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Key Passes: Chivas USA is Not Stacking up to the Competition

The data is out, and Chivas USA definitely don't have a top player setting up his teammates.

Victor Decolongon - Getty Images

Over at SB Nation Real Salt Lake blog RSL Soapbox yesterday, Matt Montgomery had a terrific article on the key pass rankings so far this MLS season. A key pass is the pass that leads to a shot, which focuses on the playmakers on the field and not on the attackers finishing chances. In other words, if the shot that results from the key pass is missed or saved, it isn't discounted despite not leading to a goal. Be sure to take a look at Matt's article here.

Now that you've looked it over, do you notice anything on that Top 20 list? Or rather, do you notice anything missing?

That's right, Chivas USA has no playmaker in the Top 20 rankings this season. Matt was kind enough to share the expanded list, and there are only three Goats on the list (which consists of 101 players). Here are the numbers:

Rank Name Key Passes Minutes Minutes per KP
34 Juan Pablo Angel 19 1,004 52.84
41 Miller Bolanos 31 1,768 57.03
57 Ryan Smith 17 1,089 64.06

So Chivas' best playmaker by minutes per key pass is JPA, a forward who has played a little more than half of the team's games. Bolaños has made the most key passes on the team this season, but his rate isn't as good as JPA's, and he plays more as a withdrawn striker than as an out-and-out midfielder. And the only other player, Smith, is a midfielder, although he plays on the wing, and he's also missed significant time this season.

Does a team need a playmaker to be successful? No, and not all of the best teams in MLS this season have a midfield playmaker. But Chivas don't have a midfielder playing as a true playmaker, and they are the worst offensive team in the league. When Sebastian Grazzini was being cut loose by the Chicago Fire earlier this season, I lobbied for Chivas to get him. He ended up returning to Argentina midseason, but he is still 14th this season in his key pass rate! He played a key pass once every 40.85 minutes!

And just to put it in further perspective, the league leader in key pass rate was Javier Morales, with a key pass every 26.79 minutes, and the player with the most key passes is Graham Zusi with 97. Would Chivas have scored more goals with either Morales or Zusi plugged into the lineup? Unquestionably. This should supply more proof that Chivas need to be on the lookout for a playmaker for 2013.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!