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Head To Head: Discussing Hernan Grana’s place with FC Dallas

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Our staffers have had mixed feelings about Grana, two of them engage in a angry, bitter back and forth.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I’m Jose (El Chico Carmona), and I’m one of the new guys. I write the weekly series Hoops Home and Abroad. I make no excuses, and I’m here to champion Grana!

I’m Jeff (txsnowman), also one of the new guys. I generally write about player recaps and try to provide insights into games & unspoken heroes. I’ll be the pragmatist here.

Since the first time our staffers got their first glimpse of Hernan Grana in an FC Dallas uniform, they’ve been at each others throat week in and week out. So let’s take a look at some lingering questions surrounding the Argentinian.


Question 1: MLS recently released the player salaries. Hernan Grana’s salary (200k base/225k total compensation), is he a deal, steal, bust, disappointment, or perhaps something else?

Jeff: This really depends on which comparison you are making. If we compare Grana to Graham Zusi (who is technically a right back now) then yes, he’s a good value. I wouldn’t call him a steal in any way right now. As for his salary, if we compare him to some of the top right backs from last year (using the Audi Player Index) then we find that our Grana is making about $15,000 more than the average of the top six. There are a number of things that come into play here, but I would say that even though I am unhappy about his play, he is being paid about just right. Not a deal or a steal, but definitely not a bust. Outside defenders are about the lowest paid players on average in the league, so saying he is overpaid is not accurate, nor is it accurate to say he is a steal because the position just doesn’t cost that much if we’re honest. Of course he is not going to get paid as much as Mauro Diaz, Roland Lamah or Cristian Colman who are tasked with creating and scoring the team’s goals. I will split the difference here and say that he is just about right.

Jose: Grana is a complete steal. Just compared to the other players on FCD's roster, Grana makes 45k more in salary than last years starter, Atiba Harris, and 100k less than Maynor Figueroa. Grana has outperformed Lamah, who makes 3x more, and Colmán who's a DP.

People forget that there's a learning curve to playing in MLS, and Grana will only get better as the season progresses. I don’t think you can say that about Maynor, or Atiba, as both of them are where they will be for the rest of the season, cause you know what they bring to the table, game in and game out. On the other hand, we’re just getting a glimpse of what Grana is capable of. Once Grana figures out the styles and tendencies of his teammates, then you’ll see him really take off.

Question 2: Some staffers believe that Grana needs to show more, and has been shaky. Does Grana need to show more? Should he even be starting?

Jeff: First and foremost - yes he needs to show more. Second - yes he should be starting. Let’s dive into why he needs to show more. He has to be better, and not give the ball away as much. His defensive work has been okay but I don’t think many would argue that he was brought in just to work defensively. His attacking ability helps the team, that much I won’t argue. I think the argument I would make is this - just because he’s the best option on the team does not mean we should be satisfied with his performance. He averages one key pass per game and two successful dribbles per game, which is pretty good. Grana also gets dispossessed nearly twice per game and his first touch lets him down twice per game. Comparing this to an attacking player isn’t quite fair so we will compare him to another defender on the roster - Figueroa. Maynor contributes over a shot per game, but less than a half key pass and less than one dribble per game. Those stats work in Grana’s favor, but what does not is that Figueroa gets fouled .6 times per game, and is only dispossessed once every five games. He averages just less than one bad touch per game as well. Continuing on this way we can look at their passing percentage - Figueroa at 72.5% and Grana at 76.6%. Maynor attempts about two less passes per game and has a slightly lower passing percentage, which I don’t know that anyone would be shocked by.

Defensively Maynor clears the ball over four times per game, contributes over three interceptions per game and has nearly four successful tackles per game. Comparatively Grana has 1.5 tackles per game, just over one clearance, and nearly two interceptions per game. Both players commit about a foul per game. Player rating wise - Figueroa averages 7.54 and Grana averages 6.79 for the season for MLS games (all stats via WhoScored.com). The reason I bring this up is to say that many people have been unhappy with Figueroa, and if he’s performing better - which the stats say he is - then why is everyone so happy with Grana? I just don’t get it. He’s the best right back we have but that doesn’t make him the best we can get.

Jose: Ouch! Jeff really hit me hard with those stats, and I bet he’s feeling pretty good about those numbers. Well, I’m a chess player, counter attacking is my style, and being a tricky SOB is where I excel at (My chess name is Houddinni).

My first order of business is telling you that I completely dislike the Audi Player Index (that’s a later article), and I’m just going to go ahead and ignore it. Second, for my stats, I’ll go with whoscored.com, stats that I can relate to, while not wondering about the idiotic scoring system. Third, let’s take a look at the 4 MLS games that Grana has played, all 4 of those game have been victories (FCD is 4-0-0 when he starts). Since the sample size is small, I’ll compare stats from his first two games, to stats from his two most recent games.

Dribbles completed/attemped 1/6 (1st 2) 7/13 (Last 2), Key Passes 0 (1st 2) 4 (Last 2), Passing 74.5% (1st 2) 77.8% (Last 2), Interceptions 2 (1st 2) 5 (Last 2), Crosses completed/attempted 1/16 (1st 2) 3/13 (Last 2), Long Balls completed/attempted 5/11 (1st 2) 5/11 (Last 2), Game Rating 6.2 (1st 2) 7.5 (Last 2). 1 PK allowed, and I only bring that up, because we all know that it was a complete dive, and that clown got what was coming to him from the The Avenging DisCo Godfather!

You want to see improvement from a player? That’s improvement right there, and that’s just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg.

“This $%#@’s is chess, it aint checkers!” Alonzo Harris “Training Day”

Question 3: What is Grana’s best position and in what tactical style does he fit best? Does FC Dallas currently play in that style, if not then should they?

Jeff: Personally I think he fits better into a 3/5 man defense as a wingback. His ability going forward contribute to a wingback position more so than a traditional fullback, as does his somewhat lacking defensive abilities. He loves getting forward, and he is willing to track back - which I love. His height limits him in the air, and his skillset is geared toward going forward not defending deep. He traditionally is positioned higher than the left defender and gets forward far more often. Grana to me is a prototypical wingback, but FC Dallas doesn’t really play that style very often. They do shift to a three man hybrid defense and when they do that he seems to be more at home. Often times Dallas brings on an extra defender (Atiba Harris) late in games and they slide Grana further forward. You can say this is just pushing Grana up to the midfield, but it usually seems to appear that they are adding a third central defender and asking Grana to press a bit higher up the field, providing cover in behind. It is at those times that I feel Grana is at his best, when he has plenty of cover and isn’t asked to track back as far. When Dallas dominates possession he does seem to do better, but this makes sense because he is an attacking minded player. If Dallas want to get the most out of Hernan Grana I think they need to adjust their style to fit him better - possibly by finding a traditional number 9 who is good in the air - or find someone else because he is clearly not the future at 32 years old.

Jose: Grana is just fine where he’s at. Oscar Pareja likes to play his fullbacks further up the field, and he likes them to make forward runs as much as possible. Pareja likes his players to find a way (Busca la forma!), and Grana is the perfect right back to do just that. Grana is a good old fashion cowboy (yes, they have those in Argentina), and he is a fearless risk taker. When you have the best CB tandem in the league watching your back, then taking risks is exactly what you should be doing. Sure Grana has made mistakes, but they have been far enough up the field, that it allows Hedgerman (LOL) to clean it up, unlike say, Atiba, who tends to make his mistakes inside the box.

The stats that I pointed out earlier, well the first two games where in the 4-4-2 formation, and both fullbacks were tasked with bringing the ball forward a lot more than any other players on the field. In Grana’s last two games, FCD rolled out a 4-4-2 that was really a 4-3-3 on the field against MUFC, and a 4-2-3-1 against SKC, and in both games the workload on the fullbacks lessened. So I’m certain that Grana is best suited for the 4-2-3-1, and will catch fire right around the time Diaz returns. No Grana not the long term answer, but he is the perfect teacher for Reggie Cannon, and a couple of years under Grana’s tutelage, will have Cannon terrorizing the league in no time.