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OptaHunt: Castillo's Dribbling as Microcosm

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295- have attempted to dribble past an opponent 295 times in 2012, 58 more than the next highest total (RSL 237). Intentions.

96 - @OptaHunt Fabian Castillo leads all players in 2012 with 96 dribbles attempted and 34 completed. Aggressor.

A friend of mine is a neutral MLS fan, and after seeing FC Dallas once in person and a few times on TV, he offered the following reflections: 1) sometimes they look like a very good team, and at others times they resemble a very talented pick-up team that only just met each other 2) it's hard to tell whether the latter is due to a lack of experience, intelligence, tactics, leadership, or some combination thereof. I generally agree with that assessment, and alongside @OptaJack's tweets above it dawned on me that Fabian Castillo is the best representative of this team's most promising and annoying qualities.

To explain the tweets, Opta's definitions state that a dribble "is an attempt by a player to beat an opponent in possession of the ball." Getting past the defender is a successful dribble, losing the ball is not. So, Castillo is more confident in his ability to get past defenders than anyone else in MLS, but he's only right 34% of the time. What's more, when you realize that he has only played 920 minutes, it dawns on you that Fabian averages 9.39 dribbles per 90 minutes, and the rest of team combined averages 11.06 per game.

While confidence is certainly a useful attribute in an athlete, over-confidence can disrupt teamwork and derail results. By no means am I implying that Castillo is the biggest reason for FC Dallas' troubles this season, but he is an apt representative of many of the team's issues. His talent and youthful exuberance are both on display often, and they get in each others' way with regularity. Here are the dribble locations in Fabian's Chalkboard from Wednesday's match against Toronto in which he went 5/11 when taking on defenders:


He's attempting so many dribbles that the tactic is predictable for the defense. Not coincidentally, 4 of his 5 successes were in the first 21 minutes. Three of them came on a classic Castillo run in the 19th minute where he displayed his talent, worked his butt off, and squandered the opportunity he created by taking a shot from a difficult angle that was blocked by a defender.

Worse still, he sometimes tries to dribble past opponents in areas of the pitch where doing so is flat-out reckless, such as the 71st minute dribble he attempted near Kevin Hartman's goal. As Schellas Hyndman said in an interview with Daniel on May 10th:

When you go in to get a drink out of the faucet, you turn the faucet on and you put your glass under the faucet, but you don't turn the faucet on full blast because the water will go everywhere. I think that's Fabian..these are the things were working on because he's 19 years old. I'd rather have that talent and work on it than not to have the talent and wish you had it.

That's FC Dallas in a nutshell this year. They have talent, and they keep trying very hard, but until they slow down and work together they'll continue to make a mess of this season.