Muyl (throwback) photo courtesy Major League Soccer
Nashville SC signed a defense-first winger several games into the 2020 season. It turned out… pretty well!
Other editions: No minutes and gone • No minutes and back • Jimmy Medranda • Brayan Beckeles • Handwalla Bwana • Jack Maher • David Accam • Alan Winn • Matt LaGrassa • Eric Miller • Derrick Jones • Jhonder Cádiz • Taylor Washington • Abu Danladi • Jalil Anibaba • Dominique Badji • Daniel Ríos • Tah Brian Anunga • Alex Muyl • Hany Mukhtar • Aníbal Godoy • Alistair Johnston • Randall Leal • Dax McCarty • Dan Lovitz • Walker Zimmerman • Dave Romney • Joe Willis
Muyl was one of Nashville SC’s mid-season acquisitions, picked up in a trade with New York Red Bulls. That can mean a few things about what is expected of him: for starters, picking up a player during the course of the season usually means the front office sees a specific hole in the roster that he can fill, and therefore that the playing time expectations can be incremented upwards from the baseline. It also means that the Red Bulls were willing to let him go for an international slot (and they never even used the 2020 portion of that trade acquisition), so the expectations may be slightly lowered.
Muyl also came from one of the few clubs in MLS with an absolute identity, which told us quite a bit about what sort of player was to be expected: a hard-working, press-happy midfielder who may not have the technical or offensive punch to be a game-changer in the final third offensively, but can impact the game in all other phases. That’s what the NYRB academy is going to provide. How effective he may have been in the role was a little more of an open question, given that he was struggling to see the field in Harrison (a phrase which here means “mostly in Orlando”).
21 appearances • 1460 minutes
0 goals, 21 shots (2.26 xG), five on-target
3 assists, 10 key passes (0.88 xA)
284/390 passing (72.8% • 76.1% expected)
7.0% of touches on-field
+0.03 Goals added per 96 minutes versus replacement winger
|Alex Muyl 2020||(Nashville SC only)|||||||||
|Dribbling G+||Fouling G+||Interrupting G+||Passing G+||Receiving G+||Shooting G+|
Despite the reasons to believe that Muyl might play more for Nashville than you’d expect for a guy who’d struggled to see the field for New York Red Bulls, it’s fair to say he probably outperformed those expectations nonetheless. Despite his status as a guy who wasn’t going to provide a ton of offense (though 2.28 xG and three assists combined to indicate he did indeed have a little to give there) and coming into a team that felt like it needed an offensive punch more than a defense-minded winger, he was basically a mainstay in the lineup from the moment he was activated until the end of the year.
That said, the numbers don’t look particularly kindly upon Muyl’s performance. We’ll have to separate them from the eye test just a bit, since he was also stuck playing out of position (as a striker-type substance) a couple times, and his defensive workrate made life better for the guys around him, as well. He had a goal disallowed against Inter Miami for a slight push-off, and had that stood, things might feel even better than they already do. Still, the technical deficiencies that you may expect out of a Baby Bulls academy product came to fruition: even if he looked the part of a solid technical performer, the passing and finishing indicated there was room for improvement.
All told, his performance was quite good. But showed that the future may be even brighter if he can fit into a more-specific role in a slightly-stronger team.
As noted above, Muyl played slightly above expectations and some of the deficiencies, while worth noting, can be explained away or expected to improve going into the second year in a system that is a good fit for his skillset (even if it could use him being a little more offensively sharp).
His passing numbers could reach the expected value – worth noting he was 12 pass completions away anyway, these are pretty small margin – simply by having more-established chemistry with his system and teammates. The finishing could improve through sheer chance (or better luck with a single whistle). Though the “finishing is a myth” stuff has more than a grain of truth to it, it’s possible he’s a player who doesn’t have the technical ability to finish on a consistently clinical level. Nonetheless, a reversion to closer to the mean would be solid.
The biggest question is not “can he slightly improve on last year’s performance?” (the answer to which I think is an easy “yes”), but rather “how much does he play, and in what role with a strengthened roster on the wings?” Better health from Randall Leal and Hany Mukhtar would mean the former gets more minutes on the wing (rather than the bench or in relief of Mukhtar), and NSC has also added an exciting young Uruguayan winger in Rodrigo Piñeiro. There are things Muyl is going to provide that will see him get plenty of time. But is it more situational, rather than lock-starter? And if so, does being deployed in advantageous situations allow his strengths to shine or prevent him from getting into as much of a rhythm?
He should be one of the most-interesting development curves to keep an eye on this season.