We are officially in Week 3 of Season 2 under Head Coach Caleb Porter and following last weekend's 1-1 draw at Seattle Sounders FC, Crew fans are beginning the see the vision Porter & Co. had for this team dating back to late last season.
Darlington Nagbe continued right where he left off on Opening Match with a match-high 91.2 percent passing accuracy in the opponent's half vs. Seattle, as he now ranks second in Major League Soccer with a 93.33 percent passing rate overall.
Among the league's midfielders, Nagbe ranks top-two in overall passing accuracy (92.86 percent - 2nd overall), passing accuracy in the opponent's half (93.33 percent - 2nd overall), and passing accuracy ending in the final third (91.18 percent - 1st overall) to go along with a perfect 2-for-2 in beating defenders one-on-one off the dribble.
Additionally, the Crew is only one of two teams in MLS to have two midfielders rank top-10 in passing accuracy, successful passes in the opponent's half, passing accuracy in the opponent's half, and passing accuracy ending in the final third.
Now, the interplay between Nagbe and counterpart Artur is intriguing.
As the No. 8 midfielder, Artur, who was just named to MLSsoccer.com's Team of the Week for Week 2, been much more of a box-to-box player through the first two games, as exemplified by the slightly higher average position graphic below from the March 1 match vs. NYCFC:
As well as his involvement in the Crew's goal at Seattle on March 7:
In the below pass matrix for the Seattle match, Nagbe's distribution is more-evenly weighted across defenders, wings, and attacking players than Artur's, whose highest pass totals include the likes of Lucas Zelarayan, Luis Diaz, Pedro Santos, and Milton Valenzuela, the latter of whom found himself often interplaying with Santos higher along the left.
Another telling statistic of Artur's assignment is the fact that he's tied League-wide for the third-most possessions won in the final third with four -- 33 percent of the Crew's total -- alluding to that when the press is queued, he is prominent among that middle block to intercept any forced giveaways. Through two games, Artur has committed the most tackles in MLS (14), winning nine of them, which again ranks first in the League.
While Artur's offensive presence has noticeably increased, albeit two games in, it is no secret to what Nagbe's role is. Following the Crew's Opening Match win, Porter emphasized the "link" aspect of his game, saying "he’s the guy that everything is going to go through in the midfield and he’ll run the show and he’ll be on the ball more than anybody."
Another revealing statistic of the two midfielders' respective responsibilities is the fact that Artur has totaled five touches inside the opponents' 18-yard-box, while Nagbe still stands at zero. As a team, the Crew ranks only second to LAFC in total touches in the opponent's box with 62.
Statistically, the Crew's presence in the opposite half also incorporates teammates Lucas Zelarayan and Luis Diaz, as Zelarayan ranks first among League midfielders in touches in the opponent's box (13), while the two midfielders both rank top-10 in the League in fouls won in final third (5 total). The Crew is one of only two teams in MLS to have two midfielders ranked top-10 in that category.
Putting the ball into goal-scoring positions is the exact opposite of what Jonathan Mensah has displayed so far in 2020, noted by Saturday's match in which he totaled a game-high nine clearances (!) to go with a game-high three blocks. The Ghanaian centerback tied for the fourth-most headed clearances (8) and tied for the fifth-most clearances overall (12).
This upcoming Saturday is the next chances for supporters to see the Black & Gold at home, as Crew SC plays host to Real Salt Lake on Saturday, March 14 at 5 p.m. ET.