The midfield dilemma: Crew, Toronto FC dealing with key absences

Higuain, Bradley set to miss Saturday’s clash

Bradley Higuain

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USA Today Sports Images

When asked how he thought Saturday’s match between Toronto FC and Columbus would differ stylistically with both Federico Higuain and Michael Bradley out, Gregg Berhalter answered honestly: “it’s hard to tell.”

And who could blame him? These two players are the midfield engines that make their sides go. Toronto FC has played three matches without Bradley this season, but Columbus has yet to suit up under Berhalter without Higuain.

Quantifying each player’s influence and importance to his side reveals just how shape-shifting the absences could be. Below are charts that express each player's touches, passes and chances created as a percentage of team total while that player was on the field:

Player Touches Total Touches %
Federico Higuain 1,006 8,319 12.1%
Michael Bradley 424 3,385 12.5%
Player Passes Total Passes %
Federico Higuain 789 5,854 13.5%
Michael Bradley 295 1,991 14.8%
Player Chances Created Total Chances %
Federico Higuain 43 120 35.8%
Michael Bradley 19 60 31.7%

Keep in mind that the above numbers are for matches that only Higuain and Bradley have played in; that's why Bradley's totals are lower, but the percentages reveal the overall importance of each. These percentages are comparable to those of some other elite MLS players thought to be "midfield engines," as shown below:

Player Touches % Passes % Chances %
Federico Higuain 12.1% 13.5% 35.8%
Michael Bradley 12.5% 14.8% 31.7%
Javier Morales 13.6% 14.7% 36.6%
Vincent Nogueira 12.1% 14.2% 11.6%
Lee Nguyen 11.2% 12.3% 21.9%
Benny Feilhaber 11.2% 12.4% 19.7%

It remains to be seen what Berhalter and Ryan Nelsen will do to fill these voids, but one thing is for sure: given the clear importance of each player relative to his team, doing so should prove difficult.

All statistics courtesy of Opta Sportsdata.