Friday, July 26, 2019

Top MLS Left Backs

Here is a snapshot of the best leftbacks in MLS. The methodology is simple - It's the average of the player rank and my own Helltown rank.

Example: Daniel Lovitz

196th: Rank
139th: Helltown Rank
167.5: Average Rank

That rank is out of all players in MLS to have played this year. From there I just tease out all the left-backs in the league to see who is best. I'll post the table then add a few notes.

26: Median age of the top twenty
$234k: Median yearly wage

1Jordan HarveyMission Viejo, CaliforniaLAF36$165,000
2Kai WagnerGeislingen an der Steige, GermanyPHI22$360,150
3Brad SmithPenrith, AustraliaSEA25$564,365
4Ali AdnanBaghdad, IraqVAN26$547,333
5Justin MorrowCleveland, OhioTFC32$330,000
6Ronald MatarritaAlajuela, Costa RicaNYC25$420,000
7Daniel LovitzWyndmoor, PennsylvaniaMTL28$97,453
8Donny ToiaTucson, ArizonaRSL27$131,254
9Kyle DuncanNew York, New YorkNYR22$57,225
10Adam LundkvistNykoping, SwedenHOU25$303,750
11Edgar CastilloLos Cruces, New MexicoNER33$250,000
12Jorgen SkjelvikBaerum, NorwayLAG28$1,066,667
13Joao MoutinhoLisbon, PortugalORL22$203,000
14Connor LadeMorristown, New JerseyNYR30$132,750
15Mohamed El-MunirTripoli, LibyaLAF27$202,833
16Chase GasperAlexandria, VirginiaMIN24$56,250
17Waylon FrancisPuerto Limon, Costa RicaCLB29$199,167
18Kemar LawrenceKingston, JamaicaNYR27$382,750
19Nick LimaCastro Valley, CaliforniaSJE25$218,438
20Marcos LopezCallao, PeruSJE20$387,750

NOTES: 1. You'll notice more than one left-back on a couple teams (NYR has 3!). That's because I'm using the position they play most this season. Three on the Red Bulls or two on San Jose mean the system employed by the coach is beneficial to whatever player is slotted in there. 2. MLS does not pay for this position. Only a handful of players earn more than $500k a year. 3. I always use STATS, Inc.'s Birthplace data. Keeps it simple.  4. I round ages up, so a 35.7 year-old is 36. 17.6 is 18 and so on.


Kai Wagner (22, Germany) You've got a young (by MLS standards) player performing well on a good Philly team. There seems to be a feeling among the team there that his position is "up for grabs." They should start him every time he's able. Opta has him at 4 assists, STATS at 5. Either way, best at the position.

Brad Smith (25, Australia) Liverpool academy and then to the senior team from 2008-2016. Loaned to Swindon Town in 2014. Liverpool sold eventually sold him to AFC Bournemouth who has now loaned him to Seattle. Same as with Wagner - Opta has him at 4 assists, STATS at 5.

Ali Adnan (26, Iraq) His excellent performances are being wasted on a horrible Vancouver side. 2 assists and a goal to go along with 2 man of the match awards (highest rated player of the game). Overall, he's the highest-rated left back according to WhoScored.

Kyle Duncan (22, USA) He's splitting time on the right and left, but good performances at 22 years.

Jordan Harvey (36, USA) Long-time MLS-er that you may have never heard of. He's been in the league since 2006. Colorado, Seattle, Philly, Vancouver and now LAFC. He started in the league at $11,700 p/yr and still grossly underpaid at $165k.


Here are the same group of players sorted by WhoScored rating. Includes minutes played, which can sometimes be misleading with players who only have a few games.

7.19Ali AdnanBaghdad, IraqVAN261572
7.07Kyle DuncanNew York, New YorkNYR22784
7.05Chase GasperAlexandria, VirginiaMIN24483
7.00Ronald MatarritaAlajuela, Costa RicaNYC25819
6.90Mohamed El-MunirTripoli, LibyaLAF27410
6.84Donny ToiaTucson, ArizonaRSL271154
6.83Connor LadeMorristown, New JerseyNYR30845
6.80Brad SmithPenrith, AustraliaSEA251552
6.80Joao MoutinhoLisbon, PortugalORL221072
6.79Kai WagnerGeislingen an der Steige, GermanyPHI221792
6.79Edgar CastilloLos Cruces, New MexicoNER331357
6.78Jordan HarveyMission Viejo, CaliforniaLAF361439
6.77Daniel LovitzWyndmoor, PennsylvaniaMTL281710
6.75Justin MorrowCleveland, OhioTFC321855
6.71Jorgen SkjelvikBaerum, NorwayLAG281168
6.69Adam LundkvistNykoping, SwedenHOU251464
6.69Kemar LawrenceKingston, JamaicaNYR27904
6.68Marcos LopezCallao, PeruSJE20802
6.67Waylon FrancisPuerto Limon, Costa RicaCLB291383
6.60Nick LimaCastro Valley, CaliforniaSJE251040


MLS doesn't seem to want to spend on defense and at the goalkeeper position. It makes me wonder at times if MLS has a positional cap, of sorts. Regardless, there are good players here. Wagner and Adnan might give you a reason to watch two forgotten corners of MLS in Philly and Vancouver.

On the USMNT front, Daniel Lovitz shows up on this list in the top 10 (ish). It's easy to see why Gregg Berhalter picked him up in January and has included him ever since because Gregg operates like a computer.

GB: Is he the correct age?
GB: How did it play the previous season?
GB: Ohh. Where?
CPU: Hinterlands, Canada.
GB: I see he's an East Coast kid too, USMNT material.

That's basically it. Which is fine. When you look at the world through a New Jersey lens, Lovitz makes sense, but I think he's a tiny flash in the pan as far as MLS players. Duncan and Gasper might be worth a closer look. But that's it on the LB USMNT front in MLS.

Lastly, if I'm a team with any sort of ambition I'm looking to pluck away Ali Adnan. First Iraqi to play in Serie A, but a series of unfortunate events brought him to MLS. Here's his goal this year.

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