Last week on Sunday Statistical Showdown we focused on the type of play Orlando has been utilizing by looking into the action zones on the pitch. This idea of Orlando playing a more direct style, while also allowing play to happen within their own third, not only puts more pressure on a back line but also expects more of the central defenders. This week, I wanted to look at the play that we have seen from those central defenders.
Some may wonder if the defense is actually playing better this year than last but, when looking at the goals-against-per-game average, there is only a slight improvement -- meaning less than a basis point, as both in 2015 and 2016 the GAA (goals-against average) is 1.64 per game.
This has stayed at a steady rate over the last two years, even with the changes that Orlando has seen in the defense. In 2016, not only did Aurelien Collin leave and head to New York, but Tally Hall also left the team after injury. With the loss of the goalkeeper and what many saw as the leader of the back line, Orlando was in need of someone to step up and fill a very large void.
Most people would have suspected David Mateos to be the man on the back line who would have slid into the central defender spot left open, but so far this season it has been more Tommy Redding than Mateos manning the line with Seb Hines. Below, we will take a look at a few key statistics for the three central defenders and talk a bit more about how they have each fared on the season.
So far this season, Hines has stayed relatively healthy, considering that health has been an issue for him throughout his career. It has allowed him to stay on the field and lead the team in several defensive categories. So far in 2016, Hines has been able to stay on the field for 1030 minutes, while leading the central defenders in many categories, including 2.1 tackles per 90 minutes, 5.3 clearances per 90 minutes, and he is tied for the lead in 1.8 aerials won per 90 minutes. We should also consider the fact that Seb has also scored two goals in MLS this season and many can remember his four-goal friendly in 2016 as well.
Some issues that Seb still needs to work on are his passing success, which is floating below 80%, and his interceptions per 90, where he is in the back of the pack of our central defenders.
The previous Real Madrid man, even if he only played for the B team, has shown his technical ability time and time again. So far this season, he has logged the least amount of minutes of the three big men, only playing 539 minutes, but he has done well in those. A few areas where Mateos has excelled are mainly built around reading the game and his ability to play the ball at his feet, as he is leading the pack in 2.8 interceptions per 90 minutes, 8.8 successful long balls per 90 (one of his successful long balls last night set up the first goal), and passes completed per 90, while still being strong in the air with 1.8 aerials won per 90.
Most would understand the technical attributes showing well for David, and they do, but his issues -- being physical and a dominating central defender -- do show a bit when he is last in this bunch in tackles per 90 minutes, as well as blocks per 90.
The young man who has stepped up into a starting role beside Hines has logged over 900 minutes -- the second most in the central defense, as a 19-year-old. Perhaps that alone would be impressive, but if you also consider that Redding leads this trio in blocks per 90 minutes, at 1.1, while also having the best pass success rate at 82.9%, that speaks highly of his future. He also shows well in interceptions and tackles.
Areas that we could see some improvement with more playing time would be around clearances and aerial wins, where Tommy lags behind both Hines and Mateos by a good margin, he could also improve his success rate in long ball passes.
Overall, the strength of Orlando's central defense looks to be a balance between youthful ability and technical prowess. However, a major issue may rise in the future when you really only have three central defenders to compare. Depth on this back line may creep up to be an issue in the future and there are rumors circling of a future signing to help fill the need.