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Is Héber due for a big rebound or this his new normal?

Héber is approaching historic levels of xG underperformances, but the data is not super encouraging about the chances of him turning it around.

Last Updated
7 min read
Mike Fiechtner / Sounders FC Communications

One of the more interesting player personnel decisions the Seattle Sounders will have to make this offseason is what to do with Héber, who will have an option for at least $1 million in 2024.

Acquired in an offseason trade as a sort of insurance policy against Raúl Ruidíaz, the Brazilian has done a lot of the things we expected him to. He's been reasonably effective as both a passer and defender, while consistently getting himself into dangerous scoring positions.

What he hasn't done was what he was acquired to primarily do: score goals.

Although the various models disagree on the degree to which Héber has underperformed, they all tell a similar story. Héber has underperformed his Expected Goals number by a larger amount than almost anyone else in the league and is approaching historic levels.

FBref, for instance, says his two goals are 5.3 fewer than the data suggests he should have scored. Minnesota United's Bongokuhle Hlongwane (-5.0) and the Columbus Crew's Cucho Hernandez (-4.6) are the only other two players who have underperformed by 4.0 goals or more, but they have 23 goals scored between them and have each played at least 1,000 more minutes. FBref also has Héber leading all of MLS with .62 xG per 90.

For the purposes of this story, however, I'm going to mostly use American Soccer Analysis' data – the historical data is more accessible – and they aren't quite as harsh. They have Héber as having the fifth best non-penalty xG per 90 (.50) and a slightly less frustrating -4.25 total, which is behind Hlongwane (-5.18) and D.C. United's Christian Benteke (-4.55). Again, both of these players have a lot more minutes and goals than Héber.

I think most of this is pretty much what the eye-test will tell us, though. Anyone who has watched Héber this year could observe that he seems to get into a lot of dangerous positions but hasn't been finishing his chances. Héber has not scored since the second game of the season, a stretch of 20 matches.

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