Thursday, April 3, 2014

Stats: Michael Bradley is Insane

When Michael Bradley decided to move to Toronto FC this winter, there were a number of skeptics.  Why would a player on top of their game leave a European power (Roma) for a MLS doormat?  Before the season we took a look at what Toronto could expect from their new midfield maestro, trying to downplay his attacking qualities.  Now, just three weeks into his MLS career, it is clear that whatever expectations we may have had for Bradley are being blown out of the water.  Michael Bradley is already re-defining what an elite MLS midfielder looks like.

Even though he sits behind Toronto's attack, for the most part, Bradley has proven to be one of the most valuable shot creators in MLS in the first three weeks, accounting for a remarkable 48% of Toronto FC's shots. (SH/90=Shots per 90     KP/90=Key Passes per 90)

Although Toronto has really struggled with possession in their first three games (they pass a league low 1.5 times per possession),  Bradley has been the focal point of almost every sustained spell of possession.  His indispensability is best exemplified by his outrageously high (best in MLS) pass usage rate, which is simply the number of passes a player attempts divided by their team's total.  Bradley's rate of 23.5% implies that he is either passing or receiving a pass on an absurd ~47% of Toronto FC passes.

All of these stats are great, but only when taken in context with the arc of his career can one truly appreciate that the level Bradley is playing at is truly exceptional.  In particular, it is truly rare that a player lead their team in shots contributed (key passes + shots) AND in defensive actions (tackles + interceptions).

He may not always play like the best player in the world, and his ridiculous early season form might digress, but it is self-evident that Michael Bradley is making a strong case as the best midfielder in MLS and, perhaps, its best player.


  1. This is really great work. But wouldn't it be more accurate to use chances created instead of key passes. According to Opta, a key pass is as follows.

    The final pass or pass-cum-shot leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal without scoring.

    Chances created also would include assists (which key passes does not calculate).

    1. Thanks for the comment. I could be wrong, but looking around online I am fairly certain that "chances created" is the same thing as "key passes," or at least whenever I see someone cite a "chances created" number, that number ties exactly to's key passes. I'll definitely keep my eye on it in the future though.

  2. That makes sense. I just looked at's glossary and it does list key pass as a pass leading to a shot. It is different than Opta's definition. One thing to watch on your stats above. uses shots per game, not shots per 90 minutes. Take Plata for example. He has 9 shots on the year in 3 games played but he has only played 207 minutes, not 270 minutes. His shots per 90 should be 3.9 not 3.0.

    1. Ooh thanks for that catch. That's pretty important.