Armchair Analyst: 5 surprises in the MLS Castrol Index

New player evaluation tool sure to provide grist for the mill

Check out the first-ever MLS Castrol Index here.

5 - Let’s all admit that the first thing we did with
the index was scan for the “big names” in MLS and see where they rank.
Henry at No. 1 makes some sense - especially if you can forget all the
missed sitters through the first month of the season - and most of the
other more recognizable names are there as well.

But... Landon Donovan at 104? After last summer the consensus was there weren’t 100 players in the world better than Donovan.

While it speaks to the indifferent start Donovan had to his season, it also speaks to a small sample size. Patience.

4 - Diego Cháves as the best newcomer in MLS?

The season’s young, and lest we all fall in love with Cháves too
quickly, harken back to the days of Fabian Taylor. The then-Metrostars
brought in the Jamaican striker to shore up a barren attacking corps in
2004. Through six games he notched four goals, then scored just one more
over the course of the season.

This isn’t to say that Cháves will suffer a similar fate, but as
good as he’s been, the Fire are off to as bad a start as they’ve ever
had. Let’s not count chickens.

3 - A real dearth of wide midfielders at the top of the heap

MLS is dominated by flank play, with not a single team in the league
launching most of their attacks up the middle. So where, then, are the
league’s best wingers? Donovan’s already been covered. Joel Lindpere,
Dane Richards and Marco Pappa are all in the 50s.

The highest-rated winger, Seattle’s Steve Zakuani, is No. 2 overall
and, unfortunately, out for the season. The only other wide midfielder
in the top 20 is Eddie Gaven, and he splits time between the wing and
the middle of the pitch.

2 - El Gato on the bottom

Every ‘keeper on the Castrol Index below Kevin Hartman is either a
backup filling in for a benched starter ... or a benched starter.

It’s again a work of small sample size. For all the upheaval at FC
Dallas, the defense has held firm and not allowed a ton of shots on
Hartman’s net. That means the goals he has conceded - one to Cháves
comes to mind - weigh heavier, and drag his rating down.

(By the way, on Wednesday night Hartman added seven saves to his
season tally in a 1-0 win over TFC. So he’ll probably be on the
upswing.)

1 - Atiba Harris???

Full disclosure: I’m a huge Atiba Harris fan. He’s a big, strong
center-forward with the speed, vision and versatility to play on the
wing. He wins balls in the air, drags defenders away from creative
midfielders and generally creates a metric ton of space for his team.

However, he’s definitely not a top-5 player over the course of a
whole season. But for the time he was on the field this year?
Absolutely.

It’s no coincidence that Vancouver’s offense went bone-dry when
Harris went out. And the top-5 rating is reflected by the fact that, not
only was Harris doing his regular donkey work, but he was adding goals
and assists as well. He’d come into his own playing alongside Eric
Hassli, and the ‘Caps miss him badly.

As does FC Dallas. For all the pain of Dax McCarty’s departure, it’s Harris who’s been missed most in Big D.

Still though... top 5?