There is a quiet statistic the big time teams track closely. Recoveries.
Opta defines a Recovery as when a player wins a loose ball, or when a ball is played directly to them.
Coaches track this stat because it tells them how well players are anticipating plays and cutting out opportunities before they become a problem. Players who have a high number of Recoveries typically have a high Soccer IQ and are quick enough to beat other players to the punch.
But coaches really track Recoveries because it strongly correlates to winning. All but one of last season's MLS playoff teams were also among the leaders in Recoveries.
Recovering the ball in the midfield is critical to making Porter's system work. You cannot keep a high press if teams can waltz through your midfield. So not only is Recovering the ball important. It is important where Recoveries happen.
Enter Diego. Yesterday Diego had 9 Recoveries, easily the highest among Portland midfielders. What is really impressive is where he recovered the ball - most of them were at or near the midfield stripe. NY had a hard time just getting by him. And when they did, the defense was there to help clean things up.
Compare that to Dax McCarty. McCarty was a pest yesterday and caused Portland's midfield a lot of grief. I thought he was their best player yesterday. He had 11 Recoveries. And yet Dax's recovery chart shows how pinned NY was in their half. Most of his Recoveries were well into NY's area - a much easier place to cause disruption.
Not many people put Diego down as MotM material. And when Valeri is that dominant, I don't blame them. But Valeri cannot be Valeri unless Diego is being Diego. Diego did a lot of the quiet dirty work that allowed his teammates around him to stand out yesterday.
I expect Porterball to help Diego be one of the most disruptive players in the league, and to be disruptive in a place where the opponent is immediately under pressure. Porterball and Diego are soccer's version of an eHarmony commercial.