Putting numbers to the Union's injury nightmare
|The Union's lineup vs. D.C. United Saturday and Columbus Wednesday, |
a rare repeat XI for Jim Curtin. (MLSSoccer.com)
We know that injuries have persistently befallen the Union this season. But the number of absences has really been remarkable.
And Saturday, that total will eclipse the amount of injuries from all of last season even before hitting the halfway mark of 2015.
First, consider the lineup changes. The Union have played 15 MLS matches. They’ve fielded 14 unique lineups. Not until the 3-0 win over Columbus Wednesday did Curtin pencil in the same starting IX for a second time this season (and it withstood all of 37 minutes). That’s what happens when you use three goalies, five center back pairings and flip briefly between 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 formations.
The root cause of that upheaval has been the bevy of injuries sustained.
Note: Though MLS’s rules on injury reporting have improved significantly, they’re by no means standardized (and still voluntarily self-reported, which makes this database essentially nonviable), and the line between injured and unfit and eligible-but-overlooked is blurry. Antoine Hoppenot’s current hamstring issue, for which he’s still listed as questionable after being out then making the bench May 17 against D.C. United, is an example of one where the demarcations between fit and not selected aren’t clear. (As such, I don’t include injuries to Pedro Ribeiro and Richie Marquez to start last season and Eric Bird at the beginning of this season since they were likely to be absent even if healthy.) The numbers also don’t include the proportion of missed starts due to injury, like when Vincent Nogueira’s ankle knock allowed him to travel to Sporting Kansas City with very little real threat of playing. That means that numbers below are educated estimates, but the conclusion they illustrate even through the fuzziness is vivid.
By the best estimates last season, the Union lost 53 man games to injuries suffered by 14 players. They also suffered six one-game suspensions.
This season, through a mere 15 matches, the Union have lost 51 man games with injuries, affecting 14 players. With Conor Casey, Steven Vitoria, Andre Blake and Michael Lahoud not yet back to full fitness, they’ll certainly exceed last year's benchmark in Saturday’s visit from New York City FC. The 51 games through 15 matches puts them on pace for 115 man games lost over a 34-game campaign. That's in addition to nine game lost to suspensions, another figure that exceeds last season's.
Making things worse is how many different players have been bitten by the injury bug. It’s not as though one or two players have missed the entire season, skewing the number to the high side. Of the 11 players Curtin named in the starting lineup Wednesday, five had missed time this season, and the doesn't include the "play without training" plan that many, including Fernando Aristeguieta and Nogueira, were placed on of necessity at various points.
Here’s the grim reading of injuries:
2014 man games lost: Austin Berry 7, Danny Cruz 6, Sheanon Williams 5, Cristian Maidana 5, Conor Casey 5, Vincent Nogueira 4, Sebastien Le Toux 4, Ethan White 4, Zach Pfeffer 4, Brian Carroll 3, Fabinho 2, Michael Lahoud 2, Maurice Edu 1, Fred 1. Total: 53.
2015 man games lost: Andre Blake 10,* Steven Vitoria 6,* Michael Lahoud 5,* Conor Casey 5,* Antoine Hoppenot 5, Vincent Nogueira 3, Cristian Maidana 3, CJ Sapong 3, Raymond Lee 3, Sheanon Williams 2, Fabinho 2, Fernando Aristeguieta 2, John McCarthy 1, Ray Gaddis 1. Total: 51.
* absence ongoing