MLS All-Star voting closes Monday, July 2 at 2pm. Previously, we made the case for Dan Kennedy to start between the pipes, but he Kennedy isn't the only Chivas player deserving accolades. Did you know Chivas USA has the best right back in the league? Folks, it's crunch time and James Riley needs your votes.
Last week, Major League Soccer's website ran a series of articles under a theme called "Numerology." One such article used Opta data to determine the "statistical Best XI" for the 2012 All-Star Game. Their verdict, not only was Kennedy due a nod (duh!), but Riley as well:
Riley is making quite the impression in his first year with the Rojiblancos. The eight-year MLS veteran has become a staple on their backline, starting all 15 games at fullback. He ranks fifth in blocked crosses and leads all defenders with 16 successful crosses. Thanks to his ability to whip balls on the overlap, he's fifth for chances created and he should be pounding services into Chelsea’s box at every opportunity.
~ Ryan Krasnoo, "Numerology: Statistical Best XI for MLS All-Star Game"
I have to be honest, the mention of Riley surprised me. It didn't surprise me in that I didn't believe Riley isn't playing at an All-Star level--he is!!--but that defenders (or defense in general) tend to be an afterthought in All-Star games, in all sports. Exhibit A.
Now I'm not sure what it means to whip balls on the overlap, but it sounds like a good thing. Certainly Chivas is a better team for having Riley a part of it. There's a reason the attack has been flowing well through the right and Riley has been a top contributor. He has started all sixteen league games for Chivas (and one U.S. Open Cup match to boot). He is currently tied with Miller Bolaños and Ryan Smith for most assists on the team with two. Not a lot, but good enough for ninth among MLS defenders.
According to the latest results, Riley is 6th in voting among defenders despite putting up better numbers than some of the players ahead of him in fan voting.
In this chart, players are ranked by how they are currently ordered by fan voting. The second column is the players rank in the latest Castrol Index, a statistical ranking of players by how they help clubs both score goals and prevent opponents from scoring. The last column is the players Castrol score, the sum by which the index uses to rank players.
|AS Rank||Castrol Rank||Player||Club||Minutes||Score|
|5||212||George John||FC Dallas||1066||410|
|6||127||James Riley||Chivas USA||1440||486|
It's important to note that not only does Riley post better numbers than his current fan vote ranking of 6th, he is also the only one on the list who is not a centerback. Voting is broken down by simple positions. In other words, forward, midfielder and defenders, instead of fullbacks, centerbacks, wingers, defensive midfielders etc.). In MLS, centerbacks tend to get more attention in general than fullbacks, but it seems to bode well for Riley that he's the top vote-getter at last count among fullbacks.
Leaving Zarek Valentin unprotected then trading Justin Braun for Riley this past offseason was a gamble--and a rather unpopular one at that. Jose Domene and Robin Fraser stuck to their guns and, in the short term at least, have been vindicated. Besides playing at a higher level than the Generation Adidas graduate, Riley is a better bargain at $97,962.50 in guaranteed compensation versus Valentin's $142,000 (also guaranteed compensation).
Riley seems like a good bet to make it via the fan vote, but beware the last-minute campaigns from other teams (that includes Dan Kennedy, who is sitting behind Andy Gruenebaum of the Columbus Crew right now, for some reason). You can vote here. Just do it by Monday!