Chivas USA 2012 Player Postmortem: Ryan Smith

Smith: A nice enough bloke. - Ric Tapia

The winger was tied for the team lead in assists, but he seldom started. How was Smith's season?

Ryan Smith was one of the biggest enigmas for Chivas USA in 2012. He tied Miller Bolaños with the team lead in league assists, with four, and at times he looked like the kind of player to build a team with. On the other hand, he was the team's only real bench option this year (so he didn't start a lot), got tripped up by small injuries throughout the season, and was horrible at defending.

Of course, he's a winger, so Smith's offensive contributions were more significant. After leaving Sporting Kansas City last year on abrupt terms, the Englishman moved back to the U.S. with his ill mother in tow, and coming into the season, he seemed recommitted to his MLS career. Despite the insane amount of animosity he inspires in Kansas City, he seemed to be a professional all season. I thought he worked hard week in and week out.

The issue with Smith, as with too many Chivas players this year, was his level of consistency. From game to game, Smith could be electrifying or invisible, and there was seldom a level in between. During the highs, such as his two assist performance when he torched the Portland Timbers in April to hand Chivas a 2-1 win, he was a gamechanger. But there were too many games in the middle when he couldn't seem to supply the forwards, and we all know how hard it was for Chivas to score this season.

It could be argued that the imbalanced formation muted Smith's impact, as when he was used, he was usually the only winger on the field. With forwards like Cesar Romero and Juan Agudelo being pushed back as midfielders/wingers at times, and Ben Zemanski and Blair Gavin playing as central midfielders, only out wide, there was seldom balance to give opposing defenses trouble covering the field. With either Smith or Laurent Courtois the only wingers, both left-sided, defenses just had to worry about one player out wide who could send in crosses, take on defenders, and occasionally hit some shots, instead of the customary two. As a result, it was easy to isolate those wingers when they were facing good defenses.

I think one mark against Smith is his durability. He has spent parts of the last three seasons in MLS, so he's accustomed to the play, but he takes a lot of punishment on the field, and he's pretty slight of build. One cannot predict a player's injury future, but I think counting on Smith to stay healthy for more than 30 games a year is unlikely.

Here are Smith's statistics for 2012:

Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 21 12 1,215 0 4 23 5 3 0
U.S. Open Cup 3 1 57 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 24 13 1,272 0 4 23 5 3 0

I do think Smith was a pretty good player to have around, and I would be fine with him coming back. I think that is highly unlikely, however. Since he counts as an international player, and the expectation is that Chivas will be bringing a lot of new foreign players in for 2013, I doubt he will be back. There is a single rumor bouncing around linking him with a move to Greece, but it is hard to give that full credence unless other reports corroborating that come up. I liked Smith with Chivas, but I think he'll be moving on.

Grades:

Scoring Threat: B
Fact that surprised me: Smith was fifth on the team in shots. In the the prior 23 games preceding his time with Chivas, Ryan Smith scored three goals so it stands to reason next year we could see the Englishman find the back of the net.

Playmaker (Passing/Creativity): A
Smith the talisman--when he was on the field, good things often happened. For instance, Smith is among the team leaders in plus-minus differential with -6 which breaks out to -.38 per appearance. In other words, Chivas USA roughly was outscored every three games with Smith in the lineup. By contrast Shalrie Joseph ceded -1.83 goals per appearance.

Player POS GP GS MINS Plus/Minus +/- per game
Jorge Villafana M 14 9 906 -5 -0.36
Ryan Smith M 21 12 1215 -8 -0.38
Alejandro Moreno F 22 17 1520 -9 -0.41
Ben Zemanski M 22 18 1649 -13 -0.59
Heath Pearce D-M 10 10 900 -6 -0.60
Juan Pablo Angel F 19 9 1004 -13 -0.68
Rauwshan McKenzie D 20 19 1732 -14 -0.70
Danny Califf D 19 19 1674 -15 -0.79

Smith was fourth on the team in key passes. Key passes are defined by Opta as passes that are either the first or second pass before a shot. Not all shots are created equal but this certainly measures his ability to progress the attack.

It's been mentioned before, but Smith also made plays keeping the ball on the floor by beating opponents on the dribble. Opta measures this through a statistic called "Successful Dribbles" and "Unsuccessful Dribbles." (In other leagues they combine the two and call it "Take-ons").

As a team, Chivas did not do well in this department. Of 400 attempts, the team only succeeded 153 times. Smith led the team in rate conversion finishing an even 33 successful dribbles and 33 unsuccessful dribbles.

Smith also showed the most aggression on the dribble averaging 2.44 take-ons per 45 minutes.

Player Successful Dribble Unsuccessful Dribble Success Rate
Juan Agudelo 18 39 31.58%
Miller Bolanos 25 31 44.64%
Jorge Villafana 10 12 45.45%
Nick LaBrocca 12 12 50%
Ryan Smith 33 33 50%

Defense: C
Smith's offensive contributions mask his defensive flaws. He really does well to be deployed on the left flank in a 4-3-2-1 or even up top in a 4-3-3. He was often late in his tackles and drew both fouls and cards. However, he did well to read and react to passing patterns and get his foot in to either deflect a pass or regain possession outright.

Player TO/per 45
R.Smith 2.44
P.Cardozo 1.96
M.Bolanos 1.36
L.Courtois 0.99
N.LaBrocca 0.47
O.Minda 0.41
J.Villafana 0.40
B.Zemanski 0.35
P.Vagenas 0.21

- Matthew Hoffman

GM's Evaluation:

One of my favorite acquisitions of the season, I'm severely disappointed in how underutilized Ryan Smith was. Part of it was due to injury, and the rest of it was due to who knows what. Every time he took the field in the preseason, he provided the team with the necessary offensive threat down the flanks that we didn't have in 2011. It seemed like all we needed was a few weeks for him and the other team members to gel before we saw something truly great. But, as we know all too well, that didn't happen. I would love to see Smith stick around and find himself with Chivas USA. Of course, with all the player rumors going around, we have no idea what will happen with much of the current team. However, this is one player I would actually call Chivas USA about every day to keep around (is that too crazy? Who knows. But he has the skill I'd like to see in players on this team).

- Rachna Kapur

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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