Which players and teams are high pressing? Data suggests Alan Pulido could be perfect fit for Sporting

When searching for a No. 9 in the transfer market, coaches understandably have finishing ability atop their requirement list. But a striker’s defensive work rate and commitment is often not too far behind.

That’s especially the case for Sporting Kansas City, whose big offseason acquisition was Mexican striker Alan Pulido. The returns are promising through the first two games of 2020, too, since Pulido has two goals and one assist.

But for a high-pressing team such as Sporting, who lead MLS in high presses by team (171), Pulido’s individual pressing ability is also encouraging. He’s attempted 76 high presses himself, accounting for over 40 percent of his team’s efforts. 

That data, which can be found in chart form below, comes from Second Spectrum. They define high presses as each time an individual defender moves aggressively to closely mark an offensive player with the ball or near a teammate with the ball in an attempt to win the ball, near the front of the defense.

MLS newcomers are a theme when breaking down which players are high pressing the most. Chicago Fire striker Robert Beric, Vancouver Whitecaps forward Lucas Cavallini and LA Galaxy forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez all round out the top five. As much as they’re expected to deliver goals, they put in work on both sides of the ball. Seattle Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz is also in the top tier, complimenting his 29 goals in 44 games spanning the MLS regular season and playoffs. 

Aside from individual efforts, several teams with new head coaches could have high pressing define their tactical DNA. Orlando City, Inter Miami and New York City FC all register in the top five as Oscar Pareja, Diego Alonso and Ronny Deila respectively leave their stamp on things. 

But what’s perhaps most stark about the team data is the massive gap between first and second place, with Sporting 46 high presses ahead of Orlando. Another takeaway is that Toronto FC and Seattle, last year’s MLS Cup finalists, both crack the top 10. 

It's still early in the 2020 season, and teams only have two games under their belt. Based on home and away challenges, tactics very well could have been adjusted and skewed the short-term data. 

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