Houston Dynamo: Todd Wharton can do most important thing in soccer

Houston Dynamo can’t wait for USL Rio Grande Valley midfielder Todd Wharton to finish his development. Then he’ll start doing the most important thing in soccer: creating chances.

Houston Dynamo get off plenty of shots. But too many shots find their way right to the goalkeeper, often taken from awkward angles and distanced positions. They need a great chance-creator: a specialist making a lot of passes resulting in shots from better situations.

It’s those chances that soccer statisticians match with the most successful teams. And it’s the kind of chance-creator that Todd Wharton (no relation) is becoming.

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Houston Dynamo supporters got to see him at work during short-term agreements for U.S. Open and Charities Cup competitions. There he competently attempted shots and performed defensive work but didn’t advance to MLS-level play.

What the Dynamo need as soon as possible is a player who can fight through the midfield and provide chances. He’s working his way there fast on the USL club in his second full USL season out of the University of Virginia.

Through late August, he’s a USL Western Conference leader in three key categories. He’s 16th in passes with 1,026. He’s 12th with 93 crosses. But he places near the very top in the area most important to his future with Houston Dynamo: 5th  in chances created with 52.

Data scientist Ford Bohrmann has watched how chance creation works in soccer. A player specializing in creating chances blazes a path to success for his team. By Bohrmann’s findings, it doesn’t matter as much whether it’s a team converting a lot of shots or a team taking a lot of shots. It’s most important first that the team creates a lot of chances.

That’s because, even if a team converts a lot of shots, the team can still struggle if they don’t create enough chances. So a team can take a lot of shots and convert them for success or a team can create a lot of chances and succeed. If a team does both successfully, those players will win it all.

Wharton’s performance in chance creation, along with steady defense and offense, made him the first Rio Grande Valley FC Toro selected USL Player of the Week this season. It happened after his performance in a 2-2 draw with Sacramento Republic FC in Week 3.

In that game, Wharton scored a goal via penalty, made two key passes, three tackles and completed 30 of 33 passes. With solid work like this for the remainder of his USL season, Wharton can make the grade to turn Houston Dynamo’s fortunes solidly above the playoff line.

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Create the chances and the goals will come. Place enough of those shots, and the Dynamo can win it all. Wharton could well be a key part of that success.

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