Our discussion of soccer tools goes right to the Center now. This should lead to discussion about differing skills for defensive midfielders (Osvaldo Alonso), box-to-box guys (Brad Evans) and attacking mids (Freddie Ljungberg in early 09, so you won't see those on the chart). Again a reminder as to what the tools are, and how we arrived at the ratings you see.
Here's the initial post on tools for outfield players, and below the break are the definitions of each tool and discussion about the players.
Technical Ability - This encompasses what is done ON-ball. Things like dribbling, passing, man-on-man defense and shooting skills.
Tactical Judgement - This is about awareness of shape of both sides, off-ball runs, zonal defense, passing into runs.
Offensive Skills - How the player's tools translate when the team HAS the ball.
Defensive Skills - How the player's tools translate when the team LACKS the ball.
Physique - Size, Strength, Speed, Stamina are all in this one tool. How a player uses their strengths and minimize their weaknesses here is also important.
The ratings were derived from the frontpage authors at the time (Dave, Jeremiah, sidereal, malcontentjake) and Graham at WAGNH. They are based on performance in 2010, and are a review, not projection.
This gives us a look at the relationship between Offense, Defense and relative position on the field. I have insisted for some time that Evans is not a CAM but a box-to-box CM. Mike Seamon is another CM, while the other three that saw time last year were more defensive in nature. You can see this as Brad and Mike have more points in offense than defense, while Alonso, Nathan Sturgis and Peter Vagenas all lean to the Defense side of things.
I expect that a CAM player would have more than a point towards offense and would have a much higher technical rating. They are expected to operate with the ball at their feet and create magic. None of the current batch of Sounder Center Mids displayed those type of skills. Alonso can work the ball at times, but to be a strong starting CAM we'd need to see more threaded through-balls.
Looking at the tactical attribute one notices that we rate the Evans very well. This is part of how his ability to play so many roles is captured. His positional defense is strong, even if he is a bit weak one-on-one on the right flank. But his positional sense when he was a forward was extraordinary even if he didn't score. He was right where he needed to be.
The scale of the ratings here reinforces what some noticed in the Forwards discussion, that with an average MLSer being a 6 in every tool and a CM, what does that make a great MLS player? Since a vast majority of our soccer viewing time is of MLS games we decided that the best in MLS would get the 9s and 10s. When players transfer here they can get ratings, or when we talk Reserve and Academy players they will get projections. But for now, let's focus on the league where we will see 34 or more games, rather than further muddy the waters by inserting leagues that we don't watch as much.
Since the box-to-box CM is the gold standard for the ratings system, and Nathan Sturgis was the rough example of a league average version of that, the question also arises as to who would be the best at that role? I would have to say Shalrie Joseph. Great with the ball at his feet, positionally sound, a strong player on offense and defense who doesn't have great speed, but who uses his size to his advantage, and some one who as a CM could wind up as an MVP.
Hopefully seeing the Center Mids continues to grow understanding of the tools system we are deplying. Where are your disagreements? Key Findings? Who would you say is the best CAM in the league in 2010 and how would you rate him?