Sporting KC address Backline, Sign Luis Martins: How Can He Help?

Luis Martins
LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 11: Luis Martins of GD Chaves in action during the Liga NOS match between Sporting CP and GD Chaves at Estadio Jose Alvalade on November 11, 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)

Kansas City, Kan.- Sporting Kansas City has added onto their backline with the acquisition of Portuguese Left-Back, Luis Martins. The signing of Luis Martins will certainly go to some lengths to help resurrect a few of the issues that have been plaguing the backline.

Sporting KC Announce Signing of Luis Martins

Sporting KC has announced the signing of Luis Martins, a Portuguese left-back. Martins has spent the majority of his career floating around the Iberian Peninsula between the Portuguese First Division, and clubs like Osasuna

Consistency out of the left-back position hasn’t quite been a struggle, the problem is that it’s consistently been an area of weakness for Sporting KC in 2019. Rodney Wallace’s injury landed their intended left-back backup on the season-ending injury list leading to them turning to Yohan Croizet as the backup. Croizet is a bit of a swiss (french?) army knife and has performed admirably as a left-back in a pinch in the past. However, this season, his positioning and man-marking have gotten the best of him in his 270 minutes at left-back. That’s left Sinovic as the team’s only consistent option as a left-back. So what is the area that Sporting need to address on the left side of the backline right now?

What’s the Problem?

The problem is that the left side of the backline is surrendering a ton of open play chances in terms of that being the origination of the chances. And the data would suggest a significant of those chances are not only originating on the left side of the backline but pretty deep into the wider areas that a left-back would be covering.

Player Minutes Played at LB Total Key Passes+Assists+Open-play crosses against Key passes+Assists+open play crosses against per 96 minutes played
Seth Sinovic 1668 55 3.165467626
Yohan Croizet 270 9 3.2

Note: Rodney Wallace appeared in a small portion of one MLS match this season. That match, Sporting KC didn’t concede any of the three categories above from the left side of the field. Thus, Wallace wasn’t entered into the data for consideration.

It’s been a consistent level of chances surrendered per 96 minutes played from the left-back position. That’s also just taking into account the successful open play crosses, key-passes, and assists that have come from their area of the field. It doesn’t include missed man-marks, or balls given away in their defensive third either.

This graphic, courtesy of American Soccer Analysis, shows that the majority of key passes against Sporting Kansas City are coming from deep on the left side of their defensive third:

Luis Martins
Heat map showing locations of Key Passes against Sporting KC. Map courtesy of Jamon Moore (@JMooreQuakes) and American Soccer Analysis.

So what can be done about this? The biggest thing is locking down that side of the backline. There have¬†laments have been made about the right side of the Sporting KC defense in recent weeks. While those have been valid, as the graphic above shows, it’s been pretty clear that data would suggest the left side of the defense is what’s been surrendering a ton of chances and dangerous service into the area for opponents.

Whether that’s the left-back not closing down in time, or not picking up the overlapping run, the list all goes on. But it’s an area that teams are clearly targeting on the break and in position within Sporting’s defensive third. Enter Luis Martins.

What does Martins Bring?

While WhoScored isn’t remotely a scouting end-all-be-all, and that there isn’t a whole lot of game film on him, he seems to be an astute defender at the position. WhoScored lists his strengths as ball interception (Very Strong), aerial duels, tackling, and blocking. While his weaknesses are passing and crossing according to this, video of his game on YouTube suggests he is pretty well aware of the needs of the game in the buildup and within the final third.

You can also look later into that video for his defensive attributes, and the video will pretty well show you what WhoScored has to say about him. Granted, the video is from a few years back when he was 21/22. But, instinctual defending ability down that left flank just doesn’t go away and he should still be in his physical prime years.

While his addition isn’t going to be a band-aid/blanket fix to Sporting KC’s issues in 2019, it should be a good remedy to an area that Sporting KC clearly doesn’t have an internal answer to. By locking down that left side defensively, Sporting would be able to cut out a fair amount of the dangerous service that is coming from that spot on the field, as well as potentially shore up the man-marking issues as well that have been on that side of the field.

Time will tell, obviously, whether or not Luis Martins was a good pickup for Sporting. But to be able to pick up an experienced left-back that is an astute defender, still in his prime years, and on a free transfer, is a good bit of scouting and business by Sporting. Whether or not he’ll make a difference then, is largely up to him.

Main Photo Credit: Embed from Getty Images




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