A View from Afar / Commentary

Tribbett vs. Yaro: Stats and redemption

Photo: Daniel Studio

Ken Tribbett will likely start Saturday against Toronto, with Josh Yaro suspended.

A vocal segment of Union fans think that’s a bad thing, considering Tribbett’s rough Aug. 20 outing against Toronto. And it’s true, a return match-up against Toronto carries some baggage for Tribbett and the Union.

But it also gives him a chance to redeem himself and show just how over the top unfair some critics have been.

The Union have played better with Tribbett starting than they have with Yaro. Consider these statistics:

Record when startingMinutesTeam Goals ForTeam Goals AgainstRed CardsGoals/Assists

Now, let’s grant that there are other factors at play, including other lineup changes, strength of schedule, etc. But the stats speak for themselves.

Now, consider the comparison of individual stats between the two. (Stats are on a per/game basis, unless otherwise noted.)

TacklesInter.FoulsClear.BlocksAerial duels wonAerial win %Passing RateLong ballsUnsuccessful touches

The individual stats demonstrate what close observers already know:

  1. Tribbett is far superior in the air and a potent target on offensive set pieces.
  2. Yaro is an excellent passer and very tidy ball with the ball at his feet. (Tribbett is pretty good here too — at least when he doesn’t overdribble — but not as good.)
  3. Otherwise, the two are fairly even in performance.

That last point is important. You can prefer one or the other, but it’s so close and so early in their professional careers that it’s hard to debate it.

Both have shown quality as first-year MLS starters.

When they play well, they stand out in different ways. Tribbett owns the air, while Yaro covers vast amounts of space and shows fantastic passing vision for a center back.

When they play poorly, their weakest performances have also stood out in different ways. Nobody’s going to forget the three goals Tribbett helped surrender to Toronto, but maybe they should remember the absolutely stunning goal he scored in that match and also that Sebastian Giovinco owns pretty much everyone in MLS. Meanwhile, Yaro’s poor outings result in red cards and too often getting dominated in the air.

It doesn’t matter that Yaro was a first round pick and Tribbett was almost out of soccer two years ago. What matters is whether they can play.

Schedule is key for Eastern Conference playoff race

Philadelphia Union’s recent struggles may get worse before they get better.

The Union are in the midst of a three-game road swing, and their next two visits are to first place Toronto and the second place New York Red Bulls. Should the Union lose both matches, they will fail to record a winning record for the sixth of their seven seasons.

However, they should still make the playoffs. They may even host a playoff game.

Look at the standings. The Union sit in fourth.

The teams to watch are D.C. United and Orlando, who both sit below the red line, seven points behind the Union but with a game in hand. Their remaining schedule is worth noting. The two face off this Saturday in D.C., the first game for each in a stretch of three games in eight days. They also play each other the season’s final day.

On the whole, United plays three of its final five games at home, with their schedule rounded out by Toronto away and Columbus and New York City FC at home. Meanwhile, Orlando is on the road for three of their final five, including Philadelphia in Chester, Toronto on the road and Montreal at home.

Nobody else can realistically bump the Union from the playoffs.

The key question is whether the Union can hold off Montreal and a suddenly hot New England to secure a fourth place finish and a home game in the playoffs’ first round. Toss that coin in the air and see which way it lands.

What’s not likely is the Union finishing in first or second and securing a first round playoff bye. Yes, the Union play the Red Bulls twice in their last four games, so they control their fate to a degree, but it’s still an uphill battle. Here’s why:

  1. The Red Bulls play three of their final four games at home.
  2. Third place NYCFC has probably the easiest remaining schedule in all of MLS, playing the league’s three worst teams in the standings (Houston, Chicago, Columbus) and D.C. United.
  3. C.J. Sapong is in an epic goal-scoring slump.
  4. Alejandro Bedoya and Brian Carroll’s next start together will be just their second.
  5. Keegan Rosenberry may have hit the rookie wall, and as capable as Ray Gaddis is, he is unlikely to get a start.

Regardless, maintain perspective on the big picture.

How many of you predicted in March that the Union would make the playoffs? Most of us did not.

Once you get in the playoffs, what matters most is who gets hot and who has something left in the tank. The Union remain capable of being that team.

Other Union observations
  • Kevin Krantz: The German midfielder is an interesting signing for the Union. He fills a need (center midfield depth) and gets a late season audition for next year, even if it’s just in training. The Union have done that before, primarily with USL players, and they have nothing to lose by trying this out. It certainly helps that he’s a former teammate of Tranquillo Barnetta, who the Union must convince to return next season.
  • Signing friends: A few weeks ago, we saw the arrival of Charlie Davies, Alejandro Bedoya’s college buddy. Now it’s Krantz, who played three years with Barnetta, who in turn had played with former Union goalkeeper and current Union coach Oka Nikolov. Last year, it was Fernando Aristeguieta, who had been referred by former Union forward and fellow Venezuelan international Alejandro Moreno, and through dealing with Aristeguieta and FC Nantes, the Union got to Bedoya. Look further to see how many Union players played for Reading United under Brendan Burke. This team has an extended track record of signing players through personal references. It’s not unheard of in professional soccer, but it’s still fascinating to see, because it’s different from other North American team sports.
  • Tired Rosenberry? The rookie right back leads the league in minutes played and is the only field player in MLS to play every minute of every match. To get that from a rookie is remarkable. But to expect that from a rookie may be a bit much. Sapong may not be the only player who needs a rest before the playoffs.


  1. The statistics generated for the Yaro-Tribbett debate are interesting.’
    Strength of schedule is a concept not as easily expressed in a single number because it does not reflect – to borrow a phrase from baseball – whether a team was “going good” at the time of the encounter with the Union.
    The other factor that may influence the numbers concerns the annually repeated basic phenomenon of the season’s acceleration in the pace of play.
    Ken Tribbett won his job and played the first four of his games in preseason and March when the pace of play was much slower than it is now. Ignoring the Toronto game, his speed was beginning to be a question before it occurred.
    Is Yaro in the right position given the nature of MLS? A very good question. But Yaro’s position will change only when Yaro changes his own mind.
    For example, Anderson Conceicao might have been an excellent defensive central midfielder, because thirty years ago he would have been an excellent stopper back with a sweeper to cover his speed deficit. For another, Sir Alex FErguson tried Roy Keane as a center back for part of a season before Keane retired. Keane didn’t like it, was my impression. and Anderson is labeled a center back.
    Bottom line, you cannot coach speed, and speed kills.

  2. 1) The CB statistics you quote don’t reflect the course of things. Tribbett had 1 or 2 rough matches at the very beginning of the season, and then played extremely well for quite some time. During the summer he had a run of several bad games — not just the Toronto match. Call it a regression, or call it a slump, but whatever it was, it made sense to give Yaro the spot.

    2) Yes yes yes on Keegan. He’s a stud, but he’s getting exhausted. Gaddis should get a start sometime soon.

  3. I’m going to make the same suggestion as I made yesterday and that is to start Edu in RCB on Saturday. That does several things.
    It gives him an MLS game requiring less running than midfield would.
    It leaves a backup available in case he can’t go the whole game. If Edu starts at midfield and Tribbett is at CB, then there is no backup if one of the CB’s gets injured, especially if Edu is unable to go 90.
    It puts a more experienced player up against Giavinco/Altidore.

    • For the record, I’m in the “Edu next to Bedoya” crowd in the big picture of things. But it would make sense short term to play him next to Marquez.
      Also, the fact that the team just made a roster move to acquire more midfield depth (Krantz) at the expense of backline depth (Anderson) points to Edu at centerback being at least realistic. However, Edu playing exclusively in the midfield with BSFC points in the opposite direction.

      • I am definitely proposing this as a short term solution to help get Edu into fitness combined with the lack of depth at CB.

    • I don’t know I just can’t jump on the Edu at CB bandwagon. To me its just a colossal misplacement of talent. He’s an aggressive DM. You put him at CB and then he has to consistently bail himself out with his athleticism (which at age 30 is waning) and won’t be available as he’s short on fitness anyway. Plus you’re taking away minutes from younger CBs (Tribbet and Yaro) who could one day develop into very good defenders. If we’ve gone this long playing young CBs for the point of developing them for later seasons, the last thing you want to do is throw all that away for the short term benefit of a “little” more stability in the backline so we can still probably get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. Just my thoughts. I’m excited for the future of these young players and now that we’ve played 4/5s of the season with them, I think its only appropriate to finish it off with them.

  4. Good read. Solid points all around. Notice you are posting a day earlier lately.
    .I wish I wish I wish I could express my disdain for first round byes.
    Disgraceful. Just goes to show our ‘soccer’ people running MLS have no earthly clue about the game.
    Hate- the most vile word and feeling in all of civilization- well… guess what-

    • Im ok with first round byes. They’re an appropriate reward. I think you have too much anger in your life man

    • No, my column is usually scheduled for Tuesdays, but we use some flexibility when needed (i.e. when life gets in the way, or when the publishing schedule is crowded), so it’s probably more that my column was running late for a bit. Thanks for the praise on the column. 🙂

  5. Lucky Striker says:

    I’m in the ” I never want to see Mo & Ale in a pivot together” lemonade stand…..and I agree with the author on the CB debate. If you combined Tribbett and Yaro together you’d have a decent central defender. Both are limited to me, but in differing ways, which would mean utilizing them better while admitting neither is the correct answer alone would be optimum. Edu would most help near term in the back but who knows if he’d be willing-let alone healthy enough at this point.

    • Personally, I’d prefer to keep Carroll starting, move Mo into Bedoya’s spot and let Bedoya play right midfield. It may not be his best spot, but he’s very, very good at it and he’d be more effective than anyone else he have at that spot.

  6. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    I’d me more interested to see how those stats coorespond with the absence of Noguiera or Bedoya. This team had always been at it’s worse when a true # 8 has not been on the field. My guess would be that they both have similar stats when a Nogs or Bedoya are on the field and equally poor stats when neither played.

    • And didn’t Yaro’s most recent stretch of starts overlap BC being out? Damn, there are a lot of caveats. But the stats above do show a fairly competitive head to head between the two players.

  7. The more and more talk that comes down to the end of the season makes me think something I have all along. Edu doesn’t fit this team he is a man without a spot on this roster. People say play him at CB, play him at the 6, play him at the 8 move others around. Why? Just let him get healthy trade him end of the season and move on. You could argue for the team being better with him you could argue for against it. Truth is we don’t know and the other thing he doesn’t seem fit enough. Sliding him back in just for the playoffs to me never sits as the right thing to do it breaks chemistry. And now that we have found out we have a team that can play his highest value to me is on the trading block.

    As far as Tribbet and Yaro go I think there is a spot for both. You play Tribbet against hold up guys that are big like Adi and you play Yaro against speed and skill like Giovinco and Villa. To me the they both have things to contribute as starters Curtin should just better set them up to succeed with the skills they have.

    • Probably better to have him play first and see what you have, no? I’d get him in ASAP. Wither at the 6 or in CB pair. He’s played with almost everybody on this team before. Chemistry shouldn’t be a big issue.

      • Personally I’d only want to play him right now in games that don’t matter. If the Union clinch a playoff spot sure throw him in see what he does. But I leave him out of the playoffs and any important games at this time its just to much of an unknown to risk. And with 4 games left in the season what are we really going to find out other than he is out of shape, sloppy, and not up to game pace yet. I mean this is what I get from the Bethlehem updates it seems Derrick Jones is cleaning up for his mistakes left and right. Maybe that is who should be considered for getting inserted into the lineup.

    • how can you say that about a guy who made a carrer for himself as an above average 6 in Europe AND the NT?

      • Clearly….Dr. Union is an Okugo fan.

      • Okugo sure developed properly could’ve been good Union did not develop him properly. Ultimately I’ve always wanted to find someone like Tchani or get Tchani in some way. He to me is an ideal 6 for this team.

      • Yeah in Europe years ago he was an above average 6 in the last 4 to 5 years he hasn’t been above average and barely makes a sniff at the NT. He is no longer what he was.

      • You’re right; he’s no longer what he used to be (true for most of us).

        But, my memory may be soft, but last year, Mo was consistently a very good player for us (as long as he wasn’t trying to score a PK). He was a great stopper and could actually place a long ball out of the back at a runner’s feet. His issue has always seemed to me to be when he tries to do too much. To roam high up the pitch, giving up his defensive capabilities.

        I’d really like to see him spend time at #6 with Bedoya and Barnetta in the midfield and see what happens. I’ll be disappointed if we never get to see how that works.

      • I’ve said this before I think he could make a great CB if he was disciplined and willing to do it, but he doesn’t seem to be from years past. And right now I think that is and will be his best position for the near future as he wanders to much in midfield and has lost what he once had.

    • Trade him for what? He IS OUT OF CONTRACT on 12/31. This problem resolves itself in 4 games.

      • Oh I did not realize he was out of contract so yeah okay simple solution then.

      • They could theoretically trade his rights in the short window after the MLS Cup to a team willing to make a bonafide offer to him or at least negotiate. Mind you, I don’t think any team will pay Edu his current salary with him coming off an injury that kept him out pretty much the entire year, but it’s possible another team might do it to at least get the right to exclusively negotiate with him. When healthy, he’s a quality player, and he probably wants to stay in MLS.

      • I just can’t wait to free up that $700,000 now its probably all spent on Bedoya, but hey one can dream right. I would say give Barnetta what he wants from Edu’s salary and then go find a number 6 to give the rest. Ideally someone from the Bundesliga or 2. Bundesliga who is a physical presence with good feet (like Tchani). Unless Kratz is that solution (I don’t know much about him).

  8. Dan – You keep saying “most did not predict the Union to make the playoffs”, but a poll you ran in March shows that indeed, the fans voted 6th and 5th two of the top three spots.

    And since they’re in 4th sliding towards 5th, maybe there is a realistic eye on this team.

    • I had originally written “most of us” where I put the link and must have edited that out (I’ve restored it so that it’s more accurate), as I was thinking of most season previews I had read (particularly ours, which is why it’s linked to there) and hadn’t thought of the poll.

      Now mind you, I’d bet that if you asked most of those people who voted 6th place, they’d say, “Well, I *hope* they make the playoffs but don’t think they will, but it’s a coin toss between 6th and 7th so I’ll go with 6th,” but that’s an intuitive assumption only that I have no way of knowing is true. So you make a fair and correct point, and I’ll keep it in mind when making massively broad generalizations (which I occasionally like to do!).

  9. der Fussballzuschauer says:

    It is extremely inaccurate to say that Kevin Kratz played three years with Tranquillo Barnetta at Bayer Leverkusen. Kratz played three seasons for Bayer Leverkusen II at the exact same time that Barnetta was with Bayer Leverkusen, perhaps. But it simply cannot be stressed enough that there was and is a very, very big difference in genuine quality between Bayer Leverkusen and Bayer Leverkusen II … Kratz spent his three years with Bayer Leverkusen II competing in the Regionalliga Nord (06/07: fourth division), the bygone Oberliga Nordrhein (07/08: fourth division) and the Regionalliga West (08/09: fourth division), respectively … http://www.fussballdaten.de/spieler/kratzkevin/2016

    • Uh, it’s actually quite accurate. They’re both Bayer Leverkusen. The point isn’t to imply that Kratz is as good as Barnetta or that the quality of play between first and second team is the same. The point is that they know each other. That should be quite clear by the context of the words written around it.

  10. Interesting stats. Would have liked to see Marquez numbers as well.

    • I considered that, actually, after I saw that both Yaro and Tribbett both had better passing rates than Marquez. They’re statistically comparable in other areas. Check them out at https://www.whoscored.com/Teams/8586. If you dig deep, you’ll find that Marquez has a superior tackle rate, and one stat they don’t track is “key tackles.” That guy makes so many slide tackles to stop scoring situations that I’d love to see a league-wide ranking on that. He’d have to be up around the top.

  11. As useful as stats are, the Yaro pick says he’s the future. Tribbett is a great surprise, but Marquez is the physical, aerial presence in back. Yaro can advance the ball so Keegan can occasionally hang back rather than scramble in transition.
    When healthy, Mo is 6. Ale 8, Quillo 10.
    We’re all but assured a play-in game. Most would say that’s success on the pitch.
    Play Herbers 90. Play Alberg up top with Sapong. Then sub Pontius for CJ & move Herbers to F.
    The most immediate fix should be the attacking third. We have none – save Fabi’s predictable crosses or Ilsinho breaking ankles of the dribble.
    This is tactical. The dip in the record this summer is losing #5, Blake returning to earth once or twice, & other teams figuring us out.
    What the staff is paid to do. Go forth, Jim!

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