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Midseason Breakaway : Player Ratings You Never Knew You Wanted

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In which we assign somewhat arbitrary player ratings to the active cast of each team in MLS (with some exceptions) for no real reason other then to see if anything interesting floats to the surface.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Once again I sat down and fired up my handy dandy excel spreadsheet, did a whole bunch of copy and pasting (and, thankfully, MLS and Opta had made culling statistics and playing team easier each year) things and then running some numbers and having other numbers spit out at me, and... yeah. Player ratings, of the semi arbitrary variety!

One of the reasons I actually really like to do this is a lot of times it throws out seeming oddities that actually have good, and interesting, underlying explanations. My total willingness to see Aurelien Collin go came from this sort of thing (Ike Opara is so good, can't wait to get him back, hopefully still this season). And while there's a lot of things that don't get picked up in simple statistics, the play of Roger Espinoza being a good example, sometimes there's things that don't immediately jump out at one until you do a little prodding.

Given that the All Star Game is... um, well, like six hours from now, the first think I wanted to do was see how well the Fan XI compared to what my formula spit out. According to... well, me, the current MLS Best XI, in a 4-4-2 (could have been a 4-3-3 if a third forward rated higher than a fourth midfielder), are...

Player Team Position Rating
Frei SEA GKP 7.3
Gonzalez LA DEF 7.8
Besler SKC DEF 7.4
Hedges DAL DEF 6.9
Waston VAN DEF 6.7
Giovinco TOR MID 7.6
Feilhaber SKC MID 7.4
Finlay CLB MID 7.3
Morales RSL MID 6.8
Kamara CLB FWD 7.3
Villa NYC FWD 6.8

And actually, I think that's a really good lineup right there. Maybe one thing to note is that my system doesn't necessarily determine who the "best" players are, but rather, who has performed the best, as compared to the rest of the players in the rating pool. Stefan Frei may perhaps seem odd when compared to Nick Rimando or Bill Hamid, but he's just one save shy of being the league leader, despite having played 3 and a half fewer matches than the league leaders. He has the third best GAA of guys who've played over 1,000 minutes (though our own Tim Melia may take over that stat leadership in his next game as he needs just more minutes to cross the 1,000 minute mark and is sitting on an amazing 0.73 GAA) and he's got the second best save % of guys with more than 1k minutes played. Definitely All Star worthy in my book.

Matt Hedges seems to fly under the radar but he's having a stellar year with FC Dallas. Kendall Waston was my dark horse pick for MVP at the start of the season this year and I think he's been doing great with Vancouver. Ethan Finlay with Columbus maybe has an easy job getting assists by feeding the ball to Kei Kamara, but let's not forget he has 7 of his own.

I'd love to have the time to pick through a bunch of top players and look for stuff like that, especially since I, unfortunately, don't have time to follow every player and watch every game (curse you work and family), but instead I've just dumped the full list of players into a Google Sheet file for future reference.

And of course I'd note that my system is far from perfect. If you buy it, a guy like Marius Obekop, who played four minutes as a sub and notched an assist, gets rated as out of this world good. I mean, sure, if you average 22 assists a game, I guess, but...

So grain of salt, and all that. But here's the MLS top 25. Oddball outliers included.

Player Team Position Rating
Obekop NYR MID 10.1
Earnshaw VAN FWD 8.7
Gonzalez LA DEF 7.8
Giovinco TOR MID 7.6
Feilhaber SKC MID 7.4
Besler SKC DEF 7.4
Kamara CLB FWD 7.3
Finlay CLB MID 7.3
Frei SEA GKP 7.3
Harden CHI DEF 7.1
Hamid DC GKP 7.0
Hedges DAL DEF 6.9
Myers SKC DEF 6.9
Villa NYC FWD 6.8
Opara SKC DEF 6.8
Morales RSL MID 6.8
Ousted VAN GKP 6.8
Ellis SKC DEF 6.8
Castillo DAL MID 6.7
Waston VAN DEF 6.7
Goodson SJ DEF 6.7
Mears SEA DEF 6.6
Díaz DAL MID 6.6
Kaka ORL MID 6.6
Boswell DC DEF 6.5

Here's how Sporting Kansas City players fared.

Player Team Position Rating
Benny Feilhaber SKC MID 7.4
Matt Besler SKC DEF 7.4
Chance Myers SKC DEF 6.9
Ike Opara SKC DEF 6.8
Kevin Ellis SKC DEF 6.8
Jalil Anibaba SKC DEF 6.3
Kriztian Nemeth SKC FWD 6.1
Tim Melia SKC GKP 6.0
Roger Espinoza SKC MID 5.7
Graham Zusi SKC MID 5.5
Dom Dwyer SKC FWD 5.4
Soni Mustivar SKC MID 5.1
Amadou Dia SKC DEF 5.1
Marcel de Jong SKC DEF 5.0
Seth Sinovic SKC DEF 4.9
Saad Abdul-Salaam SKC DEF 4.8
Jacob Peterson SKC MID 4.6
Amobi Okugo SKC MID 4.6
Conor Hallisey SKC MID 4.6
Paulo Nagamura SKC MID 4.4
Bernardo Anor SKC MID 4.3
Jimmy Medranda SKC MID 4.3
Eric Palmer-Brown SKC DEF 3.4

Eric Palmer-Brown's low rating is another oddball, much more of a reflection of his lack of playing time compared to others than a lack of skill, though his left game definitely wasn't a great showing...

Now, for those who like numbers, here's the full Google document.

2015 MLS Player Ratings - All Star Break

I'll try to revise this as the season goes on, maybe tinker with some weightings and also try to add comments and footnotes as appropriate. But this is how I spend my lunch breaks. Maybe that says something about me.