D.C. United takes on Orlando City SC tomorrow evening in Orlando, and we basically know the lineup that D.C. United is going to run out. Ben Olsen has used the same starting XI in each of the three games so far this season, and I don’t expect anything to change in this game. So I wanted to take a closer look at one particular player on D.C. United that has been key to their early season success: Junior Moreno.
In our contributor Slack channel, we have pondered as to whether or not Junior Moreno is the best defensive midfielder in MLS right now, and after thinking through it I think that he is. Consider the statistics from these five players:
Player A: 270 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists, 92.6% pass completion, 2.7 tackles per game, 0.7 interceptions per game, 2.3 fouls committed per game
Player B: 270 minutes, 2 goals, 0 assists, 87.4% pass completion, 2 tackles per game, 0.7 interceptions per game, 2.7 fouls committed per game
Player C: 162 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists, 1 red card, 91.7% pass completion, 3.5 tackles per game, 1 interception per game, 1.5 fouls committed per game
Player D: 270 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists, 90.2% pass completion, 3 tackles per game, 1 interception per game, 1 foul committed per game
Player E: 270 minutes, 0 goals, 2 assists, 88.7% pass completion, 4.7 tackles per game, 1.3 interceptions per game, 1.3 fouls committed per game
Have any guesses as to who these players are?
In order, they are Osvaldo Alonso, Michael Bradley, Diego Chara, Cristian Roldan, and Junior Moreno. The tackle and interception numbers really pop off the page, especially when you consider that Russell Canouse, Moreno’s midfield partner, is adding 3.7 tackles per game, 2 interceptions per game, and 1 foul committed per game.
Statistics aren’t everything, especially defensive statistics in soccer, but they confirm what our eyes have seen so far this year: Junior Moreno is an elite defensive midfielder in this league right now, and his inclusion in the team of the week two weeks shows that hopefully people outside of D.C. are starting to learn that too.