Good Monday morning Caps fans, we are buried under snow and bitter cold out in my neck of the woods — something that makes me all the more ready for April, warmer weather and the eventual return of MLS.
Friday was a good day to be a Caps fan, as the team finally unveiled its long-awaited recruitment department redo. The move is most welcome and is everything a forward thinking supporter could want.
The fittingly named Nikos Overheul is coming aboard to lead the ship after heading StatsBomb and doing contract work for the two most notoriously analytics-driven teams in world football, Brentford FC and FC Midtjylland.
He is joined by a scouting backroom that has MLS experience, with Kevin Antunes (Montreal Impact) and Dave Dir (the expansion-era Caps) also coming aboard.
One of the interesting tidbits in a well-done Province dive into Overheul’s arrival was that he has been working as a contractor since October, which means the club will not need time to shift its recruitment strategy, which in the past has changed with the speed and efficiency of an aircraft carrier turning. The signing of Deibar appears to already be influenced by Overheul’s penumbra over recruitment.
Some parts of the story are both welcome and gobsmacking when you realize the club ... just wasn’t doing them before. Take this paragraph for example:
I mean, the jokes write themselves here.
Readers of the blog know I’m not our resident analytics guru (hi Caleb!), although I like to think I know my way around expected goals and progressive passes. My fear was the Caps would hire someone with roughly the same data-analysis skills as I do.
The good news is that didn’t come to pass. And the fact that the team has been able to essentially make Moneyball signings without, well, any of the Moneyball has been apparent for far too long now.
One of the great myths of modern MLS is that signings from leagues below a certain caliber are automatically questionable (except maybe the Malta Second Divison). One only has to look as far as the Philadelphia Union’s Supporters’ Shield winning side as evidence that good, MLS caliber players are hiding in plain sight in some odd places.
The difference, of course, is having the ability to find them, otherwise you get players like [gestures at almost every central midfielder the Caps have signed in the last four seasons]. You don't want to be spendthrifty with the DP number 10 search but for, say, another winger or right back depth? That’s where being able to dig a bit deeper is going to pay dividends.
Overheul’s arrival will, naturally, help in this sense, especially during a pandemic, when opportunities may exist to bring aboard players who would not be as attainable normal times. But having a base of scouts with MLS experience also matters because the league is far different than its European counterparts and the kinds of players which will do well here will be, of course, slightly different.
We already knew this was something the club needed to do, like, five years ago and. But the fact that they didn’t screw up the chance when it came around is worth applauding.
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