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NYCFC DPs: How does their passing stack up against the rest of MLS?

Can Pirlo kick it? Yes, he can.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC has the maximum three designated players on their roster. David Villa, your reigning league MVP, has been top class as always. Maxi Moralez arrived in the winter and has exceeded expectations. Andrea Pirlo has been poor, and brings his fellow designated players down when we evaluate them as a group. This article, however, will shed some light on his benefits to the squad.

Having examined the NYCFC DPs against the rest of the league’s both offensively and defensively, this article seeks to determine how New York City’s trio stacks up when it comes to ball distribution. Two statistics will be used to compare players: Advanced Pass Completed per 90 and Overall Pass Completion Percentage.

The statistics are converted to per 90 to equalize for the fact that not all players have played the similar minutes. Advanced Passes consist of Crosses Completed, Long Balls Completed, and Through Balls Completed.

Two teams, Minnesota United and D.C. United, don’t have a designated player on their roster. This leaves 49 DPs to be analyzed.

After combing through the statistics, the results are not surprising: NYCFC have some damn good distributors.

(All statistics from WhoScored. Graphs made in Tableau)

Advanced Passes Completed per 90

MLS DPs APC/90

Andrea Pirlo, Il Maestro, is a world-renowned passer, and that ability has translated to MLS in no uncertain terms. He is our clear leader in APC per 90; unfortunately, that doesn’t justify his lack of defensive or physical ability. Maxi Moralez also is highly ranked, with almost 6 Advanced Passes Completed per 90 (Pirlo manages to double that with 12). David Villa is towards the middle of the pack, ranking 26th out of 49. Overall, NYCFC’s star men are true-blue passing artists.

Overall Pass Completion Percentage

MLS DPs Overall Pass Completion Percentage

Playing out of the back creates a lot of good chances for a team, but it also causes a lot of missed passes for the midfielders. This style means that players don’t necessarily complete a lot of passes. Maxi ranks 13th, Pirlo 9th, and David Villa 41st. It’s worth noting that Pirlo and Moralez complete a high percentage of passes given NYCFC’s style of play. Villa is no equal, but forwards tend to not complete as many passes. So, for the style NYCFC insist on playing play, this DP trio is taking care of business.

Final Analysis

Pirlo is a damn good passer. He’s also past his athletic prime, which tends to cause the kind of problems for NYCFC that can’t be ameliorated by ball-pinging virtuosity alone. Given the demands Patrick Vieira’s system places on a midfielder — Maxi, Alex Ring, and Yangel Herrera are expected to race around and do a little bit of everything — Pirlo’s passing skills aren’t impactful enough to make up for his defensive liability. Once again, it is clear that Moralez and Villa are working well for this team, but Pirlo needs to make a graceful exit.