Best MLS DPs of 2018. Who was the best Designated Player in MLS is 2018? This installment examines the 2018 Designated Players and analyzes the midfielders.
In the first part of this series, I wrote about the 51 players who were Designated Players (DPs) for MLS clubs in 2018. I examined the smallest group of DPs by position — defenders, plus one goalkeeper — and gave you my take on who was the best defender DP in 2018. You can catch up on that piece here.
In this second part, I examine midfielders. Many of the stats come from WhoScored.com, while some came from MLS. I also performed my own calculations.
There were 27 Designated Players listed as midfielders in MLS this year, although some may move up to the forward line occasionally. Together, these midfielders cost over $46.5 million in compensation, with an average per player of just over $1.7 million. DP midfielders scored 153 goals and were credited with 212 assists. That works out to a cost of $127,622 per goal or assist.
Midfielders are expected, at least in part, to be two-way players. Therefore, they were assessed on both offensive and defensive statistics, as shown in the chart above. The offensive statistics I used include goals, assists, key passes, and pass completion percentage. The defensive stats were the total number of tackles, interceptions, clearances, and blocks per game.
Best Offensive Performers
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I figured out how much each goal and assist cost per player, to see which players offered the most value for their team. That figure is shown in the last column. By just that measure, Tomas Martinez of the Houston Dynamo came out the clear winner. Others that performed well by that metric include Kaku of NYRB, Paul Arriola of D.C. United, and Santiago Mosquera of FC Dallas.
Martinez was involved in 18 goals (five goals and 13 assists), and represented a tremendous value for Houston, since he also was the lowest paid DP of all the midfielders and second lowest of all DPs. Not coincidentally, Kaku, Arriola, and Mosquera all were paid well below the average for midfield designated players.
Outside of cost considerations, the top players offensively were Romain Allesandrini, Ignacio Piatti, Nicolas Lodeiro, Borek Dockal, and Miguel Almiron, who all averaged close to a goal or assist per every 90 minutes played.
The best passers were Lodeiro and Maxi Moralez. They were the only two midfielders that averaged more than three key passes per game and completed more than 80% of their passes. Borek Dockal and Federico Higuain also came close to those levels.
Best Defensive Performers
The midfield defensive stars sometimes played as true defensive midfielders, but were sometimes just excellent at tracking back and helping snuff out opposing teams’ attacks from more advanced positions. The player with the best stats, based on the number of defensive actions per game, was Bastian Schweinsteiger, although he often played at center-back, which partially inflated his numbers. Other players with the best defensive stats were Roger Espinoza, Jonathan do Santos, Michael Bradley, and Felipe Gutierrez, who all averaged more than four defensive actions per game.
MVP DP of Midfielders?
So, who was the best midfielder statistically? 16 players are listed above as either an exceptional offensive value, strong goal and assist producers, or defensive stalwarts. Which one stood out above the rest?
The best DP midfielder combined above average value per goal and assist record, excellent per game average in goals and assists, top-five passing stats, and also contributed strong defensive help, being above average in the number of defensive actions per game. The best MLS midfield designated player in 2018 by these measures was Nicolas Lodeiro of the Seattle Sounders.
Who do you think was the best midfielder DP in 2018? Let me know in the comments. In the third part of this series, I’ll look at the DP forwards in the league.