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Is Alex Ring still the right choice at left wing?

Despite getting goals, is NYCFC’s captain being played out of position becoming detrimental?

MLS: FC Cincinnati at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Since 2017, we have seen Alexander Ring be a rock in New York City FC’s midfield. Whether he’s paired with the box-to-box Keaton Parks or with wunderkind James Sands, the Ringleader has always found ways to disrupt opposing attackers with aplomb.

Recently, NYCFC Ronny Deila has experimented with Ring at left wing which has effectively left DP winger Alexandru Mitrita on benchwarming duty. And to be fair, some of the stats seem to justify this move. In his last five appearances — four of which from the left flank — Ring has provided City with three goals, including one this past weekend against FC Cincinnati in a 2-1 win.

But a recent Twitter thread from Outfield contributor Justin Egan (@EganSoccerWords) shows a troubling peak under the surface of what look like overall solid performances.

As seen in the clip above, Ring seems to lack the dribbling skills and dynamic abilities to take on defenders 1-v-1. Too often, the NYCFC captain turns the ball over either on the dribble or through a forced pass into the middle of the park. These issues are exacerbated when Ring is in a very wide position and is forced to find space.

When in the attacking third, Ring only completed 71.4% of his passes against Cincinnati, which was second worst of any starter on the team above only that of replacement left back Gudmundur Thórarinsson. As mentioned by Egan, the Ringleader’s passing percentage was equal to that of right back Anton Tinnerholm. However, one cannot compare the numbers of a fullback to a winger. In attacking positions, the latter has to have his shit together and be able to consistently string passes together. As far as wingbacks/fullbacks are concerned, their passes are situational — center the ball when the box gets crowded.

Despite scoring a goal of his own, Ring — according to Egan — shared a team low rating of -0.21 Goals Added, tied only with right winger Jesus Medina. Ring also had negative marks in dribbling, with his only “positive” stat being receiving.

I’m not one to argue with the team collecting 13 points out of possible 15 in their last five games. And having managed one of the bigger clubs in Europe in Celtic for a number of years, I’d be willing to bet that Ronny Deila has forgotten more about football than I could ever learn. But even with that said, I can’t help but feel like NYCFC is leaving so much potential on the table with playing players like Ring out of position while leaving the likes of Mitrita and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to ride the pine.