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Meet Tyrone Mears

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A stylistic emphasis on possession soccer sets Tyrone Mears apart from other MLS fullbacks.

Mike Russell

19 games into the 2015 season, we can be pretty confident we know the type of player the Sounders have in Tyrone Mears.

MeetMears1

The role chart above compares Mears' share of team passes and defensive actions to Dylan Remick and to the 2014 performances of DeAndre Yedlin and Leo Gonzalez, in the broader context of the top 50 players receiving minutes at fullback this year in MLS (a minimum 540 minutes to Colorado's Marc Burch). The bullseye shows the 2015 mean values plus/minus 1 and 2 standard deviation. Not only is Mears not much like Yedlin, his usage isn't particularly similar to other starting fullbacks. His nearest neighbors in this space are San Jose's Jordan Stewart, crossing specialist Chris Tierney, and fellow englishman Luke Boden.  At 8.63%, Mears' defensive share is exceptionally low for a fullback, but his average of nearly 53 basic passes per 90 minutes ranks second in the dataset behind DC United's Sean Franklin, and accounts for the 6th highest team pass share. Part of this difference could be attributed to Seattle's recent struggles with maintaining a consistent starting lineup, but Mears' and Remick's combined performance nevertheless represents a significant departure from 2014's tactical approach.

Most MLS fullbacks can be somewhat crudely divided between offensive and defensive specialists on the basis of crossing frequency. The amount a player contributes to the offense in chances created (key passes, assists, and shots) is strongly related to cross attempts:

MeetMears2

The R2 value on the linear regression line is a respectable (for soccer stats, anyway) 0.462. Mears (and Yedlin before him) fall roughly at the MLS average in crossing frequency (Mears 3.02, Yedlin 3.21, avg 2.91) and chance creation (Mears 0.89, Yedlin 1.15, avg 1.15), while Remick represents a modest offensive upgrade over Leo's 2014 season. Increased chance creation is associated with riskier play (take, for example, the aforementioned Chris Tierney, who averages nearly 2 open play chances per 90, but loses possession once for every ~2.32 offensive touches). Although Mears' production is respectable for an MLS fullback, he doesn't have the numbers of either a defensive or offensive specialist:

MeetMears3

So far in 2015, Mears has taken up part of the slack in the possession game, taking on a higher than average pass share and retaining the ball exceptionally well by the standards of his position (losing the ball once for every 4.47 offensive touches). There's nothing in his numbers to suggest he will become an offensive force (though goals don't get any more timely than a game winner against a Shield rival), and he isn't a star in this league... but his ability to comfortably link up with his teammates will continue to be a key element of Seattle's success on both sides of the ball.

Raw statistics for this post are gathered from OPTA via whoscored.com.