Sporting Kansas City center back Andreu Fontas should have been a 2021 MLS All-Star. His name should be at the forefront of the MLS Defender of the Year discussion.
Aside from an MLS Team of the Week selection earlier this month, he has somehow yet to receive any individual accolades for his performances on the field.
But the reality of the matter is this: arguably no MLS player has been more influential to his team’s success this year than Fontas, who has anchored the backline of a Sporting team that sits two points out of first place in the Western Conference with a dozen matches left to play.
Not convinced? We’ve come locked and loaded with a bevy of stats and facts to back it up.
One particular statistic tells you everything you need to know about Fontas and the remarkable season he currently enjoying at the heart of Sporting’s defense.
American Soccer Analysis, a leading data tracker in soccer analytics, has developed a detailed formula called goals added that measures a player’s total on-ball contribution in attack and defense. It does this by calculating how much each touch changes their team’s chances of scoring and conceding across two possessions. A full explanation on goals added can be found here.
Instead of counting shots, passes, dribbles, tackles, interceptions, blocks, clearances, recoveries and fouls as separate stats, goals added absorbs each value to calculate the overall impact a player has on the ball. And because that impact is measured in goals, it gives us an idea of how much the player helped their team’s chances of winning.
Simply put, goals added is one of the most telling advanced statistics in the sport. The higher your goals added number, the more effective you are at helping your team win.
That brings us back to Fontas, who leads Major League Soccer in 2021 with a goals added value of 3.68. That total is 0.57 higher than any other player and more than double the value of the eighth-ranked player on the list.
By this metric alone, Fontas becomes an obvious candidate for MLS Best XI, MLS Defender of the Year and even Comeback Player of the Year, as the 30-year-old Spaniard missed extended time in 2019 and 2020 through injury. But if goals added isn’t enough to paint the entire picture, other numbers seem to suggest the same thing: Fontas boasts an unmatched defensive resumé in MLS this season.
Among the several categories that contribute to a player’s goals added value, Fontas ranks near the top of the charts in two specific areas: passing, interrupting and dribbling.
Let’s start with passing. By sheer volume, Fontas leads MLS in passes (1,729), successful passes (1,546) and touches (1,890) by a wide margin, with almost 300 more passes attempted and completed than any other player. Digging deeper, however, we quickly learn that Fontas’ prolific distribution has been not only accurate but, more importantly, effective.
According to FBRef.com, a soccer analytics website wielding data from top-flight leagues across the globe, Fontas ranks fourth in MLS with 141 progressive passes, defined simply as completed passes that move the ball toward the opponent’s goal at least 10 yards, or any completed pass into the penalty area. Furthermore, Fontas leads the league in progressive passing distance, the total distance in yards that completed passes have traveled toward the opponent’s goal.
FBRef also tells us that Fontas leads MLS with 172 passes into the attacking third, a number that undoubtedly factors into his high progressive passing distance.
This category encompasses all the actions commonly associated with defenders: pressures, clearances, interceptions, tackles, duels and recoveries.
Fontas has a well-balanced profile in this realm, bolstered by his exceptional pressuring ability. The center back leads MLS with a successful pressure percentage of 42.0%. Successful pressures occur when the team gains possession within five seconds of applying pressure. Sporting has won the ball on 86 of Fontas’ 205 pressures this season, underscoring his penchant for winning the ball back when the opponent is in possession.
Elsewhere, Fontas is 11th in MLS in clearances (80), ninth in headed clearances (41) and eighth among defenders in recoveries (136). He has also won 80.7% of his tackles, placing fourth among MLS defenders with at least 1,000 minutes played this season. For context, the average tackle success clip for an MLS defender is 61.8%. Throw in the fact that Fontas has won 56% of his duels, and it becomes impossible to ignore Fontas’ all-around defensive acumen.
When we envision Fontas on the field, swashbuckling solo runs akin to Johnny Russell don’t exactly come to mind. But according to FBRef, Fontas ranks fifth in MLS with 148 progressive carries—defined as carries that move the ball toward the opponent’s goal at least five yards, or any carry into the penalty area. More impressively, he leads MLS in progressive carrying distance, the total distance in yards that a player carries the ball toward an opponent’s goal. This illustrates that Fontas’ forward movement on the ball frequently puts Sporting in better territory to create a scoring opportunity.
At the end of the day—and as Sporting Manager Peter Vermes would be the first to tell you—winning is what matters most.
In that respect, Fontas’ credentials remain unblemished. He has a 10-4-7 record as a starter, appearing in 21 of Sporting’s 22 MLS matches and playing the full 90 minutes in each.
Sporting are well within striking distance of their third first-place finish in the West since 2018. Make no mistake, a full cast of characters has contributed to the winning cause this year. But when reflecting on Sporting’s overall success, a major tip of the hat must go to Fontas, who is in the midst of a phenomenal fourth season in MLS.