We’ve previously discussed which Whitecaps players were quietly having good seasons largely from a statistical point of view. Now it’s time to look at the players who, from a statistical point of view, are struggling (to put it nicely).
5: Brian Rowe and Stefan Marinovic
Goalkeepers can be difficult to evaluate statistically. Stats like goals against average and save percentage are much more dependant on the team in front of them than they are in a sport like hockey. But what stats we do have are not kind to either Marinovic or Rowe. Marinovic and Rowe are underperforming their expected goals against by the 4th and 5th most in the league respectively. This is suboptimal. Now a part of this can be explained by the Whitecaps giving up an unusually high volume of difficult shots from distance. These shots usually score poorly for expected goals but with the Whitecaps frequently not putting enough pressure on players at the top of the box it’s possible these types of shots have worked out more often. Still though according to American Soccer Analysis’ goalkeeper expected goals model Marinovic and Rowe have collectively conceded seven more goals than they would be expected to. Their distribution numbers are also not that great. Goalkeepers are naturally going to have a low passing percentage as they have to hit a lot of low percentage long range clearances. But even with this in mind Marinovic and Rowe are giving up possession quite a lot with passing percentages of 54% and 57% respectively. In contrast former Whitecap David Ousted has a 64% passing accuracy. It’s not a huge difference but it’s worth mentioning. All in all I don’t think Rowe and Marinovic have been terrible but if you look at the stats they haven’t exactly been good. With Spencer Richey suddenly on a tear with F.C Cincinnati and youngsters Sean Melvin and Thomas Hasal coming up you have to think that Marinovic and Rowe will be under pressure next season (if they return).
4. Nicolas Mezquida:
Mezquida has a lot more impact on the field than Shea does but he’s not exactly dictating the tempo either. 0.7 key passes and a 77% passing accuracy is not great for a #10. If you look at Mezquida’s stats season by season it will show that these stats are actually some of the best numbers he’s ever put up as a Whitecap. He gets a goal or an assist about once every five appearances which is not terrible but they are the type of numbers that could probably have been replicated by a young academy player. Mezquida is a fine MLS depth player but the whole point of being an academy team is to develop your own players so you don’t have to settle for fine depth players from somewhere else.
3. Brek Shea
Shea has been one of the most frustrating players since joining the Whitecaps in 2017. This is well known. However, when I was looking over the stats and deciding who to include in this list, I was amazed at just how little impact Shea has when he’s on the field. He has less than one shot per game and only 21 shots total (Anthony Blondell has almost matched this in about half as much time on the field). He only makes 0.5 key passes per game and has one of the lowest passes per game numbers on the team. he only has 0.7 dribbles per game. He’s tall but only wins 0.5 aerials per game. He is often deployed as a left back but only has 0.7 tackles per game, 0.6 interceptions and 0.1 blocks per game. He just doesn’t really do anything on either side of the ball. It’s kind of impressive honestly. I’ve praised him in the past for his excellent shooting percentage, and it’s still pretty decent, but when he only has seven shots on target the entire season there’s not much point. I advocate a lot for the Whitecaps to play their young players. The fear that comes with this is that the young player will turn out to not be ready and have little impact on most games. But the Whitecaps have also already given almost 1200 minutes to a player who already has almost no impact on the game. At the very least handing these minutes to a young winger would save some money (a lot of money in fact as Shea is technically a DP).
2. Anthony Blondell:
The Whitecaps played an uncharacteristically high fee for Blondell. Thus far he has one goal (which may have been going in anyway) and one assist. Based on his expected goals number it’s not like he’s been unlucky either. Statistically speaking he seems to be one of the many Whitecaps players who go out on the pitch and just kind of quietly exist. He has 1.2 shots per game which is about a 3rd of what Kei Kamara averages. His other stats, 0.5 key passes per game, 0.7 dribbles per game, 65% passing average, etc. are similarly uninspiring. Now there are some mitigating circumstances. In the world of hockey analytics it is generally thought that the quality of your teammates has a greater effect than the quality of the opposition you are facing. If we apply this logic to soccer we can see why Blondell may be struggling. Blondell frequently plays with the second choice team which, as we’ve discussed above, includes players like Brek Shea and Nico Mezquida who create very little going forward. We have hardly ever seen Blondell with the likes of Yordy Reyna and Alphonso Davies who create most of the chances. In fact on both Blondell’s goal and his assist he linked up with Davies. We also saw him score against MLS opposition in the preseason when played with Yordy Reyna. So there is perhaps still some hope that he could recreate the form he showed when breaking the Venezuelan goalscoring record if he’s played with more creative players
1. Efrain Juarez:
I hate to beat a dead horse but wow. When you compare what Juarez brings to the amount of money he makes it boggles the mind. Juarez is the 4th highest earner on the team and the only statistics he is in the top four of on the team are passing percentage, fouls, and red cards. Juarez only has 0.6 key passes per game and is middle of the pack in terms of passes per game so it’s not like he’s really doing much with that high passing percentage. Defensively, Juarez is middle of the pack in most defensive actions and is being out performed by pretty much every central midfielder who’s played any kind of meaningful minutes except for Jordon Mutch (who escapes being on the list because there weren’t really any expectations for him). Juarez earns a huge amount of money (by Whitecaps standards), isn’t one of the better central midfielders on the team, and took nearly 1200 minutes (and counting) away from academy products like Norman and Baldisimo. It really is unacceptable.