After the acquisition of fullback Donny Toia from Atlanta United earlier this week, our Adam Dupere took a look at Toia’s game and said he was a more “defense-first style” defender than other Lions left backs like Luke Boden and Brek Shea, and a look at the statistics supports that assertion.
Shea, who was shifted from midfield to left back by former Lions manager Adrian Heath before being permanently moved forward again by new boss Jason Kreis, made 11 appearances at fullback last season in addition to about half a season’s worth in 2015. Shea was an experimental left back, and his defensive performance never managed to get past experiment-level results, for the most part.
Brek registered an average of 1.3 tackles per game across 2015-2016 to go along with 1.4 interceptions and 1.2 clearances. Shea’s athleticism and long stride allow him to churn up and down the flank, but his skill set has always been more geared toward attacking than defending, and we saw that plenty with his overlapping play from the fullback position.
Luke Boden was Orlando City’s other primary left back, making 41 appearances at left back over the past two seasons. Boden was also an attack-minded fullback who did a lot of work getting forward on the left side and playing crosses into the box, but his defense, while relatively solid, always left a bit to be desired. Over two seasons at the MLS level with Orlando, Boden registered 1.1 tackles per game on average to go along with two interceptions.
Toia’s numbers show a fullback more committed to defense, which could be very helpful to a Lions back line that let in the most goals in MLS last season.
Playing for Montreal in 2016, Toia registered 2.4 tackles, 2.1 interceptions, and 1.7 clearances per game, all while averaging just one foul. He averaged more than a full tackle per match more than both Boden and Shea, and he actually did it while chipping in with the same number of assists — two — as Bodz and Brek each managed, showing that he is capable of helping in the attack as well. While Boden’s 80.5% passing accuracy is superior, Toia still bested Brek’s passing success rate (77.4% to 74.1%) as well.
Orlando City may have just managed to upgrade its defense while maintaining a capable offensive contributor at the left back spot with Donny Toia.
(Statistics via WhoScored.com)