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Bang for the Buck: Did Orlando City get Good Value on the Left Side of Midfield?

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There were big names like Brek Shea, familiar names like Luke Boden, and exciting, new names like Carlos Rivas that saw time at left midfield for Adrian Heath and the Lions. How did they stack up against the league's best?

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to the center back position, the left-mid slot saw a variety of names on the lineup sheet throughout the 2015 MLS regular season. Between injuries, suspensions and international call-ups, the list of players to fill the role is a long one; Brek Shea, Luke Boden, Carlos Rivas, Eric Avila, Lewis Neal and Corey Ashe all started at least once at the position for head coach Adrian Heath.

Shuffling formations made this position a difficult one to analyze. For the purposes of this set of data, games in which two attacking midfielders will be omitted, and games with three forwards will be omitted. The only starts factored into this set of data were games in which a traditional left midfielder was utilized.

With that said, Orlando City paid $211,013.20 for their starting left backs this season. (Note: this number was arrived at by average salary of Orlando City's starting left midfielder based on those six players and the number of games they started at the position.) How did they stack up with some of MLS' more respected at the position?

Brad Davis

A dynamic member of the Houston Dynamo (Yes, I did have to use that adjective), Davis is a well known and respected member of the USMNT, notably assisting an Aron Johannsson goal against Azerbaijan in a tuneup friendly prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

In MLS, he was a driving force for the Houston -- his 13 points (combined goals and assists) come in just behind team leading striker Will Bruin, who finished with 14. A team-leading nine assists shows the rumors of his magical left boot aren't mythology at all -- this dude can make the ball do whatever the hell he decides he wants it to do.

Pass % Key Passes Accurate Crosses
Brad Davis 79.6 2.3 1.9
OCSC LM 80.45 .78 .86

While we see Orlando City was more accurate, it's very impressive to note Davis' ability to stay in the same ballpark of efficiency while churning out three times the key passes and over twice the accurate crosses per game. While truly elite, his $445,500 price tag shows that it is no secret. Twice as expensive, sure, but arguably twice as effective as well.

Graham Zusi

Of course, a discussion about left mids wouldn't be complete without a mention of Longwood's own Graham Zusi. The Sporting Kansas City star -- another USMNT veteran -- is the highest paid player we'll discuss today at $682,102.27, more than three times the cost of the OCSC Lion left midfielders.

Zusi, like Davis, is known as an elite left-mid option around MLS. A veteran of the league with experience in England's top flight, it isn't surprising to see his price tag read the way it does.

His numbers, however, compare remarkably similar to Davis'.

Pass % Key Passes Accurate Crosses
Graham Zusi 76.6 2.2 2.1
Brad Davis 79.6 2.3 1.9
OCSC LM 80.45 .78 .86

While Zusi's two goals and four assists look great next to City's zero and two, they pale in comparison to Davis' four and nine at two-thirds the cost.

Justin Meram

A member of the Columbus Crew by way of the Iraq national team, Meram is certainly a familiar name to OCSC fans after the Lions faced the Crew (roughly) 28 times this calendar year. Known for his finishing skill, Meram finished with seven goals and three assists this season, just one less than career highs in both categories, which were set last season.

Quite a bargain for Columbus, Meram's total base compensation of $175,000 is both the lowest total and the closest cost comparison we'll have to Orlando at the position.

Pass % Key Passes Accurate Crosses
Justin Meram 77.1 1.1 .4
Graham Zusi 76.6 2.2 2.1
Brad Davis 79.6 2.3 1.9
OCSC LM 80.45 .78 .86

As the closest in cost to City at the position, we see a much more balanced comparison in the peripheral statistics, although Meram's inability to cross the ball sticks out like a sore thumb on the chart above.

While the peripherals line up, at the end of the day, Meram put seven balls into the back of the net. Just two Lions managed to achieve that, and their names are Ricardo effing Kaká and Cyle effing Larin.

Put simply, seven goals from the left is impressive. A fine season for Meram.

***

Put frankly, the production is disappointing, and it's not easy to point to one reason and say, "Yeah, that's the cause." It could be inconsistent time in the role (Brek Shea), it could be an inexperience playing at this level (Carlos Rivas, Lewis Neal), it could be playing a little out of position to cover for absences (Boden/Ashe), but the bottom line is, ownership will be looking for more from this position next season.

Do you disagree? Vote for your "Best Value" below!