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In Defense of Yohan Croizet

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Just hear me out!

MLS: Columbus Crew at Sporting KC Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Yohan Croizet hasn’t had the easiest time since joining Sporting Kansas City ahead of the 2018 season. Let’s make excuses attempt to defend why it’s not as bad as it looks on the surface when it comes to Yohan.

Excuse Defense #1: A Designated Player in Name Only

One of the biggest criticism of Croizet is the fact that he is currently, for the second straight season, occupying a Designated Player (DP) spot on Sporting KC’s roster. The fact that he is a DP is a little confusing on the surface when you look at his salary. According to the late 2018 salary information we have available to us, Croizet made $680,004 in 2018. That is good enough for being just the eighth highest paid player on the team behind (in order) Felipe Gutierrez, Johnny Russell, Krisztian Nemeth, Andreu Fontas, Roger Espinoza, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi.

The reason Croizet is a DP is because he reportedly had a $1.5 million dollar transfer fee paid for him. His contract runs through 2020 with an option year for 2021. That means, with three guaranteed years, Croizet has approximately $500,000 per year added to his salary, pushing him to be the third most expensive player on the roster behind just Gutierrez and Russell.

Even still, that puts his number north of $1.1 million per season, which falls squarely into the Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) window. Meaning, SKC could use TAM to buy down his number and add a new DP in his place. Sam Stejskal has a fantastic piece on the difference between a TAM-level DP and a true DP that’s really worth a read. Croizet isn’t Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Wayne Rooney and calling them all DPs is misleading.

So excuse number one is that Croizet is a victim of having a transfer fee paid for him.

Excuse Defense #2: It’s all Felipe’s Fault

Another issue at hand is the signing of Felipe Gutierrez. Less than two months after Croizet was brought aboard, Gutierrez fell into Sporting KC’s proverbial lap on a free transfer. I and others have theorized that Croizet was the planned replacement for Benny Feilhaber until Gutierrez came along. Then suddenly, Croizet was the fourth best midfielder on the team behind Gutierrez, Espinoza and Ilie. And he was the third highest paid behind Gutierrez and Espinoza at his same position.

Therefore, Croizet was also a victim of his timing of joining the team. Had SKC already gotten Gutierrez, they likely never sign Croizet. Or at the very least, they refuse to pay a fee that high and if his former team balked, they could walk away.

Excuse Defense #3: Jack of All Trades

Partially because Gutierrez pushed Croizet out of his home, he became a Swiss Army Knife French Army Knife. His time in the midfield was limited, so he also was forced to lineup on both wings, at center forward and at left back. In 2019, it’s been even more dramatic with Yohan only playing in the midfield in a single game, despite that being his natural position.

Between the two wings, one midfield spot (this season), center forward and left back, Croizet has played five of 11 positions on the field in 2019 over just six appearances for 284 minutes of league play. When he lines up (inevitably) at the other midfield spot, that bumps to six. Because of this, Yohan no doubt is practicing multiple positions and is not being given the chance to make any one spot his own.

Make no mistake, Peter Vermes values positional flexibility, but until Yohan has a primary spot (much like Kelyn Rowe), he’ll struggle to be more than serviceable wherever he’s lined up that day.

I’ve Got No More Excuses

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve bashed Yohan as much (if not more) than the next guy. His touch, while improving, is still lacking. His passing, again while improving, is still not up to par for the way SKC now play. His tendency to hold the ball too long is a flaw. His ability to move with the backline when playing left back (in extremely limited minutes) is downright atrocious and he has been at fault for a bare minimum of two opposing goals over the last two games.

And for what he’s done, he’s still overpaid. In most cases, the eighth highest paid player on the team should be a starter. Instead, he is paid (slightly) more than Gerso, way more than Ilie Sanchez, Tim Melia, Daniel Salloi and Seth Sinovic, who have all been regular starters off and on over the last year plus. Part of that is the position those players play or where they are in their careers. That’s not Yohan’s fault, but it will be held against him.

But higher pay, especially with all the TAM injected into the league and the rumored massive changes to the salary budget, will push players making these types of wages to the bench more and more. Maybe Croizet is just ahead of his time.

No matter the situation, barring a transfer, he’ll be on the team through the end of 2020. And honestly, with his ability to lineup in multiple spots, he’s an asset, even if he’s slightly over paid. Let’s just all agree to limit his time at left back or at least make him the one going forward more so he can’t keep opposing players onside.

All that said, get off Yohan’s back. He’s a valuable member of this team, especially one that is currently decimated by injuries.