Qui-Gon vs the Hill – the closest FCD battle

Over time, we’ve come to find some noticeable differences between FC Dallas’ new coach Nico Estevez and his predecessors. A short bench, heavy workload management, reliance on soccer smarts, and successful fluid tactical shifting just to name a few.

One of the more interesting differences is how locked in the starting eleven is from week to week. Few of FCD’s positional battles see game-by-game changes in the grid.

In fact – now that Ema Twumasi seems to have mostly won the right back job – I would go so far as to say there are really only two positions left in a real back and forth: linking mid and holding mid.

Perhaps the tightest battle is at the 6.

So I thought it might be interesting to do a statistical breakdown of the two holding-mid candidates: Facundo Quignon and Edwin Cerrillo.

Facundo Quignon (left) and Edwin Cerrillo (right) of FC Dallas, 2022. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

The Holding Mid

Out of spring training, Cerrillo won the starting job. Then we saw a period where it was Cerrillo at home and Quignon on the road before it settled into Quignon more of the time. Injuries and rotations still factor in though and Cerrillo continues to get minutes and spot starts.

Still, who should start at 6 is a hot topic on the socials. Which player should be the choice?

For the sake of discussion, let’s dig into the stats.

All the stats I’m using today are from fbref.com. I’m putting Cerrillo on the left on this page because of alphabetical order, that seemed fair. A lot of the stats are darn close with little differentiation.

Macro Level

Cerrillo Quignon Notes
21Games19Cerrillo is a key player…
10Starts13Even if Quignon starts more.
1,101Minutes1,135All but even in PT.
0Goals1Goals don’t matter for a 6, right?
0Assists0Both these guys need more assists. Or even 1 assist would be something.
2 (0)Shots (on goal)11 (3)Facundo has taken some pokes from range.
0.1xG1.4Quignon gets forward better…
0.5xA1.0But I think these stats reflect that Quignon has been used as an 8 a couple of times.
1.62Team PPG in games appeared1.63Which of them you pick has little apparent impact on team results as both play a lot even when not starting.

The most important big picture takeaway is that they are all but even in minutes played. The two have all but split time. The minutes are so close we could do a fair stats discussion with their pure stats.

Still, stats per 90 minutes is better so I’m going with that most of the time.

Another key: when Cerrillo and Quignon have to play together it is Facu who takes on the 8-roll. You will see that reflected in his numbers like shots (above) and in some of the passes (below).

And to be fair, some of Facu’s better stats are why he gets picked to 8 over Edwin.

Passing

Cerrillo Quignon Notes
692Total Touches856Facu sees a lot more of the ball.
51.6Pass Attempts/9059.3Ditto.
90.1%Pass Pct88.1%Edwin keeps the ball better.
1.15Own Passes Intercepted/901.19Cerrillo gets intercepted less, but considering the attempts it actually leans Facu.
0.57Own Passes Blocked/900.79Ceriilo creates more space for himself?
0.25Key Passes/900.63Facundo is better at setting up players though.
2.95Progressive passes/904.21Also advancing the ball with a pass.
4.43Passes into Final Third/903.65Edwin passes more into the final third though.
0.25Passes into the box/900.32But Facu passes more into the box, hence the Key Passes.

So Cerrillo as the better percentage passer (that holds up at any distance, by the way) helps team ball retention but Facu sets people up better for team goals.

My assumption is that this latter stat is based on Quignon’s greater pro experience. That and the few times he’s played as an 8 this year. But I do lean more to the former so perhaps we should say it’s why he plays as an 8 when they are both in the game.

Dribbling/Possession

Cerrillo Quignon Notes
58.2Toches/9070.6Rehashing that Facu sees more of the ball.
0.16Dribbles/900.32Quignon tries to dribble more or has to dribble more?
40%Dribble Success Rate40%Same success rate.
42.0Carries/9044.4Edwin actually carries more, particularly considering the disparity in touches.
93.0Progression distance/9074.2Cerrillo also carries it farther upfield.
0.25Dispossessed/900.87E also turns it over less.
40.7Pass Receptions/9046.5Facundo receives more outlets.
0.57Progressive Receptions/900.79And he does it in progressive positions.

Quignon for sure puts himself in better positions to receive passes and outlets and the team plays more through him. Again, I read that as his experience showing, game reading, etc.

Cerrillo’s low dribbles I read as he moves away with his touch and progressive carries quicker to create space and thus has to dribble at players less. Edwin plays more conservatively with the ball and losses it less than Facu.

Defensive Actions

Cerrillo Quignon Notes
1.97Tackles/903.17Facu tackles a lot more.
0.82Dribbler Tackled/901.35And he tackles more dribblers.
43.5%Dribbler Tackle Win PCT54.8%And he tackles them better.
1.07Dribblers Who Got Past/901.11But Quignon has more dribbles get past him too.
14.4Pressures/9020.3Facundo pressures more.
26.7Pressure Win PCT34.8And is more successful at pressure.
1.31Blocks/901.98He also blocks more.
1.64Intercepts/901.27But Edwin cuts out more passes.
1.31Clearances/902.06Facu clears more.
8.69Recoveries/9011.1And he picks up loose balls.
1.97Fouls Committed/902.46But Facundo also fouls more.
0.66Fouls Suffered/900.87And gets fouled more too.
5Total Yellow Cards5Even. Though with Facu fouling more that’s in his favor.

On the surface, Quignon is more active than Cerrillo and is the better pure defender and presser. He gets tight on attackers at a greater rate and fouls more.

But I am a firm believer in range. Cerrillo covers more ground than Facundo does. Cerrillo gets into better defensive positions, turns back play, and cuts out passes without tackling or pressuring as much. When he does foul it’s more reckless/physical and gets more yellows (by percentage)… that may or may not be a bad thing depending on how often he gets sent off or suspended.

Tackles and clearances are, in my book, more emergency defending. Quignon is certainly better for emergency scrambling in the box. The fact that Quignon not only has to tackle dribblers more and still allows more dribblers to get past him highlights the range issue.

Conclusion

This might come down to how you like your 6, preemptive or reactive.

Edwin Ceriilo and Facundo Quignon are pretty even in my book statistically. The differences aren’t massive, I don’t think.

For me, Cerrillo covers more ground and cuts out more play by his positioning. He also retains the ball better, helps keep possession, and can carry it forward.

Quignon is for sure the better pure defender and is better at providing an outlet, relieving pressure in the build, and better at the final key pass.

In other words, his best traits come from his experience. I would imagine it’s why at this point he’s getting picked to start by this coach who highly values soccer smarts.

You could say Cerrillo is better for Luchi-ball and Quignon for Nico-ball.

I have one last set of stats though.

Cerrillo Quignon
$115,000.00Base Salary$786,000.00
21Age29

Sure, Quignon is better, but is he $671,000 better Cerrillo? Not for me.

Quignon is at the flat part of his career trajectory and costs a lot more money. Cerrillo should continue to improve for 6 or 7 more years.

That’s my bottom line.

I would like to see both stay in the mix this year and probably next. I think you can make the case that Quignon is better for Coach Estevez this season. It’s certainly understandable why Facundo is picked more on the road.

But is this a Cup-winning season?

Not to beat a dead horse (you know I love to), but most of Quignon’s best qualities are ones that come from experience. Something Cerrillo will only gain by playing.

Quignon isn’t a top-of-the-league 6 and won’t ever be. Could Cerrillo be one? Maybe? I’m hopeful. But I don’t know for sure and I bet FC Dallas doesn’t know either. FCD needs to find out.

There is a lot Edwin can learn from Facu, which is why both should keep playing. But I believe Cerrillo has a long-term MLS future and Quignon does not. I think if Cerrillo makes strides and continues to progress he could be pretty dang good.

So for this season and maybe next, keep the mix of both players just with more Cerrillo starts.

But sooner or later it needs to be all Cerrillo… Or FCD will need to go get a new 6.

P.S.

If you are curious about the title of this post… Cerrillo means hill in Spanish. The Qui-Gon one should be obvious.

10 Comments

  1. Great look inside the numbers!

    RE Defensive statistics: I think your statement about being proactive vs reactive is dead on. A defender with a higher comparative volume of tackles/clearances is often a defender that the other team is targeting. Some of the discrepancy is surely just the various opponents typical patterns of play, but I think just as likely or more likely its that one defender is more often occupying the right space more often than the other.

  2. I hope to see more comparison articles when appropriate. A great look to chew on. I tend side with Nico on this debate for the time being. The numbers don’t show much of a difference, especially at the granular level. However, one thing that stood out to me in the numbers were the difference in team goals for/against. Net goals with Cerrillo on the field is 0, with Facu is +8, with three less goals against. This stat sort of checks out with my viewing experience as well. Interestingly, last year Cerillo’s team net goals was -5 and Facu’s -6. Not sure why you’re seeing such a swing so far this season for Facu. Maybe he just fits better with Nico’s overall approach.

  3. We’re desperately thin for subs unnecessarily… schon not being played is a fucking crime. The kids did work last season. Obrian is generally useless but is the first sub to replace AV or PA…?

    Roberts needs minutes, get him in for Pax. Pax staying healthy seems a damn miracle! Every start except 1 match?

    Last and more questionable… Redic, use the young legs to chase and hold a lead rather than grandpa.

  4. Thanks for pointing out the fbref.com website. At the granular stat level there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference, only at the margins. But when you compare goals for vs goals against, a clearer picture comes through. When Facu is on the field the team is +8, when Edwin is on the field the team is -0. Also three less goals have gone in when Facu is on the field. When you add up all the small differences, the net effect suggests that playing Facu is much more likely to keep the team in playoff contention. Even if this isn’t a cup year, I don’t think anyone, much less the new coach, is really helped by missing the generous MLS post-season.

  5. General comment for those of you mentioning +/-. I’m not much of a fan of that stat in soccer. Too many players in the game (11) vs Hockey (6). Too many other factors. For example, what if Edwin played in the 2 games Jesus didn’t start? Or the 3 games Arriola didn’t start? No one on this team can score for crap other than those 2. What if he played in the games Paes missed? What if he played in the game against the best team in MLS LAFC? (Which he did.) Etc Etc.

    We could carry that further, FCD is 5-4-1 when Edwin starts (10 games). 4-2-7 When Facu starts (13 games). That’s a 50% win pct vs 30.8. So start Edwin? No, that’s a bad metric to use I think, too many factors.

    Also, one stat I perhaps should have included is home vs road games. Facu gets more road, or at least he was at first (I didn’t look it up) and road games are tougher than home. That could certainly have a macro-level impact as well.

    It’s a complicated question and it’s one reason I’m almost always in favor of my eyes over the stats.

    Still, I hope everyone is enjoying the context.

    1. I agree that too much noise might be baked into the team +/- stat to say something definitive about a particular player. However, I wouldn’t be so quick to ignore it either, especially when there is quite a contrast between two player, and especially for players in the defensive mid positions. In the modern game, a single mistake by a DM can and often does lead to a goal and a loss of 2-3 points. Moreover, such a mistake it might get lost in the granular stats OR it might be a positional mistake that doesn’t even show up in the stats. One recent example during the Austin FC game comes to mind showcasing two bad decision by Edwin: first, a weak pass to Nanu under pressure, and second, the decision to try to clear space by moving forward at the expense of vacating the defensive zone in front of the center backs. The ball was immediately turned over leading to Austin FC’s tying goal (July 16). It’s quite possible that didn’t even count against Edwin in the individual stats. Many people will claim that the fault lies only with Nanu (and he certainly made a mess with the weak pass), but a defensive mid is not supposed to put players in those kinds of positions. And he’s also supposed to be in a position to clean up such a mess, which Edwin wasn’t on this occasion. It was an expensive mistake at home. https://youtu.be/19tHdZPeBL4

      1. I agree that Edwin isn’t there yet. Right now, Facu is better. But I don’t want to play for the now. I want them to play for 2 seasons down the line. “It’s a process” so play the kid who might end up being better. Or find out if he’s not the answer and get someone better.

  6. Great article breaking down what seems to be a pretty close race from both the eyeball and stats tests. I am hoping the reliance on Facu is to mainly lay the groundwork for the style that Nico wants to play, and that ultimately Edwin is able to seize the role and make it his to keep.

  7. I personally can’t stand the way Facu plays. He is constantly forced into reckless tackles because of they way he plays and often fouls in very bad spots leading to dangerous free kicks. This seems to be supported by the stats. I’d love if a stat was kept for the the person who committed a foul and the associated G and xG resulting.

    At any rate I am fully behind Edwin getting ALL the minutes. I am sure I’m in the minority but I would not be upset if Facu never saw the field again for FCD. While I’m at it same for Nanu. Rant over…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.