Cristian Higuita has been a mainstay within the the defensive midfield for Adrian Heath all season. The 21-year-old has proven, throughout the season, his ability on the offensive side of the ball, as well. Why, then, was he left off of the final MLS "24 Under 24" list?
This year, when MLS came out with the new 24 under 24 rankings, which identifies the top 24 players in all of MLS under the age of 24, many in the OCSC community thought that both Cyle Larin and Cristian Higuita would be representing the club. Unfortunately, Cyle Larin is the sole representative in the respected 24 Under 24 rankings, where he is ranked 10th overall. While Larin certainly deserves to be on that list, the question that needs answering is: how is Higuita, perhaps the best defensive midfielder under the age of 24, not on this list?
Currently, there are four comparable players to Higuita in the 24 Under 24 who play a similar role in their team. Those players are Perry Kitchen (DC United, 8), Matias Laba (Vancouver, 12), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas, 14) and Matt Polster (Chicago, 21), Will Trapp (Columbus, 4) is left out of this comparison as The Mane Land does agree that he is arguably the best young defensive midfielder in MLS. If we compare these five players based on defensive statistics, Higuita leads the list in many categories. Below are the overall stats for the players as of Saturday Sept. 26.:
Higuita is ahead of all the ranked 24 Under 24 DM's in every single passing category: Total Key Passes (KeyP), Average Passes per Game (AvgPPerG) and Passing Success Percentage (PS%).
Higuita stands above the field in PS% at 87%, AvgPPerG at 54, and he does all of this while also totaling more key passes on the season (18). While his passing abilities alone do not merit a spot on the 24 Under 24 list, a look at his defensive abilities should help solidify a spot.
On the defensive side of the ball,a defensive midfielder is tasked with winning the balls and not committing too many fouls. A quick comparison between fouls received and fouls committed can help shine some light on a defensive midfielder's ability to keep his team in control of the ball.
Higuita again leads this category: Fouls won vs. Fouls Committed (Fled-Fls). This can be a tough statistic for a defensive midfielder--the balance between committing 'professional fouls' and earning a free kick often lands unfavorably for players in this position. However, in this statistic Higuita clearly excels. He is the only player on this list that is in the positive, which highlights his ability both as a defender and as an attacking option.
Another telling statistic for a defensive midfielder is tackles. While Higuita lands in second on this list behind Laba's 130 tackles, his 92 tackles is an impressive statistic, and places him 45 tackles ahead of number 21 on the list.
The stats seem to paint a picture which would include Higuita in the 24 Under 24 ranking. His play this season has been--at the very least--on par with the four defensive midfielders who made the list, and, he has proven himself to be a more versatile player than his counterparts. Higuita can continue to prove MLS wrong with strong showings in the final three games of the season.
Why do you think Cristian Higuita was snubbed from the 24 under 24 rankings? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!