It is time to revisit some of the statistics we've been tracking for Chivas USA this season. Today, an update about the impact of defenders to the standings. In light of the 3-2 win yesterday against the New England Revolution, the Goats' defenders who started will get a boost. Zarek Valentin has been leading the way during the first two editions of the rankings - can he stay on top again? Let's find out.
If you want to refresh your memory on the last update, take a look from the rankings from July 19.
Here's the team's performance, to give you a baseline for each defender: 23 matches. Record: 7-8-8; Points: 29; points per game: 1.26
The defenders who performed the best, based on points per start, in descending order:
Zarek Valentin: Started 19 matches. Record: 7-6-6; Points: 27; Points per start: 1.42
Michael Umana: Started 12 matches. Record: 4-4-4; Points: 16; Points per start: 1.33
Andrew Boyens: Started 7 matches. Record: 2-2-3; Points: 9; Points per start: 1.29
Heath Pearce: Started 23 matches. Record: 7-8-8; Points: 29; Points per start: 1.26
Michael Lahoud (as defender): Started 12 matches. Record: 3-3-6; Points: 15; Points per start: 1.25
Ante Jazic: Started 17 matches. Record: 5-7-5; Points: 20; Points per start: 1.18
Jimmy Conrad: Started 2 matches. Record: 0-2-0; Points: 0; Points per start: 0
So Valentin continues atop the rankings for the third straight time. He is a rookie, has made some mistakes, but his impact on the team getting points is pretty significant. Furthermore, he has started nearly every game he's been available for (he missed a couple games early in the season when he was playing with the U-20 U.S. National Team). He has been playing well enough overall, and he is helping to get the job done on a regular basis.
One player moved up significantly from the last update. Michael Umana was 5th out of 7 eligible defenders then, and has shot up to 2nd place behind Valentin. I still don't think he is a reliable starter, but the statistics are showing that he isn't the liability many of us believe him to be at this point. He has also surpassed the player he replaced, Boyens, so maybe Robin Fraser was smarter than the rest of us at this.
Meanwhile, the only regular starters who sit below the team baseline of Pearce are Lahoud and Jazic. That should mean that the stats say they are liabilities, and that at the least Lahoud should start as a full-back ahead of Jazic. But with Fraser tinkering with his formation recently and switching to a 4-1-4-1 for a couple games with Lahoud as a defensive midfielder, his versatility is useful. Perhaps most importantly, Jazic is also the best offensive defender by a long shot, providing 6 assists, which leads the team. Jazic's service has been somewhat surprising, as the six assists are a career high, and nobody would consider him on the field primarily for his offensive prowess, but his offensive contributions mean he ought to stay on the field despite sitting 6th out of 7 defenders in points per start.
All of this makes providing an ideal lineup more difficult than in past posts about this statistic. If we used natural positions, the top four players could make a logical starting backline, with Boyens and Umana in the middle and Pearce on the left and Valentin on the right. But Boyens and Umana combined would be super shaky and Pearce will stay in the middle, perhaps even after David Junior Lopes is eligible to play. As noted above, Jazic is hot right now with assists, and he seems to have made a case to continue as a starting full back. I like Lahoud most of the time as a full back, but he should be the fifth defender and I like him as the defensive midfielder to provide more defensive coverage for the team. However, the issue is that in a 4-1-4-1 the lone striker will not be able to handle playing alone, so it is unclear if Fraser will continue to use that formation or go with a 4-4-2.
What do you think? Who should be starting? Are you surprised by the rankings? Leave a comment below!