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An early look at the Nogueira and Barnetta replacements

How do Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin compare to Vincent Nogueira and Tranquillo Barnetta? An early look.

MLS: Sporting KC at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Union have yet to shake the form they found themselves in at the end of last season. Part of the reason may be due to the summer departure of Vincent Nogueira and later Tranquillo Barnetta. These two players were two of the best players ever to don the uniform in the Union’s short history. They have been replaced this season by Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya, respectively. It’s only been four games but here’s a look at the early returns from a statistical point of view. First let’s examine Nogueira and Medunjanin.

What jumps out so far is that Medunjanin is playing much more forward and wide than Nogueira was. While his pass completion rate is slightly lower than Nogueira’s he is clearly being much more aggressive and adding width with 43 times the crosses of Nogueira. Medunjanin hasn’t recorded an assist yet but he’s completed 3.0 key passes per game, which translates into 1.1 expected assists according to American Soccer Analysis, good for seventh in the league so far. Medunjanin ranks sixth in MLS in usage rate, which calculates the percentage of a team’s touches the player takes. He’s already the clear focal point of the midfield, just like Nogueira was in his time with the Union. But at the same time he has been very present in the final third. So far the team hasn’t seen the benefit of Medunjanin’s play make a significant impact on the game, but these numbers indicate it soon will.

Here are the stats for Bedoya and Barnetta.

Bedoya’s 89% pass completion rate as a central attacking midfielder jumps out, but he is clearly not as aggressive in the final third as Barnetta was last season. You can tell that from Barnetta’s higher number of crosses, key passes and shots. On the defensive end Bedoya is clearly more active, at least doubling the activity of Barnetta on tackles and interceptions. I don’t think this assessment surprises anyone. Bedoya is all over the field, but in the final third his presence has been lacking. I’d like to see his pass completion rate come down some and his attempts to crack the opponent defense increase.

It almost appears as though Medunjanin is more of a central attacking midfielder than Bedoya despite their starting position on the field. This dynamic is one to watch over the next few games as the Union try to get back to being a playoff form.