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InStat: Numbers behind MLS, NWSL draftees

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: January 22, 2021

A leading video analysis provider, InStat digs into the numbers behind the success (or lack thereof) of players on the field.

In the wake of the MLS and NWSL Draft, what does InStat say about a few of the high picks from each draft? Obviously, there’s plenty more that goes into a player’s ability to transition from college to pro soccer than statistical performances, but it’s worthwhile to dig a bit deeper into new professionals.

NWSL

Emily Fox (No. 1 – Racing Louisville FC): The top pick overall is positionally versatile, having played left midfield, right mid and as an outside back in her time in Chapel Hill. During the 2020 shortened season – after recovering from a second ACL tear – Fox was one of the top performers on her squad (which should come as no surprise). Her ability to progress the ball was important, even if she didn’t create chances at a high rate. She finished with the second-most key passes on the team, with 13 on the season, averaging just more than one per game. With a 76% success rate on defensive challenges, she finished first on the team in that category. One thing to watch when she takes the field is her position and how she’s deployed. She didn’t attempt a high number of crosses, trying just 13. Though it’s worth noting that wasn’t a huge part of UNC’s playing style, as the right-sided players typically delivered more crosses.

Emina Ekic (No. 5 – Racing Louisville FC): Another fascinating prospect to watch, there’s little doubting Ekic’s ability to generate scoring chances. Scoring goals is of little trouble for her, as she showed with seven during the 2020 season, and none from the penalty spot. Her statistical profile indicates that she’s a player that could thrive playing alongside higher quality teammates, as she created eight chances but had just one assist. Converting 64% of her chances, which was by far the best on the team, Ekic’s efficiency will be interesting. There are concerns. Against the better opponents in the ACC, she struggled. In a game versus North Carolina, she completed only 35% of her passes and lost the ball 23 times. Ball security could be an issue, as she lost the ball on average 13 times a game. Part of that comes with the territory of being an attacking player, of course, and again, with better teammates to connect with, she can certainly fit into an attack on an NWSL team. The other notable number is that she won just 38% of challenges, so she’ll need to adjust and adapt to an even higher level of physicality.

Yazmeen Ryan (No. 6 – Portland Thorns): Versatility is a key aspect to Ryan’s game, and that’s borne out first and foremost by the position she played in just seven games at TCU. InStat has her starting at left midfielder, centrally and up front. Carving out a position in the NWSL will be part of her development, but being able to play difference spots is certainly an asset. One of TCU’s best players, Ryan stood out on her team in a few ways. She was second on the team in chances created with nine (only on assist) and tied for first in key passes with 14 on the year – averaging two per game. For an attacking player, her 76% of passes completed was solid on her team, as TCU looked to keep the ball a bit more than some other college soccer teams. Her success taking players off the dribble was notable as well, as she attempted 55 in seven games, completing 64% of them successfully.

MLS

Philip Mayaka (No. 3 – Colorado Rapids): The central midfielder laid the platform for Clemson’s excellent 2020 season, where they won the ACC tournament. While he wasn’t quite at his best in his sophomore year from the eye test, the numbers are good. One of the things about Mayaka is that he always seems to find the ball. He had 126 free ball pickups, second-most on the team. And he loved a tackle, contest 100 of them, also a team-high, and winning 58% of them. His passing, while not the most ambitious, was also good: his 87% completion rate was best on the team, with the second-most attempts. It will be intriguing to see if he’s able to find success right away, as he’s good enough to play in MLS – the question then becomes how good he is when he takes the field.

Daniel Pereira (No. 1 – Austin FC): It wasn’t difficult to spot Pereira as the best player on the Hokies during his two seasons in Blacksburg. A ball-progressing central midfielder, he has plenty of quality. How that’s leveraged by an MLS team depends on the side that picks him and how he’s setup to succeed. His numbers from the 2020 season were great: 17 chances create in nine games, 21 key passes and 69% dribbles completed from 55 attempts. Completing 86% of his passes – not the best on his team, but good nevertheless – his work off the ball is going to be in focus when he steps onto the field in MLS. He attempted 46 tackles, winning 43% of them, and he won 45% of 193 challenges. That’s what makes his projected fit and new team in MLS important when he joins up with his new squad.

Ethan Bartlow (No. 6 – Houston Dynamo): Digging back into the 2019 season to get a full scope of Bartlow’s statistical output, the defender put up the second-best InStat Index rating on the team, outshined only by Blake Bodily. Is it even worthwhile to measure a center back through his numbers? Obviously, it’s just a small part of the picture. But Bartlow did stand out on his team in one regard: the percentage of challenges won (68%), the highest on his team. Never in a position where he had to enter into tackles on a regular basis, he won 75% of 36 tackles contested. He showed that he can read the game well, finishing second on the team with 144 interceptions.

 
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