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Who is Cristian Dájome?

Colon v Independiente del Valle - Copa CONMEBOL Sudamericana 2019 Photo by Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images

If you’re reading this then a wild roller coaster has come to an end and the Vancouver Whitecaps have signed Colombian winger Cristian Dájome.

But just who is this guy who Brazilian giants Corinthians may have been trying to snatch away? Is he any good? Let’s try an answer those questions!

Career History:

Dájome began his career in the Colombian second division with FC Bagota. He scored 20 goals in 84 appearances (All competitions). Bagota loaned him to first division sides in 2015, 2016, and 2017 where he scored 9 times across three seasons. Atlético Nacional signed him permanently after the 2017 season. His time there is confusing because Wikipedia has him playing relatively frequently for Nacional but Transfermarkt has him making only a handful of substitute appearances (it rather looks like an incomplete data set). Either way it clearly didn’t go very well because they then loaned him out to Deportivo Pasto. In 2018 he was loaned yet again to América de Cali. He had something of a resurgent season scoring 4 goals and 2 assists in just under 2000 minutes. In 2019 he was loaned out for the 5th time in his career to Ecuadorian side Independiente Del Valle. There he became a key contributor as Independiente went on a Cinderella run and won the Copa Sudamericana (South American equivalent of the Europa League), defeating the parent club of 2019 Whitecaps loanee Erik Godoy, F.C Colon, in the final. Independiente became only the second Ecuadorian club in the tournament’s history to win the competition, and they defeated Brazilian and Argentinian teams along the way. Dájome scored 4 times in the tournament, including in the final, and added 2 assists.

Right, so, is he Actually any Good?

It’s kind of hard to say. As you can see in the career history section, Dájome’s career has been marked by inconsistency. As an example let’s look at his underlying data from his past two seasons, courtesy of Peter Galindo’s (@GalindoPW on twitter, give him a follow) Wyscout subscription:

In 2018 Dajome averaged 0.21 xG+xA per 90 minutes. MLS wingers with similar totals (who played at least 500 minutes) include Lucas Rodriguez, Roland Lamah and Harry Shipp. Players who are good but nobody would confuse them for top class. In 2019 he more than doubled his output jumping to 0.47 xG+xA per 90 minutes. Similar MLS players include Ezequiel Barco, Uriel Antuna and Jordan Morris. players who, though not unstoppable, are very good indeed. Remember also that these stats are from all competitions and in 2019 Dájome played a lot of minutes in the Copa Sudamericana against much tougher competition. From what I can tell the Ecuadorian and Colombian leagues are roughly equivalent so the change in league doesn’t seem to explain the sudden uptick in production. The question then becomes; which version of Dájome is Vancouver going to get? I’m not sure I can give a definitive answer at this stage.

One thing that does jump out at me when looking at Dájome’s stats is that he seems to be more effective when played on the right, despite spending most of his career on the left or up front.

As a left winger or left midfielder he has 5 goals and 2 assists in 34 appearances for 0.2 goals+assists per game. On the right he has 3 goals and 4 assists in 12 appearances for 0.58 goals+assists per game, almost three times what he’s done on the left. Admittedly this could just be a sample size thing, but I think it’s worth keeping an eye on nonetheless. The ‘Caps now seem to have a front three of Reyna-Cavallini-Dájome which on paper looks like a front three that might complement each other in just such a way as to cause teams some problems. But we’ll have to see them in action together before we declare them the Mane-Firmino-Salah of MLS. But speaking of how pieces interact with each other, that brings me to...

Where Does he Fit in?/Style of Play.

Here is what some people who have watched him have had to say about Dájome:

Leaving aside that the first and third screenshots contradict each other, it seems what Vancouver is getting is a mobile winger who often comes inside to central areas of the pitch. Assuming the front three is Reyna-Cavallini-Dájome then it will probably be quite narrow, creating space for the fullbacks to overlap.

Dájome is very direct. As you can see from the earlier charts, he attempts lots of through balls, crosses and dribbles but his completion rate is middling. The upshot of this is that when the things he attempts come off they are devastating. As an example, let’s look at his creation. Dájome hovers at an unimpressive 0.5 key passes per game**. However if you look at his expected assists you can see that on average those key passes has an xA of 0.16 in 2018 and 0.29 in 2019. What this means in simpler terms is when he does assist a shot it’s usually a very high danger scoring chance. I suspect that he will be a player who fans will often feel frustrated with. But, if the Whitecaps can control the play, and give him more opportunities to attempt all those ambitious passes, then perhaps he will also be a player who is very effective.

Is Dájome good? I’m not sure. He’s certainly interesting. Players from Colombia and Ecuador have come to MLS and done well in the past, quite a lot of them in fact. I find it encouraging that Dájome was effective on a team that won a major trophy (and let’s not forget, handily beat a team who considered Erik Godoy surplus to requirements). He has some qualities that could lend themselves to making him an effective player in MLS. But you also can’t deny that his career thus far has not been prolific.

If you apply his numbers in South America then one could expect 3-8 goals and 2-4 assists, assuming he played around the same number of minutes as Yordy Reyna did last season. 8 goals and 4 assists would have to be considered a roaring success and 3 goals and 2 assists would have to be seen as a failure. What i’m getting at here is, as with every aspect of the Whitecaps in 2020, it all comes down to the ability of Axel Schuster and Marc Dos Santos to put together a midfield that will keep Vancouver in possession and putting Pressure on the opposition more often than they are on the back foot. Vancouver’s defence is solid enough, the front players are all players we know can do well so long as they are put in a position to succeed, but the midfield is still very lacking in quality.

**this stat seemed suspiciously low to me so I investigated. Turns out Wyscout has quite a different definition of a key pass from other places. For a key pass to count in Wyscout’s data there has to be shown that “the player, who made the pass, created clear goal situation.” It seems then that they only count a key pass when it is a pass that creates a big scoring chance. How that is measured is anyone’s guess. I still think the thrust of my point about Dájome being a player who tries ambitious plays that don’t always come off is true but I thought I would add this bit of important context.

Obligatory Highlights:

Here are the best highlights of Dájome’s 2019 season:

Here are all of Dájome’s touches against Corinthians in the 2019 Sudamericana. I feel this video is illustrative of how Dájome can be a mixture of frustration and effectiveness. He gives the ball away frequently but is involved in 2 goals (one of which is ruled out by VAR).