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2011 Soccer Tools Review: Outfield Players Lost

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Regular starters Erik Friberg and James Riley are two most significant losses, but also showed weaknesses on the pitch.
Regular starters Erik Friberg and James Riley are two most significant losses, but also showed weaknesses on the pitch.

Last year we started a project to talk about players based on their tools. The idea was to get an outfield position neutral judgement of players based on seeing how they behave on or off the ball when the team either possesses or defends as well as how they use their physical attributes. The scale is an average starting center midfielder set at all 6s while a replacement level player would be straight 5s. Centerbacks and Forwards are least likely to be around those center points as they are the most specialized of roles. The tools are Technical Ability, Tactical Judgement, Offensive Skills, Defensive Skills and Physique.

As recently stated the Seattle Sounders off-season loses didn't hit the core hard. When the writers here filled out our tools database based off of the many games we watched, including Reserve Games the losses seem less significant. Two of the players no longer on the team didn't get rated by enough writers as they were only featured with the Reserves. What maybe more surprising though is that none were rated as league average. Not Erik Friberg not James Riley, not Tyson Wahl. All were players rated at better than replacement level (a player that can be readily found through US lower division, draft or cheap international signing).

Player

Role

Technical

Tactical

Offense

Defense

Physique

Average

Friberg

CenterMid

5.8

5.8

6.8

4.5

5.5

5.68

Wahl

FullBack

7

5.3

5.8

5.5

4.5

5.62

Riley

FullBack

5.3

4

5.3

5.8

5.5

5.18

Noonan

Forward

5.3

6

5

4.5

3.5

4.86

Jaqua

Forward

4.4

5.8

4.4

4

5.4

4.8

Rating Erik Friberg, a man with nearly 30 starts as a central midfielder so low is probably a surprise. His non-scoring related statistics were fairly strong. As a slightly more forward CM without being a true CAM his lack of defense is directly related to his weakness with on-ball defense. This wasn't a major part of his game and there is little evidence that it was expected to be. He was also particularly weak in the air and many times was unable to use strength or speed to gain advantages in MLS. Just judging him as an offensive player he was more than adequate, but as a complete CM he failed to make the measure.

Fullbacks' ratings tend to be similar to a CDM. They are expected to get into the attack on occasion, but their primary role remains defense. With Wahl we see a hole in the system as his on-ball offensive skills were stronger at longer ranges, but at shorter distances he could be prone to mistakes. His on-ball defense was weaker than his on-ball. Those two sentences are captured in Technical, Offense and Defense. In some ways the authors here may see Wahl as a box-to-box left mid where his defensive ability is less of a liability, but he doesn't have the speed to be more of a danger offensively, nor does he use his height well. That may have a relationship to his use as a dead ball specialist. Wahl could be described as a poor man's Brad Davis.

James Riley statistically is a very strong passer yet did not contribute to additional offense being taken. He is rated most harshly for positional awareness as he often behaved more like a right mid than right back. His shorter passing technique led to a lot of success, but not as much danger as the authors desire. While somewhat speedy he could get knocked off the ball by many left mids. His defensive displays tended towards the spectacular - either a brilliant recovery through a sliding tackle or a mistake that led not to chances, but goals. He also had the greatest dispersal of observations with even split between average MLSer, replacement level and "needs to be replaced."

Both Nate Jaqua and Pat Noonan ended the season as after thoughts by most fans. At times they were the focal points of anger over roster selection or on-pitch performance. Unlike other forwards on roster both had skill sets that lends them use in the midfield. Neither displayed a special ability with both veterans lending a team veteran presence more than great passing, positioning, shooting, speed, height or strength. With both being just under replacement level talent their experience in the league may help other teams, but not at the cost that Seattle would have to pay to keep them. There will be little debate over their ratings.

Miguel Montano is still quite young. He's clearly not done developing. What he wasn't doing was showing it on the pitch while wearing the Rave Green. Since not enough of the authors saw him to share an average here are my ratings only;

Technical: 8 - Great flash with ball at feet
Tactical: 4 - Prone to positional errors
Offense: 8 - Pretty interchanges with Montero
Defense: 3 - Little effort and easily beat
Physique: 6.5 - Kind of fast, needs to fill out

Taylor Graham also was infrequently seen. And so only my ratings are shared. The largest shame about Graham's MLS Sounders time is that when he was at his peak he suffered from prolonged injury.

Technical: 5 - Solid on ball
Tactical: 8 - Great positioning
Offense: 2 - Poor passing, no longer danger on set-plays
Defense: 6 - Could be beat too often for a CB
Physique: 6 - Still strong, but lacked speed & could be exploited

Even if players like Friberg, Riley and Wahl were underrated by the five voters by a full point on average they would not be in the core. Friberg and Wahl would have been just outside while that exercise would move Riley to a league average player.