All data used in this article is retrieved from FBref.
Everyone who has followed FC Dallas for some time knows one thing is true of South American transfers to this club – you must give them time.
The transition period required to become a strong competitor in this league is probably true of transfers coming from all over the world as well, but it’s important to not expect players to make the move to Major League Soccer and immediately find their form, no matter the pedigree that they bring along.
Not only has Alan Velasco made the large jump across hemispheres from the Argentine Primera División to MLS, but he has also done so at the ripe age of 19 years old. With over half the season gone, I think it is a good time to take a look at how his transition is going so far.
Let’s dive into some charts and stats.
The first stat we are looking at is one of the key strengths of Velasco during his time in Argentina – his ability to beat defenders on the dribble.
In Argentina, Velasco was not only a good dribbler; he was one of the best in the league, averaging 5.1 successful dribbles / 90 mins, enough to put him 4th in the league at a 60.2% success rate.
In the 2022 MLS Season, he has slowed his roll a bit and only tallied 1.85 successful dribbles / 90, good for only 28th in MLS among players who have logged greater than 500 minutes. His success rate has also fallen all the way to 40.3%. This is not what you like to see out of your star $7 million winger.
When you look at the graph below, though, there is some improvement beginning to show.
When Alan arrived, he was ready to dribble. As you can see by the red shaded area above, Alan was attempting over 10 dribbles / 90 and was not finding much success (blue shaded area above). His attempted dribbles / 90 have quickly decreased over the season, likely due to Coach Nico Estévez restricting his game, for now, to focus on quality possession.
This reduction in attempted dribbles has seen an increase in quality, too. While his success rate was abysmal (<20%) through his first few matches, he is now seeing stretches of accomplishing closer to 60% success on his dribbles, in line with the ability he dazzled with down in Argentina.
We will hold tight and see if Velasco can begin increasing his quantity of attempted dribbles and maintain possession as well. Doing so will cement Velasco as a true threat to opposing MLS defenses as he pushes the ball further into their third of the pitch.
Some other important stats to look at for Velasco are his passing rates and completion %.
Following an initial dip in Alan’s passing quantity, he ramped up his output during the middle of the season and has now fallen back down in his attempted passes / 90.
However, his completion rate has soared upward over the season, putting him > 80% in average passing completion over the last five matches.
This isn’t necessarily a great thing on its own, as the team has struggled to put up goals during this timeframe. Has Velasco simply been making less risky passes as the season goes on?
It is possible that he is making safer passes in possession, but his passes are generating more shots and goals as the season progresses. We love to see this, as even though the finishing from the team has been less than ideal during this year’s summer slump, Velasco is contributing more and putting the rest of his team in goal-scoring positions with his passing.
In fact, Velasco leads the team in Goal Creating Actions / 90 and is 10th in all of Major League Soccer; an impressive stat that puts him in the company of other well-known names such as Alejandro Pozuelo, Carles Gil, and Emanuel Reynoso.
While certainly not as flashy as a star winger getting on the scoresheet, defensive responsibilities from attackers are important to winning back possession and hopefully capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes in their own third.
Velasco started off a bit rocky in this regard but has quickly adapted and started to track back and defend more as the season has progressed.
He has shown a slight regression in his pressures, as well as tackles and interceptions in the last five matches, but we will hopefully see Velasco’s defensive actions continue to tally up as he helps this squad with more than just offensive firepower
The Bottom Line
Alan Velasco has a lot of FC Dallas fans depending on him as the club seeks to find a star from outside of their own academy.
Other big-ticket foreign signings such as Franco Jara, Bryan Acosta, Pablo Aranguiz, and Szabolcs Schön have not panned out in the way their prices may have suggested. Some may believe Velasco has not been as good as promised so far.
I, however, believe he will continue to grow into his game here in Major League Soccer – and the stats seem to show the progress he has made so far.
You can find Jett Johnson on Twitter at @FCD_DataGuy.
Two other areas of statistical concern, via FBref:
Although his volume of pressures have gone up, he hasn’t been getting home – pressure success rate is suuuuper low, especially in the last few months, and his % of dribblers tackled is very low.
Other concern, related to the pass completion % discussion: the number of times he miscontrols the ball or is dispossessed (especially normalized on a per-touch basis) is stratospheric. Stark contrast with Ferreira and Arriola, two of the more ball-secure forwards in the league.
Some great points made here, Frits, and hopefully I haven’t painted too rosy of a picture of Velasco by not including some of these stats.
The bright side is he is improving on his miscontrols/dispossesions throughout the season, and hopefully will continue to in 2023. The pressure success % and tackle % he unfortunately has a ways to go in. Just a couple of key areas to watch out for as he continues to develop.