Profile: Ken Tribbett

Nashville SC made a huge signing Wednesday, bringing in one of the USL’s top defenders. While former Penn FC centerback Ken Tribbett didn’t participate in the playoffs in his lone year in Harrisburg, it was hardly his fault: he missed 13 games (including the final six of the year). Here’s a breakdown of Penn FC’s performances with and without him:

With Tribbett Without Tribbett
Record 4-10-7 (.90 ppg) 5-5-3 (1.38 ppg)
Goals Against 29 (1.38/gm) 18 (1.39/gm)
Defensive efficiency* -0.016 0.170

* You can take a look at the power rankings posts for more description of the efficiency, but for the purposes of this post, it adjusts goals against for the level of competition played. Negative is good, positive is bad. 

So: Penn FC’s defense was bad all year, but quite a bit better when Tribbett was available. The City Islanders had quite a bit of bad luck in that he was unavailable in a 3-2 loss to Richmond, for example. However, the results during both stretches were mostly what you’d expect for a team that finished ninth in the table.

Now, to get into the individual statistics: Despite missing 13 games, he was sixth on the team in minutes (1,850), and was only subbed off twice, both 1-0 losses in which his team was chasing a goal late – they’d get it in neither. Tribbett had 88 clearances, 11 blocked shots, a team-leading 69 pass interceptions, a team-leading 180 duels won and 109 aerial duels won. He tackled at a 68.3% rate, won duels at a 65.5% rate, and won aerial duels at a 71.7% rate. His raw stats would have been higher if not for all the time missed, of course.

Tribbett was also an offensive asset for Penn FC, with with a 75.6% pass completion rate (50.4% on long passes), and 11 key passes on the year, solid for a centerback. The “aerial duels won” category above should probably indicate where his biggest offensive contributions came, though: the 6-2, 170-pounder was a major factor on set pieces. He scored six goals on the year, one with each foot and four from his head. He’s not a huge guy, but his body control and leaping ability make him a monster on corners (three of the four headed goals) or free kicks.

He made two USL Team of the Week squads from the league’s official selections, and was the mid-year Defender of the Year (and might have gotten the full-season honor if not for all the time missed). That’s pretty solid, in person e-pinion.

Tribbett spent 2016 and 2017 between the Philadelphia Union and their USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel, playing 13 games in 2017 and just a single half-game in 2016 with the Steel (he played 23 games in MLS in that time – he was primarily a Major League Soccer guy). He was with Harrisburg the year prior to that, so he’s spent most of his soccer career – including four years at Drexel University from 2010-13 – in Southeast Pennsylvania, even though he’s a Colorado native. His time with the Steel in 2017 (about which there are more detailed stats from the USL) seem to be fairly similar to his Penn FC numbers, just… less of it.

His agent has conveniently uploaded a 2018 highlight reel:

You can see he’s a solid tackler who is smart about when to leave his feet (six yellow cards as a centerback is reasonably clean, though given he did that in about 60% of the season, it indicates he’s willing to get dirty a bit when needed) – you’re not going to see flashy recoveries with last-ditch slides like you are accustomed to from Justin Davis, for example. The long passes seem more indicative of vision than a rocket leg, and with a small sample size in the highlight reel (and only OK numbers), that’s probably not a strength of his game. His ability in the air is what stands out most immediately and obviously, and in a league like the USL – lots of direct play, the need for ball-clearing centerbacks is high – that’s a good fit. If he can give you a ridiculous bicycle kick (make sure you watch the last clip in the highlight reel), that’s a bonus.

Tribbett is a guy with two-ish years MLS experience (albeit some spent down with their affiliate) and he still just turned 26 in August. He was also his team’s captain last year  there’s something to be said for leadership across the entire spectrum of the team being a positive. Getting that guy presumably on the cheap because his USL team disbanded, and one would imagine because he wants to win – and have a chance at a return to MLS in 2020 – is a pretty solid signing.

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