When asked how he thought Saturday’s match between Toronto FC and Columbus would differ stylistically with both Federico Higuain and Michael Bradley out, Gregg Berhalter answered honestly: “it’s hard to tell.”
And who could blame him? These two players are the midfield engines that make their sides go. Toronto FC has played three matches without Bradley this season, but Columbus has yet to suit up under Berhalter without Higuain.
Quantifying each player’s influence and importance to his side reveals just how shape-shifting the absences could be. Below are charts that express each player's touches, passes and chances created as a percentage of team total while that player was on the field:
|Player||Chances Created||Total||Chances %|
Keep in mind that the above numbers are for matches that only Higuain and Bradley have played in; that's why Bradley's totals are lower, but the percentages reveal the overall importance of each. These percentages are comparable to those of some other elite MLS players thought to be "midfield engines," as shown below:
|Player||Touches %||Passes %||Chances %|
It remains to be seen what Berhalter and Ryan Nelsen will do to fill these voids, but one thing is for sure: given the clear importance of each player relative to his team, doing so should prove difficult.
All statistics courtesy of Opta Sportsdata.