MLS has seen an influx of designated player talent in recent years. Teams get three spots (there could be more in the future) and it is crucial that they hit on them. The types of players are often different, and varies from team to team.
With the playoffs approaching, let’s take a look at some DPs that have made their debuts this season and check their progress. We’ll focus on a couple of high-profile situations.
Chicharito, LA Galaxy
It seemed like Chicharito would be the answer for the Galaxy at striker. (Of course, we’re all familiar with the Galaxy’s historic lack of talent at the position.) He struggled to gain his feet early on, then missed most of the bubble tournament with an injury, and now may not even have a guaranteed place in the starting lineup.
How did this happen? The short version is that various absences (injuries and paternity among them) have hurt his ability to fit in the team and find his role. The Galaxy have been worse with him on the field. He has just one goal in seven games, and LA seem to have more success moving the ball without him in the lineup. They’ve been more fluid with Ethan Zubak or Yony Gonzalez at forward, even though those backups don’t have overwhelming scoring numbers either.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto, sitting on a hot seat at the moment, made the decision to pull Chicharito in the 50th-minute of a 4-0 loss to the rival San Jose Earthquakes last Wednesday, and then sat him in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Vancouver. He ended up coming off the bench after Gonzalez picked up a knock.
It’s hard to imagine Chicharito remaining a super-sub or losing a permanent spot in the lineup, but Schelotto shouldn’t be hesitant to make an aggressive move if it helps the Galaxy. They’re in last-place in the Western Conference, and while they have a game in hand or two on some teams ahead of them, they’re also behind the Covid-infested Rapids, who have played at least four fewer games than almost everyone else. (Good luck with that scheduling, MLS.)
The Galaxy are playing important games. The best iteration of this team probably has Chicharito playing 90, but in the short-term, he hasn’t been performing.
Blaise Matuidi/Gonzalo Higuain, Inter Miami
This pair of superstars has now played together a handful of times for Inter Miami. In the six games with both Higuain and Matuidi in the starting lineup, Miami has two wins, a draw, and three losses. Apart from a 3-0 loss against the elite Philadelphia Union, their schedule hasn’t been particularly difficult — they’ve lost to the Montreal Impact and an injury-ravaged NYCFC, and drawn with Atlanta United.
Matuidi has been a bit underwhelming. Ben Baer at MLSsoccer.com noted recently that a couple of his underlying stats (notably chance creation and usage rate) have been below par. Matuidi hasn’t had the sort of passing impact one might have expected given his production over the past decade in Europe.
Higuain has been a bit better, with a goal and an assist and some good moments in attack. He did miss a penalty, though, and in his most recent game, he picked up a red card for arguing with a referee after the match. Miami’s best attacker has often been Lewis Morgan, a talented playmaker. Without Rodolfo Pizarro, who is on international duty with Mexico, Morgan has been huge.
Yuya Kubo/Jurgen Locadia, FC Cincinnati
These are lesser-known players for a reason. They have struggled with FC Cincinnati, who have been pretty bad again this season. Cincy can’t score, and they’ve needed a lot more than what they’ve gotten from these two DPs. Kubo has three goals in 18 appearances and Locadia has one in 13 appearances. (Neither has an assist.) As a team, FCC have scored a staggeringly low 11 goals in 19 games.
They’re not a well-built team, with positional overlap and a general lack of talent. They needed to hit on these DP signings, and so far, and it doesn’t look like they have.