Saturday, February 27, 2016

What FIFA 16 ratings can (and can’t) tell us about NASL newcomers

By: Caleb Ramp

This offseason has arguably been the most eventful in the history of the modern NASL. Teams have come (Miami, OKC, Puerto Rico), teams have gone (Atlanta, San Antonio). We've had additional implied (Chicago) and rumored (San Francisco, among others) expansion, an impactful statistical partnership, and whisperings of a potential groundbreaking new TV deal.

Perhaps most importantly, the talent level in the league continues its rapid upward trend. Quality of new signings from almost every team in the league continue to impress, and will lend itself to what could very well be the most exciting NASL season and US Open Cup since the league's rebirth.

The signings from around the world have been from so many top-quality clubs, EA Sports FIFA 16 players can now create an entire FIFA Ultimate Team of current NASL players, despite the fact that the league itself does not appear in the game (another subject for another time, perhaps). Here are what EA's in-game ratings can tell us (or at least confirm what we might have already known), about a few NASL newbies:

Juan Arango is a free kick god

  • Signed with: New York Cosmos
  • Key Stat: 91 Free Kick Accuracy
  • Comparable to: Lionel Messi (91), Wesley Sneijder (87), Memphis Depay (90)

You might recognize the first name on that list.

The Special Juan
There are exactly three players in the world who have a higher Free Kick Accuracy rating in FIFA 16 than Juan Arango: Hakan Çalhanoğlu (Bundesliga), Zlatko Junuzović (Bundesliga), and Andrea Pirlo (MLS). 

Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. Fourth in the world. The same rating as Lionel Messi. The internet is littered with videos supporting EA’s decision, too. Stunning set-piece strike after stunning set-piece strike from every angle imaginable. 

If you’re a fan of any team but the Cosmos and weren’t already terrified, have a go at this: Arango’s long shot rating (89) is only bested by Arjen Robben (90), Hulk (90), Fredy Guarin (90), Paul Pogba (91), and Christiano Ronaldo (93). Not bad company. 

There’s little doubt we’re in for more than one jaw-dropping Golazo from Juan Arango during the 2016 campaign. Hopefully for the sake of the league, the best of these happen away from Hofstra and its beautiful blue lacrosse lines. Nobody wants to see that on SportsCenter.

Jake Keegan isn’t

  • Signed with: FC Edmonton
  • Key Stat: 27 Free Kick Accuracy

Hey, we all have our own thing. At least they still have Lance Laing, right? 

er….At least they’re not Ottawa?

In fairness to Keegan, his game is built on positioning, pace, and an endless motor – a skill triad which is more than enough to bring success. See: Jamie Vardy.

Don’t challenge Robbie Findley to a foot race

  • Signed with: Rayo OKC
  • Key Stat: 92 Acceleration, 91 Speed.
  • Comparable to: Sergio Aguero (92 ACC, 86 SPD), Gervinho (91 ACC, 92 SPD), Gerrard Deulofeu (89 ACC, 92 SPD), 

"I've never been happier."
Findley’s quickness is something familiar to many American soccer fans. He’s had a fairly solid career in the US, with over 170 appearances in MLS (including an MLS cup victory with Real Salt Lake), and a few USMNT caps -- including three in the 2010 World Cup.

Being paired with NASL vet and fellow speedster Billy Forbes will leave defenders around the league with their hands full and lungs burning. Expect OKC to utilize a lot of direct play to stretch defenses and utilize this strength of their squad. The ability to play directly in an effective manner is particularly useful tool for a team in their first season. Findley certainly knows how to capitalize.

Bend it like...Michel?

  • Signed With: Rayo OKC
  • Key Stat: 86 Curve
  • Comparable to: Juan Arango (86 CRV), Sebastian Giovinco (86 CRV), Luis Suarez (86 CRV)

Another NASL newcomer who has excellent delivery from set pieces, the former FC Dallas man has the third highest Curve rating of all defensive midfielders in the game. If you’ve never seen him play, he can put the ball on an absolute platter, and earned every bit of this rating with two Olimpico goals (#1, #2) in the last few seasons.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is his quality and versatility on the defensive side of the ball. He’s a proven defender who can play left back or defensive mid, and is one of the many reasons OKC’s inaugural squad is so intriguing. I would expect to see his name on the NASL Team of the Week more than once this season, and don't be surprised if OKC find themselves in the playoff hunt from day one.

Jeremy Hall is great with his feet. Both of them.

  • Signed With: Tampa Bay Rowdies
  • Key Stat: Weak Foot: 5-star, 88 Agility
  • Comparable to: Santi Carzola (5* WF, 86 AGI), Jordi Alba (3* WF, 89 AGI), DeMarcus Beasley (4* WF, 89 AGI)
Smile Rating: 100
The 5-star Weak Foot rating is relatively rare in FIFA, with only around 1.5% of all players in the game having been given it. Jeremy Hall also has one of the highest agility ratings among defenders (top 0.6%), and is at the very top of the chart when this subset is limited to defenders who also have a 5* WF rating.

In practice, this means Hall can stop and change direction as quickly as anyone in the game -- regardless of which side the ball is on.

Hall is a great addition to a Rowdies side who also brought in Michael Nanchoff and Danny Mwanga from MLS clubs (66 and 73 AGI, respectively). All three players have actually played for the Portland Timbers at some point in the last five years, but this is the first time any of them will have overlapped.
Related: Hall also boasts a Finishing rating of 53. So there’s that.

 Adaílton José dos Santos Filho SMASH
  • Signed With: Miami FC
  • Key Stat: 84 Strength
  • Comparable to: Martin Skrtel (85 STR), Jermaine Jones (83 STR), Gerald Pique (83 STR). 
Not exactly a track star (reflected by his 33 acceleration rating), but Adaílton is a dominant physical presence.The Brazilian's likely partner in the center, Rhett Bernstein, isn't far behind with an 83 rating in the same category. Both have the prototypical centerback build, and should feel right at home with the rough, physical nature of the NASL. 

Alessandro Nesta obviously knows the importance of anchoring a team with tremendous play in central defense, and with someone with his pedigree at the helm (albeit playing not coaching), it's not hard to imagine NASL debutante Miami FC having one of the stronger defensive records this season.
Completely unrelated: EA gave Wayne Rooney a strength rating one point higher, at 85. I'm still taking Adaílton in a fight.

Whoa, bro.

Want to see the NASL included in the next FIFA game? Let EA Sports know by using the hashtag #NASL4FIFA17 on twitter!

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