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Sporting KC 2020 Year in Review: Roger Espinoza

The midfielder with all the bite who’s currently out of contract.

MLS: Champions League-Independiente at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

The 2020 MLS season has come to an end and much like we did in 2019 for Sporting Kansas City, it’s time to look back at how each player performed. Keep in mind the stats look diminished for many players, but just 21 regular season games were played in this COVID shortened season (instead of the typical 34). For the full list of players reviewed, head to our dedicated Year in Review page.

If you missed week one, let’s catch you up:

The Blue Testament continues our look back at 2020 with a veteran of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft — Roger Espinoza.

2020 Stats

Games Played (Started): 16 (12)

Minutes Played: 950

Goals: 2

Assists: 2

xG (expected goals): 1.68

Positions Played: Box-to-Box Midfielder (primarily on the right)

2019 Salary: $800,000.04

2020 Salary: Unknown - But likely at or slightly above 2019.

Contract Through (Option Years): N/A — Currently out of contract

Best Moment of 2020

It was fleeting, but Roger Espinoza scored his very first playoff goal in just the fourth minute of Sporting KC’s matchup with the San Jose Earthquakes. It’s easy to get lost in the focus on goals but Espinoza scored three times, including this playoff header, which despite the COVID shortened season matches a career best year. The other time he scored three goals was the marvelous 2018 season where he played in 32 of 34 games. Counting the playoffs he was just on the field for 18 games.

Playing less is suiting Roger well. Hopefully he’ll be back in 2021.

Worst Moment of 2020

I’m going to cheat and do a second stat (while saving the more positive one for below). Espinoza ended the year with -0.59 goals added (goals added explanation). That was third worst on the team ahead of only Felipe Hernandez (-0.64) and Roberto Puncec (-1.37). Here is an oversimplification of what goals added is from American Soccer Analysis:

“If you haven’t read Matthias’s explanation of the goals added methodology, now would be a good time. The CliffsNotes version is that g+ values every touch of the ball by measuring how much it improves a team’s situation, measured in terms of scoring chances across two possessions. Those scoring chances are calculated by feeding data about the possession into a machine learning algorithm that compares it to similar possessions to see how likely they were to end in goals.”

But this stat could be misleading. Matt Besler was the best player on SKC with a 1.58 but the sample size was increasingly small. On the whole, this is a stat to keep an eye on. Objectionably the players at the top of the g+ stat are very good players (Top 3: Cristian Pavon, Jordan Morris, Diego Rossi). It’s possible the type of work Espinoza (and Hernandez) do, simply doesn’t show up as much. Then again, Diego Chara was the 17th highest ranked player with very high marks in passing and interrupting — something you’d expect Espinoza to excel at.

Interesting Stat

Zero. As in the number of red cards Espinoza picked up in 2020. And that’s from “Red Card Roger!” His last red card came September 29, 2019 against the Portland Timbers. It set the MLS record. If you would have told me he could go a whole season without another one, I would have scoffed. He hadn’t done that since 2015 when he returned from Wigan Athletic (England). The shortened season surely helped but he played nearly the same number of games as he did in 2019 (16 appearances, 15 starts — 1,149 minutes). He got three red cards in 2019. Maybe this goes to show Peter Vermes managed him more wisely and he didn’t get those bad cards from being tired.

Fan Vote Results

Re-Sign: 69.4%

Let Him Walk: 30.6%

Of the players we’ve reviewed so far, Espinoza has been the most divisive. Even in his prime, fans didn’t see the value in Roger Espinoza. However, he’s clearly past his prime. His minutes in 2020 decreased and I would suspect that will likely continue to be the case if he returns in 2021. Even if he’s mostly a “glue” guy in the locker room and plays about as much (over a longer season) as he did in 2020, then that’s some value. When he’s fresh, he’s still a destroyer. He probably should just never be asked to play longer than 60 minutes and definitely not twice in a short week.