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Kaye is one of the best midfielders in the MLS, and he was a cheap sign from the USL. Is there another Kaye playing in the USL?

Mark-Anthony Kaye is right now one of the best midfielders in the MLS. He was signed from a USL team 2 years ago, where he played 4 seasons with 3 different teams. His debut in the MLS came when he was 23 years and has not stopped playing since then, leaving on the bench players like Feilhaber or Nguyen.


According to one source, Kaye was signed for “an undisclosed fee believed to be one of the highest-paid for a USL player”. But, let's be honest, that is still cheaper than a Felipe Gutierrez, Llenget or Bedoya to mention players that have similar characteristics and positions. And if there was a Kaye in 2017 with 22 years in the USL, it might be another one in 2019. So, who is the next Mark-Anthony Kaye? 


Discloser: 

The idea is not to find a player with the same toolset or game style that Kaye has. The idea is to find someone with similar stats, age, and position that might not be under the radar of any MLS team. The last 2 season of the Canadian player, was with Lousiville City FC (after his contract finished with Toronto FC), who have not a partnership with any MLS team.


Let's begin with Kayes number on his 2017 season in the USL when he was 22:


First of all, let's see his % of successful actions and passes:



Def duels won %

Shots on target %

Dribbles succ. %

Passes acc. %

Lng passes acc. %

Thru passes acc. %

P. to the box %

Kaye

53.3

45.2

48.1

73.8

27.8

26.3

51


With these stats, I search for players in their early 20’s that match. The nominees for the next Kaye are:


  • Cristian Parano (21), playing his first season in the USL (San Antonio) after he moved from San Martín San Juan from Argentina.
  • Eryk Williamson (22), was part of the USMNT U20 in the world cup of 2017, in that time he was playing NCAA with Maryland.
  • Felipe Hernández (21), Colombian playing his 3rd season with the Swope Kansas City. He played with the U19 USMNT.
  • Antonio Bustamante (22), Loudon County FC (DC United academy), sign as Homegrown player.



Of course, these numbers are a little bit tricky, why? because some of these players do not match with the average per 90 actions in some of the stats. For example, is not the same have a 60% success in defensives duel when you only have 2.85 a game than when you have over 8 per 90 minutes. I can explain that with the next table: 




Player

Def duels per 90

Intercep. per 90

Dribbles per 90

xA per 90

Shot assist

xG per 90

Shots per 90

Prog. runs

Kaye

8.53

3.48

5.76

0.14

1.42

0.17

1.83

2.13

C. Parano

5.42

1.84

8.61

0.11

1.55

0.19

1.89

3.77

E. Williamson

6.23

3.97

4.47

0.18

1.77

0.22

2.01

1.65

F. Hernández

5.69

3.21

3.54

0.05

0.98

0.11

1.56

1.61

A. Bustamante

2.85

1.29

3.5

0.16

1.45

0.09

1.4

1.4


The lack of defensives actions from Bustamante and the xA and low shot assist from Hernández took them out of the race. The xG, Shots-per 90 and progressive runs numbers from Parano and Williamson are really even, but this post is about players that have not debuted in MLS yet, and Williamson just did it this season, Parano is the one the looks the most likely to become Mark-Anthony Kayes, and both are left-footed. And played as attacking midfielder or wingers in the USL.



But that is just from the stats point of view. Reality is totally different, they have a totally different game style. Parano is shorter with a low gravity center, he turns really quick, dribbles with an astounding easiness in small areas. He is really quick-moving in open areas. Kaye, on the other hand, is more pass-oriented, taller, needs more space to use his long stride at full speed, can not dribble in small areas, but oh boy, he can pass.


But the idea of looking at the next Kaye is more an exercise for me to dig in the USL stats and find an interesting player. And it worked, now I found a really interesting player like Parano and quality passing of Williamson and Bustamante. Next post, a video report about Parano.


The other nominees were:

Louis Chapa Herrera (El Paso Locomotive), Andre Fortune (North Caroline FC), Cam Lindsey (Memphis 901), Zeiko Lewis (Charleston Battery).




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