Nashville SC

2020 report card: Dave Romney

Dave Romney photo courtesy LA Galaxy/MLS

When you play next to Walker Zimmerman, the accolades may be tough to come by.

Other editions: No minutes and goneNo minutes and backJimmy MedrandaBrayan BeckelesHandwalla Bwana • Jack MaherDavid AccamAlan WinnMatt LaGrassaEric MillerDerrick JonesJhonder CádizTaylor WashingtonAbu DanladiJalil AnibabaDominique BadjiDaniel RíosTah Brian AnungaAlex MuylHany MukhtarAníbal GodoyAlistair JohnstonRandall LealDax McCartyDan LovitzWalker ZimmermanDave RomneyJoe Willis

The expectations

When Romney was signed, he won over (or drew skepticism from) some of the statistically-inclined by citing some on-off numbers for himself (he was actually quite right if you properly contextualize – he basically only played away games for the Galaxy). He clearly felt he was better than he was given credit for in Carson, while the broader MLS zeitgeist was probably more on the side of Galaxy management.

So did you believe Romney, or believe the Galaxy – I would not advise the latter, given how profoundly bad they’ve proven to be at putting together solid teams in recent years – when it came to his upside? Either way, the expectation certainly wasn’t that he’d be the star for a great defense. By the time the season began, of course, his former cross-town rival Walker Zimmerman had joined the fold, and Romney wasn’t needed as a star. He was needed as a complement.

A first-choice starter who would play the majority of minutes for Nashville SC as the Boys in Gold put together an above-average defense? That seems a reasonable target.

The Statistical

26 appearances • 2578 minutes (all of ’em!)

1 goals, 13 shots (0.91 xG), 3 on-target
0 assists, 5 key passes (0.48 xA)
992/1195 passing (83.0% • 80.9% expected)
8.8% of touches on-field

+0.09 Goals added per 96 minutes versus replacement centerback

Dave Romney 2020
Dribbling G+Fouling G+Interrupting G+Passing G+Receiving G+Shooting G+
-0.50+0.18+0.43+0.18-0.19+0.00
All data per American Soccer Analysis.

The grade

A-plus.

Yes that’s right, I gave Romney a higher grade than his position-mate and the league’s pick for the best player at that position group during the season.

Certainly, Romney and Zimmerman provided very different things – and in that way, they were complementary to each other. On the ball, Romney was far less adventurous than his CB partner, but in terms of passing, their expected numbers were about the exact same – meaning they were similar in ambition – but Romney completed slightly more of them. That was among the factors that let to a much better passing score per Goals Added, and given the responsibilities of the position, I’ll take the tradeoff for the lost dribbling.

Romney’s other statistical quirks in comparison to Zimmerman relate to a matter of style. Romney was the more stay-at-home, do-your-job, simply boring centerback (those who watched the USMNT U-23 game last night know “boring” is good in this context). That’s a decent thing to be, of course, and it’s perfect when your partner has the boom-or-bust aspects of the position down. Romney wasn’t going to get forward to get involved in the offense, but he didn’t need to because Zimmerman had it under control. He wasn’t going to get caught out of position, either, because he was there to cover for Zim. There was a perfect yin and yang relationship between them. You need both halves to a certain extent (though often you have a pair of dudes who have each side of the coin rather than a “heads” and a “tails” player like the Romney

The final piece of the puzzle that saw Romney earn a better grade than Zimmerman was one that is the finest of splitting hairs at this point in the process (but very much was important in the meaty middle of this series): he played every single minute of the year. Being a true ironman – no card suspensions, no need for rest even in a pandemic year that saw 3-game weeks with some regularity – is huge, and provided a consistency that the backline really used.

The future

Realistically, it’s not going to be any better. I don’t anticipate Romney plays every minute this year (I don’t anticipate he’s asked), and I think there’s a chance he adds a bit of the Zimmerman adventurousness as they’re more comfortable as a duo, and more confident in the overall setup, mission, and tactical approach of the team. A guy who made no mistakes but was unexciting in the process can loosen up just a bit – even making a key mistake or so – and look a little worse without actually being any worse. I’d take that.

Where Romney can have a better year is by being part ofd a backline that develops from “very good” into “one of the league’s best, if not the very best.” With the way last year progressed, including the emergence of rookie right back Alistair Johnston, there’s plenty of reason to believe that happens. There’s also historical reason to believe that even a better backline shows a few more cracks as Gary Smith trusts the offense to outscore opponents and lets a more free-wheeling philosophy show up. Romney and Zimmerman will probably have more mentorship responsibilities for the young CBs rather than purely on-field tasks, which obviously doesn’t show up on the scoresheet.

Keeping course for Romney may not get him any individual accolades, but now that he’s with a franchise that has shown to value and trust him, he’s unlikely to be looking for that, anyway.

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