Sporting Kansas City signed their new Young Designated Player, Diego Rubio, last week. While I don’t anticipate him debuting at least until after the bye week (there is a bye after this Sunday’s game against Toronto FC) it seems like as good of time as any to get to know the new young striker.
First, lets take a look at some statistics. Rubio is just 22-years-old (he’ll be 23 in May) so, despite a relatively long career, we’ll focus on the more recent times. To narrow the scope we’ll look at the last five years, taking us back to when Rubio was 18-years-old (technically some of the time he was 17).
As the above chart shows all the teams Rubio has been on since 2011. In 2011 he was sold from Colo Colo to Sporting Club de Portugal and then he moved on free transfer to Real Valladolid last August. The reason he’s been on so many teams is he has been sent out on loan numerous times (as he currently is at Sporting KC).
The numbers show a really good stretch from 2012 through 2015 where Rubio was scoring lots of goals and getting lots of minutes. The bad news is, if it’s minutes he needs, he may not get them on Sporting KC. He will likely serve as Dom Dwyer’s primary backup and that’ll mean limited minutes.
Dwyer has only been the full-time starter since 2014 for Sporting KC. Since we’re only two games into the 2016 season, that means we really have two years of stats to go by. In 2014 Dwyer had 33 appearances and 31 starts. Over that time he accumulated 2,724 minutes. In 2015 he started 28 games (with 30 appearances) for 2,546 minutes.
That’s just league play. Rubio likely will have to wait for the US Open and CONCACAF Champions League to get more minutes, though with Sporting’s love of chasing trophies, Dwyer will likely start those games too. A possible solution for Rubio would be to get minutes playing on the wing, like Krisztian Nemeth (a natural center forward) did in 2015. Nothing I’ve seen indicates Rubio can play that role, but I don’t know that Nemeth played it until he was forced to in 2015 and that worked out pretty well.
Another category that jumps out at me in the above table are the 30 yellow cards that Rubio has accumulated. While no one wants to give up fouls, I think it shows that Rubio is likely an aggressive player. With Sporting KC running the high press most of the time, that is an important asset to the club. I’m sure some of those yellow cards aren’t good, but I’m choosing to see the best in that. Jordi Quintilla has shown a fiery playing style and he’s accumulate cards and no one is complaining about him.
Now we’ll turn to some video on Rubio. While there are a ton of videos of Rubio out there to watch, I’ve decided to just use a couple. The first is his 14 goal season for Sporting CP II and the other from his youth at Colo Colo.
As you can see from the videos, Diego is a prototypical number nine. He plays center forward and he gets on the end of crosses and finishes strongly in front of the net. He has a few shots from further out, but for what Sporting KC needs, he seems to be a perfect fit.
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The only thing that is hard to tell is if he’ll be able to stand up to the physical play of MLS. Homegrown player Daniel Salloi scored a lot of goals in Hungary and in the SKC Academy, but the physical play of an MLS preseason found him consistently being out muscled for position. Only getting onto the field will show if Rubio is strong enough to do what Dwyer does.
It’s a shame the loan of Rubio didn’t materialize sooner. Peter Vermes indicated they were trying to get him all the way back in January but it just took time to work out. A full preseason would have shown Sporting what they had.
The loan of Rubio will only last until June 30, 2016, so there is a limited window to see how he can contribute. There is an option to buy at the end of the loan, but as per the usual, terms were not disclosed. The soonest I can see Rubio taking the field is April 2nd against Real Salt Lake. About three months of competition is a small window to see if he’s a fit, but hopefully enough time for us to get to know him.
It would sure be nice to have a complimentary player next to Dwyer to help with the goal scoring load. On top of that, in the hopefully rare situation where Sporting KC is trailing late in a game, there is always the possibility Dwyer and Rubio could play together to up the goal scoring ability of the team. Now we’ll have to just wait and see what happens next.