Quick, name the top players in MLS in terms of goals scored per minute played. If you thought of Sebastian Giovinco, Bradley Wright-Phillips, David Villa, Frank Lampard, Ola Kamara and players like that, you were right. But you might have missed the player that finished fourth in that category, Roland Alberg. Alberg netted nine goals this season in just 1,175 minutes, which rates him among the league's elite. So why did he struggle to get on the field? They call them Designated Players. Alberg was pegged by the coaching staff - justifiably - as a number 10 in the 4-2-3-1 system, but that was the position played by one of the Union's best players in Tranquillo Barnetta. Injuries and the departure of Vincent Nogueira opened the door for Roland Alberg to spring his offensive attack on the league before it was shut down by the arrival of Alejandro Bedoya.
What did he do right?
The fact that Alberg was so potent from the CAM position is rare and fantastic. Alberg showed that he could also handle the creative load in attack as evidenced by his 84.4% pass completion rate, which was by far the best rate among the Union attacking players. He earned more time to be the leader of the offense, but unfortunately the depth chart didn't agree.
His best moment in 2016?
Roland Alberg scored a hat trick in the Union's 4-3 victory over Chicago. He also scored in four of the last five Union wins. It really is too bad he couldn't get time as the season went into decline.
What did he do wrong?
The knock on Alberg was his commitment to defense, and he was inconsistent as he moved down the pitch. For example he averaged 0.5 tackles per game compared to Barnetta's 0.9 and his other defensive statistics were light across the board. Given the Union's defense was so poor last year it seems odd the Union would tolerate the lack of intensity defensively. I seem to recall a certain CAM being traded because of a lack of defense last year....
Which leads us to the question: Will Alberg be around next year? It appears Bedoya will replace Barnetta in the CAM role and given the rigid position system under Earnie Stewart, that would mean Alberg is destined for another year on the bench. Not ideal for a 26 year old that can score. The Union might be able to secure value for his services and would be wise to seek starting talent in return.
All-in-all it was a good year for Alberg given his time on the field. The Union will clearly miss his goal scoring if he's relegated to the bench next year or moves on to another club.