The Dynamo midfield was pretty meh during the 2020 season. Besides Memo Rodríguez (5 G / 2 A), no one really contributed in the penalty area. Matias Vera, Darwin Cerén and Boniek García combined for only 1 goal and 2 assists. That’s a goal or an assist every 1,348 minutes, or every 15 games. Midfielders’ only job isn’t to directly contribute to goals, but it is an important part. Midfielders need to be able to defend, press, progress the ball, dribble etc. A majority of teams play with 2 – 4 midfielders at a time and each midfield will have a different tactical role based on their skillset.
John Muller writes a weekly newsletter about how the best teams tick, and in a recent newsletter John categorized European midfielders into various personality types based on their statistical output. These personality types measure what type or role a player plays, but not necessarily how well the player plays. I reached out to John and I was able to get this analysis for MLS players as well. Here are the “personality” types for the 2021 Dynamo midfielders:
Darwin Ceren and Matias Vera - Protector (ISFJ)
Players with the Protector role are usually the last line of defense in the midfield. They have an active role on the defensive side of the ball but are less frequently involved on the offensive side of the ball than other midfielders. They typically complete a high percentage of their passes due to the lack of progressive or risky passes attempted.
Both these players’ best position has been a 6 in a 3-man midfield in the past. Ceren has been utilized as a box to box midfielder in the past, but I think his best talents are defensive. In preseason so far, both players have ventured farther up the field. We will see if they can contribute more effectively to goals and assists this year. I think Vera will be the starter at the 6 position and Ceren will be predominantly a backup midfielder.
Joe Corona – Champion (ENFP)
These midfielders tend to be on the ball more and score or assist more goals than other midfielders. Players like Corona tend to excel at progressing the ball up field by dribbling opponents compared to progressing the ball by passing through opponents.
Compared to other Champions, Corona is highly active on defensive as well. According to fbref, Corona is in the 90th percentile for tackles and interceptions. Corona should be the ideal 8 for the team because he can contribute to scoring goals and stopping goals effectively. I expect Corona to start the season off slow, but by the end of the season, he should be a locked in starter between the more attacking midfielder and the defensive midfielder.
Similar Players: Jonathan Dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Aníbal Godoy (Nashville SC)
Boniek García and Derrick Jones – Composer (ISFP)
Midfielders with the Composer personality are very similar to Protectors, except they dribble the ball more and defend a little less. These midfielders frequently dribble out of pressure from the midfield and will play a safe pass after.
Derrick Jones played a majority of his minutes with Nashville last season as a number 10. So far, during preseason Tab has used him as the deepest midfielder. I believe Tab not only likes his athleticism to help cover for other midfielders, but also his dribbling ability to progress the ball during buildup. I expect that Derrick Jones will get plenty of opportunities this year to prove that he can be a consistent contributor in MLS. Boniek is a club legend, but I think his role will be more one of team leadership than contributing on the field.
Memo Rodríguez – Mastermind (INTJ)
These midfielders don’t touch the ball frequently, but they are very effective with touches when they do. Mastermind players have high goals and assist output along with progressing the ball by passing through opponents.
Using data from fbref, Memo is in the 96th percentile for non-penalty expected goals plus assists per 90 compared to other midfielders with 0.4 npxG + xA. Memo only completes roughly 37 passes per game, in the 3rd percentile, but he is extremely effective at getting into the box to create/finish opportunities on goal.
Similar Players: Francisco Ginella (LAFC), Cristhian Paredes (Portland)
My concerns for the Dynamo midfield this season are that none of the players are elite ball progressers or shot creators. Last season, Quintero took on the role of progressing the ball forward and creating chances. If Darwin takes a step back or is moved to the bench, I worry the Dynamo will not be able to build up effectively or create chances for their forwards.