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Inside the Numbers: Darwin Quintero re-signs

We take a look inside the numbers at why the Dynamo bringing Quintero back is a huge plus.

MLS: FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

El Científico del Gol is coming back for his 3rd season with the Houston Dynamo. Darwin Quintero re-signed through the 2022 season with an option for 2023, as a TAM player, compared to prior years when he was a DP. Over the past two seasons, Darwin has scored 10 goals and assisted 9 more. The Dynamo’s success has not correlated with Darwin’s productive output over the past two seasons, finishing last in the West two years in a row.

My hypothesis is that Quintero will continue to produce as an elite player but will continue to be underappreciated by the fan base if results don’t follow. Quintero started off the 2021 season as a super sub, but the role didn’t really fit his skill set. As a heavily involved on ball player, he was unable to get in the rhythm of the game and he struggled (0g, 0a). He did not start until match week 24 when the Dynamo ended their 16th game winless streak against Austin FC.

In games Darwin started, the Dynamo averaged 1.22 points per game. In games he sat, Dynamo averaged 0.76 points per game. Darwin only started 9 games in 2021 so this is a small sample, but I think most fans would agree that the Dynamo played better with Quintero on the field.

Without Quintero, the Dynamo had no consistent offensive identity or creative outlet to move the ball forward. What makes Quintero so special is his substantial ball progression and shot creation production. Using the scouting report from fbref, we can see how Quintero excels in these areas.

Compared to other attacking midfielders and wingers in MLS, Quintero ranks in the 98th percentile for shot creating actions (the two actions directly leading to a shot) and in the 97th percentile for progressive passes. Quintero also ranks above the 80th percentile for progressive carries and passes received. Only Carles Gil and Emanuel Reynoso averaged more progressive actions per 90 than Darwin Quintero.

Quintero is able to progress the ball forward and also has the creativity to generate shots for himself and his teammates. No other player on the Dynamo is proficient at even one of those skills. Memo Rodriguez was second in the team with 3.86 SCAs per 90 (73rd percentile). Tyler Pasher was second in the team with 4.46 progressive passes per 90 (74th percentile). Both are good at the specialized skills, but neither are as great as Quintero who can do both.

Fbref has another fun tool that creates a list of 10 players who display similarities in their statistical profile. Here are the 10 players in MLS that have the most similar statistical output as the mad scientist.

These are the who’s who of playmakers in the league. You have possibly the best MLS player ever in Carlos Vela and the two most recent MVPs: Carles Gil and Alejandro Pozuelo. However, Quintero isn’t really mentioned with these players as an elite player in MLS.

Some non-believers may say that Quintero is a ball hog so he is able to produce high counting stats, but he hurts his team more by being lackadaisical with the ball. This is where g+ comes in. American Soccer Analysis defines g+ (goals added) as a metric that measures a player’s total on-ball contribution in attack and defense. It does this by calculating how much each touch changes their team’s chances of scoring and conceding across two possessions. So, g+ quantifies how each on-ball action a player takes increases or decreases his team’s and the other team’s probability to score. G+ greatly appreciates a man of science. Over the last two years, only Carles Gil (.13) has had a higher attacking g+ than Darwin Quintero (.12) per 96 minutes. Below is Darwin Quintero 2021 g+ wheel, created by Eliot McKinley.

American Soccer Analysis

We can see that Darwin is an elite passer of the ball. This should help him as he ages because passing is one of the skills that is least impacted by physical decline as players age.

In every scientific experiment you need to recognize faults in your study. One frequent criticism of Quintero is that his lack of defensive acumen outweighs his offensive production. Quintero did only rank in the 20th percentile for pressures with 14.48 per 90 minutes. However, Carles Gil only averaged 12.37 pressures per game. I didn’t hear anybody complaining about his lack of effort on the defensive side of the ball, as he won MVP this year! As we have seen in this article, Quintero and Gil are similar so why make an offensive genius exert unnecessary effort on defense when he can use that energy to carry you on offense?

Hopefully during the 2023 season, the new manager is more appreciative of Quintero’s abilities and he is able to help propel the Dynamo into the first playoff appearance since 2017.