Every so often, I’m asked to do a statistical profile of a Sounders player, and I usually find more or less exactly what I expect to find. The stats tend to tell a similar story to what we see on the field with our own eyes, but not always. Josh Atencio is a player that I really like, and that I’d like to see play more often, so when I was asked to look into his statistics, I expected to see a pretty good young central midfielder. Statistically speaking, I found a borderline elite one, albeit with some pretty important caveats.
The first caveat is sample size/gamestate. Josh Atencio isn’t playing a lot, and I’m not sure that these stats would maintain quite their level of impressiveness if he were asked to do it over 3,000 minutes a season. Some of his appearances are coming in mop-up time, and those kinds of minutes can produce some wild stats due to game state. How much his stats might suffer isn’t something I feel like I can confidently predict, so unless he suddenly finds himself with a lot more playing time, we’re all going to have to go with what data we have.
The second caveat is that defensive statistics can be a little misleading, as it’s not always a great sign to see a player making lots of tackles depending on their role/position and the tactics of the team. The amount of stock you put in these numbers will vary depending on your own philosophical beliefs about stats, but I think in this case, he’s doing precisely what you’d want someone in his position to do defensively.
The third caveat is that a lot of you don’t believe statistics have any place in the evaluation of players, and while I strongly disagree, I respect your viewpoint and would encourage you to just skip this one, and definitely don’t go into the comments to say something like “stats, lol”.