Okay, maybe it is clickbait a little, but it’s not exactly an incorrect statement. Brek Shea is one the most hated players on the Vancouver Whitecaps squad. Most recently, this stems from an embarrassing miss against the Houston Dynamo with the game tied. Shortly after this miss Shea misplaced a pass that lead to a Houston goal. Not his finest moments to be sure. But, is it indicative of a player who is a poor finisher? That’s certainly what I’ve been reading from fans online. I’ve seen people lament that Shea never takes his chances and that if he was better at finishing he’d be a much better player. The only problem with this narrative is that it’s not really true. Shea is, statistically speaking, perhaps the best finisher on the team.
Shea has 12 shots, 6 of which were on target, and 3 of which have been goals. This means that 50% of his shots are on target and 25% of them result in goals. This is very good. Only Jose Aja and Erik Hurtado (who both have only taken two shots and can’t possibly keep this pace going) have a higher percentage of their shots resulting in goals. For comparison Kei Kamara (20 shots) is on 15%, Cristian Techera (14 shots) is on 14% and Yordy Reyna (14 shots) is on 7%.
Shea is also over performing his expected goals. in 2018 he has over performed his expected goals number by the 16th most in the league according American Soccer Analysis’ model. We must be careful when looking at expected goals. If a player over performs his expected goals by a large amount for one season then he most likely just got lucky. Bournemouth’s Josh King, for example, scored 16 goals in the 2016/17 season when his expected goals number suggested he should only have scored about 7 or 8. in the 2017/18 season, lo and behold, he scored 8 goals. But if a player consistently over performs his expected goal tally then that can be a sign of a player who is a talented finisher and scores goals from difficult position. Well in the 2017 MLS season Shea over performed by about the same amount. He also had a similarly high shooting percentage, though not quite as good, at about 18%.
Basically Shea has pretty consistently put his chances away. The miss against Houston was awful but we can’t allow our perception of a player to be dominated by whatever happened most recently. This is the trap that many people have fallen in to. I’ve also seen a lot of people state, based on basically nothing, that Shea wasn’t bothered that he missed the chance. The most compelling piece of evidence I have seen for this is that he changed his hair. I don’t see how this is indicative of not caring. It’s not like you can’t be stressed out about underperforming at you job and also decide to get a new hairstyle that week. Criticism of players for their hair styles has always baffled me. It’s not like it has any effect on the players on field performances so why would we care? Are players not allowed to have a bit of fun and express themselves in their spare time? Would you be happy if you were held to that standard at your job?
Now is Shea massively overpaid? Yes. Is the fact that he may legitimately be the best finisher on the team an indictment of the team’s ability to identify and bring in talent? You bet. But he does have something to offer. Let’s not deceive ourselves into believing otherwise on the back of one awful moment.