get most of the statistical love, duels are one thing to look at when trying to assess the effectiveness of a player on the defensive side of the ball.

There were only two weeks of action this MLS season before the league went on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that's enough duels to give a preliminary look at who were some of the top performers in that area in MLS through two games. And while some of the names are probably exactly who you'd expect, a couple of them might surprise you. Check out the top 10 below.

 

Walker Zimmerman finding himself at the top spot with a mark of 82.61% isn't exactly a shock. The new Nashville SC man has been a rock at the MLS level for a while now, starting with FC Dallas, then with LAFC before his offseason trade to Nashville. Mark McKenzie makes sense, too, in that he's also a center back, but his 80% mark is nonetheless a good sign for Philadelphia Union fans that the young defender possesses a good work rate and fundamentals.

Attackers on the list show that it's not a skill limited to pure defensive players. Khiry Shelton came in third and he's a forward, hinting at some of the defensive work he's being asked to do, while Aleksander Katai and Djorde Mihailovic are also more attacking oriented players compared to Artur, Thiago Santos and Roger Espinoza — who are more traditional defensive midfielders.

Also note presence of Tanner Tessmann on this list. The 18-year-old FC Dallas midfielder just signed after turning down an offer to kick for the Clemson football team and looked very comfortable in his brief initial foray into MLS. The fact that he won 69.57% of his duels playing against grown men is just another sign that his future looks bright, with the caveat that he's only played 152 league minutes.

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