What we said at the end of 2016:
Shkëlzen Gashi’s first full season in MLS was, by most accounts, a rousing success. Gashi scored 9 goals and bagged 4 assists in 26 regular season games, plus nabbed the equalizer against the LA Galaxy at home in playoffs to force the game to PKs and eventually push the team through to the MLS Semi-Finals. Gash also won Goal of the Year for a picture-perfect free kick. This is how you DP.
... this team also defends front to back, as is the mandate of boss Pablo Mastroeni. Players like Marlon Hairston and Shkelzen Gashi were tremendous at harassing teams into high turnovers in 2016, and I imagine we’ll see more of that this year.
2017 Counting Stats:
17 GP, 12 GS, 2 G, 1 A, 1034 min, 1 YC
2017 Key Stats :
A) In the 17 games Gashi played for the Rapids this season, Gashi played a full 90 minutes only 6 times.
B) Gashi was paid $1.67 million in 2017, and occupies one of the Rapids’ three DP slots.
Well, that’s easy. Gashi scored a brace against San Jose on May 13th. The second was on that memorable pass from Dominique Badji that he make from his backside.
You’ll note that those were his only two goals on the year.
In one of the team’s worst all-around displays of the year, the Rapids had 15 shots on goal against Vancouver at home on May 5th, and put only one on target to require a save. Gashi had five of those shots. The Rapids lone on-target shot was his, but overall, it wasn’t clicking on the night for the Rapids most-trusted sniper.
Against the LA Galaxy on September 2nd, Gashi had just one shot and one Key Pass to go along with just 23 for 28 in completed passes. That “Key Pass”, was a 5-yard dink to Luis Gil, 40 yards from goal that Luis Gil wildly swung at, only to be blocked. Gashi was invisible in this match, and got subbed off at the 58th minute. Here’s his action map:
These two games pretty much summarize two-thirds of all the matches Gashi played in 2017. He had a few good games where he created a little and threatened a little. In the rest, he either took a bunch of long shots that didn’t go in, or he wandered around the pitch, contributing little in the way of passes or shots.
There’s not much disagreement about what happened with Shkëlzen Gashi in 2017. He’s two instagram pics from the offseason before the MLS regular season began:
Aaaaaaand here’s what Interim GM Padraig Smith said in looking back at Gashi’s 2017 season a few weeks ago on Altitude950’s Vic Lombardi show:
Padraig on Gashi: “his production was disappointing.” He “did not follow the off season plan we had for him.” #Rapids96— Rapids Rabbi (@rapidsrabbi) October 25, 2017
More on Gashi: “We’ve spoken with him about the problems.” And, paraphrasing, he’s assured them he’ll work hard in the offseason. #Rapids96— Rapids Rabbi (@rapidsrabbi) October 25, 2017
Possibly related to Gashi’s offseason extra curricular activities and his lack of fitness coming into Rapids preseason camp in 2017, Gashi injured his Achilles during the Desert Diamond Cup in February.
Gashi is dealing with some Achilles inflammation. #Rapids96 have him in a 2 1/2 week plan to build fitness and avoid inflammation.— Daniel Boniface (@danielboniface) February 12, 2017
Gashi missed matches in March, June, and July for the Rapids. He was eased back into regular duty by coming off the bench as a sub in late March and early August, as well. In the Rapids final eight matches of the season, Gashi only played 51 minutes total, and was given zero starts by Interim Head Coach Steve Cooke. Essentially, Gashi missed half the season, likely as a result of poor preparation for the 2017 season while simultaneously cavorting on a luxury yacht in Dubai, and was relegated to the bench due to his poor performance as the season stumbled to its ignoble conclusion.
Now is the part where I mention, again, that Gashi was paid $1.67 million dollars for 2017.
Guys, I’ve got nothing against millionaires. If you do a job that people value, you deserve to be lucratively compensated. You deserve your luxury yacht. If you don’t put in the work, though, and you turn out to be a huge disappointment, and your play or your missed injury time hurts the club, it’s inexcusable.
Among MLS DPs, few players were as calamitously bad and unproductive as Gashi. Only Yura Movsisyan, Simon Dawkins*, and Giles Barnes were as ineffective. There are 57 MLS DPs and Gashi was in the bottom 10% of that list.
Additionally, how well your DPs play is a huge component in how good your team is. Yura Movsisyan was bad: RSL finished 8th in the Western Conference. Giles Barnes was bad: Orlando finished 10th in the Western Conference. Simon Dawkins was bad: San Jose made the playoffs in 6th! Imagine how good they’ve be if he had actually been productive in 2017. And to really illustrate the point, Minnesota United had zero DPs in 2017, and they finished 9th in the West. Your DP production is a significant part of what determines your success in MLS. If you get no production, you get no success.
I can’t know this for sure, but I also want to cast a bit of shady side-eye at the Rapids medical and training staff. Putting aside the fact that Gashi came in out-of-shape, Gashi came back on to play in March, got re-injured, came back out again in late April and May, and was re-hurt in June. Somehow, the medical staff just didn’t read the tea leaves right. It’s possible that these injuries are flukes and the training staff didn’t rush things. But I’m really skeptical. Coaches and players always—ALWAYS—want to come on before they’re ready. Trainers and doctors need to do a good job to accurately evaluate when the body is ready, and how to keep all the rest of the body humming and clicking along, and not compensating for weaker or damaged limbs.**
When Gashi was healthy, here were his advanced metrics:
Expected Goals: 2.46 ; Goals: 2 ; xG-G: -0.46 Shots: 27
Key Passes: 24 ; Expected Assists: 2.45 ; Assists: 1 ; xA-A: -1.45
xA per 96: 0.22, 41st amongst all MLS players.
The numbers tell us that he didn’t get into shooting spots enough, and he was a below-average shooter when he was pulling the trigger. He was a fairly useful passer, though. His xA per 96 stat, a measure of how often he generated really good passes that should have been goals, was pretty good. With more time on the field and a full season of health and good finishers around him***, Gashi might have actually been good.
Gashi’s defensive performance also took a slight decline from 2016 to 2017. As a high-pitch harrasser in 2016, Gashi recorded a solid 1.3 tackles per game and 0.8 interceptions per game. In 2017, those numbers declined, as he had only 1.1 tackles per game and 0.4 interceptions per game. You could chalk that up to the team’s change of tactics and change of coaches, but I think it’s more likely a result of all of Gashi’s other problems.
A healthy, well-trained, well-prepared Gashi might have been very good in 2017. Perhaps I put too much emphasis on his lack of fitness to start the year. Maybe, like Nana Boateng, the injuries really are the main story, and a full year of health would really be required for us to accurately assess Gashi’s year. Maybe.
Gashi is likely on a three-year deal, although the terms of his original deal and his transfer fee, are undisclosed. Whether or not that’s correct, Gashi has a lot to play for in 2018: redemption, pride, reputation, and potentially his next contract as well. A return to his 2016 form would help improve the Rapids immensely. A repeat of Gashi’s 2017 struggle, though, and the team will be undermined from the get-go. For the good of the team, and because he cost so damn much, we’re expecting a lot more from Shkëlzen in 2018.
Abbie’s 2017 Grade: D
Rabbi’s 2017 Grade: D-
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* My word, Simon Dawkins was horrendous. He was placed on the bench on August 5th and stayed there, unused, through the end of the Quakes seasons. He was paid $800,000 in 2017 for just 637 minutes of play.
** You can yell at me if you feel I’m talkin’ outta by butt here: “You’re out of your element Donny!” However, my wife is a physical therapist, so I hear about this stuff a lot. You have no idea how many of my dinner time conversations revolve around gait analysis and the musculoskeletal system.
*** The Rapids finishing this year was really bad. I explained that here.