Three weeks ago, I wrote a post on Burgundy Wave praising the work of Chris Klute, who, despite being thrown in to the deep end after a rash of injuries during the LA Galaxy game, acquitted himself quite well in his first major minutes of the 2013 MLS season. Last week, I singled out Klute as not having a terribly good game against Salt Lake City, in part because his distribution was very poor. Later that same week, Klute received praise on Twitter for his performance against FSL, including being named to the MLS team of the week by Matthew Pavlich. And then yesterday, Burgundy Wave's own tibs2007 gave Klute a 4 in his player ratings for the game against Chivas USA.
So what does it all mean? Is Chris Klute "Eddie Pope, but faster" as Eric Wynalda claimed last year? Or is he a young, struggling left back learning on the fly and making his fair share of rooking mistakes? Or is he somewhere in between?
In order to help find some clarity, I decided to rate Klute's performance on Saturday night using a player rating system I have been throwing around in my head for some time. The player rating system is a hybrid of the hockey +/- rating. For the uninitiated, the concept behind the +/- rating in hockey is that you get a +1 if you are on the ice and your team scores and you get a -1 if you are on the ice and your team is scored on. It's a bit simplistic and doesn't really translate directly to soccer, but the core theory behind it is intriguing.
So, in order to adapt the concept to soccer, I decided that a player should be given a +1 for a good or great play during a game and should be given a -1 for a bad or awful play during a game. Average plays which a decent player is expected to make have no effect on the score. I also reserve the right to give +2 or -2 for exceedingly good or exceedingly bad plays. The whole thing is incredibly subjective (as most player ratings are) but over the course of 90 minutes, I believe it will give a good indication as to what type of game the player truly had.
To that end, I paid specific attention to Klute while watching the game on Saturday night and tallied up his score to try and get a true sense of how he is doing. My notes and scores from the game are provided below.
2nd Minute (-1): Chivas is awarded a free kick, during which Klute loses his man as a result of a pick. His man breaks free to the top of the 18 and attempts a one time shot, but scuffs it badly
4th Minute (-1): An errant pass by Chivas is floated in to Klute, who under no pressure, heads the ball directly back to Chivas.
14th Minute (+1 and -1): Klute gets forward well and does a good job trapping a poor clearance by Chivas. Klute then takes on and beats two Chivas defenders to earn a +1. However, once he enters the 18, he takes a horrible touch, loses the ball over the end line for a Chivas goal kick, and earns a -1.
16th Minute (+1): Klute is very well positioned on a cross field pass to Eric Avila, such that when Avila does a poor job controlling the pass, Klute pounces with a slide tackle and even wins a Rapids throw-in.
19th Minute (-2): Klute has a very poor sequence where he over-commits to the man with ball and frees Avila to receive a pass on an overlapping run. Avila eventually puts in a dangerous cross, with a scramble inside the 18 ensuing. The ball eventually falls to Klute, but his clearance is weak. After another scramble, Edson Buddle comes up with the ball and passes it to Klute to try and relieve pressure. But Klute mis-traps it and then, in a bit of a panic, turns the ball inside and into two Chivas defenders. He loses possession in a dangerous area, but is eventually bailed out by a Shane O'Neil clearance.
20th Minute (-1): Klute again fails to have composure on the ball and hits an errant clearance right back to Chivas despite being under no direct pressure.
20th Minute (+1): Klute uses excellent positioning and reads Chivas' play very well and is able to intercept a pass. He then splits two Chivas defenders and plays a nice vertical ball to Dillon Powers that springs a Rapids attack.
28th Minute (-1): Another poor clearance goes right back to Avila when Klute could have likely headed back to Clint Irwin.
38th Minute (-1): Avila burns Klute one on one using a very simple cut inside.
38th Minute (+1): After a Chivas passing sequence, the ball comes back to Avila and Klute does a good job applying high pressure in Chivas' half of the field. He toe pokes the ball away from Avila, and DeShorn Brown is able to pounce on the ball and start a sequence that leads to Atiba Harris firing strong but right at Dan Kennedy.
40th Minute (+1): Avila again tries to beat Klute by cutting inside, but Klute has learned his lesson and takes the ball off Avila.
41st Minute (+1 and -1): Klute makes a great overlapping run that is picked out by Powers. However, as Klute gets inside the 18, he makes a mess of his shot and ends up lobbing the ball way over goal.
43rd Minute (+1): Klute gets to a 50/50 ball first at the top of the Rapids 18, maintains possession and makes a long pass that springs a counterattack.
44th Minute (+1): Klute plays a seeing eye pass 35 yards to DeShorn Brown making a diagonal run to the top of the 18 yard box that leads to a chance on goal.
45th Minute (+1): Klute wins another one on one battle with Avila as he tries to move the ball inside.
47th Minute (+1): Klute shows composure as he traps an errant pass by Chivas and plays short to Shane O'Neil to relieve pressure.
50th Minute (+1): Klute does well to go up strong and win a 50/50 ball in the air at the top of the Rapids 18.
57th Minute (-2): Klute's worst moment of the game. He plays a bad pass that is intercepted by Avila in the Rapids third of the field. Avila then burns Klute twice on the dribble before putting in a dangerous cross. Rapids are lucky when Courtois puts his shot from 15 yards out over the bar.
66th Minute (-1): Avila burns Klute again, this time at the end line, and puts in a dangerous cross for another Chivas goal scoring opportunity.
71st Minute (+1): Klute does another good job of reading how a play is developing and does a good job to step out and tackle a ball away from Avila.
78th Minute (-1): Klute regresses and is beaten by a simple speed move when he over commits to Avila.
83rd Minute (-1): Klute is beaten in the air on a Chivas free kick, which results in a shot on goal (although easily saved by Irwin).
Final Score: -2
Chris Klute's final rating of -2 for the Chivas game shows that he struggled dealing with the dangerous play of Eric Avila and, although he got forward, his contributions to the Rapids offense left something to be desired. However, the rating is just a snap shot of his play so far this year. We'll all have to continue to monitor Klute before we can truly make a judgment on how he is adapting to MLS and whether he is the Rapids left back of the future.