There is well-deserved concern surrounding New York City FC as they trudge their way toward a club-record winless streak. This newfound level of incompetence has made many, including myself, come to the realization that the striker position isn’t the only one that needs fixing.
Luis Barraza hasn’t inspired much hope this season. Outside of his great performance in Salt Lake City, the No 1 continues to underwhelm. As much as I want to ease some of the worries I have for this team, I simply can’t. And that’s why I’m here to tell you that Barraza is even worse than you think.
First up is Barraza’s shot-stopping abilities, the most obvious – and most important part – of a goalkeeper’s job. According to this metric, Barraza is in the middle of the pack. The 22 goals he allowed in 18 games puts him in 15th place among goalkeepers with 15 or more appearances. Further, per the Opta statistics on FBRef, Barraza ranks 14th in saves, and 13th in saves inside the penalty area.
But when you dig into Barraza’s advanced analytics, he doesn’t look as solid. A good stat to assess goalkeepers is PSxG +/-, which stands for post-shot expected goals plus-minus. It’s a mouthful, but essentially it measures a keeper’s saves based on the quality of the shots they face.
The stat uses PSxG, which measures the expected goals value of a shot once it’s kicked at the keeper. The number of actual goals allowed is then subtracted from that number. The higher the PSxG +/-, the better the goalkeeper outperformed what is expected of them. Barraza’s PSxG +/- is +0.3, which means he gave up 0.3 fewer goals than expected so far this season: He essentially has done what’s expected of him.
But that +0.3 puts him 19th among MLS keepers with ten or more starts. St. Louis City’s Roman Bürki leads the league with a PSxG +/- of + 5.8 — he’s one of the reasons why the expansion side are off to such a strong start. To find Barraza, you need to go well down the list, past CF Montréal rookie Jonathan Sirois (whom NYCFC will face tomorrow), Inter Miami’s Drake Callendar, and even Colorado Rapids goalkeeper William Yarborough.
For what it’s worth, former NYCFC captain Sean Johnson’s PSxG +/- with Toronto FC is -1.6, good for thrid-worst among regular starters in MLS.
Another point of discomfort in Barraza’s game has been his decision-making when crosses come into the box. There are times when he stays on his line rather than intercept or disrupt a cross, and other times when he comes out but fumbles the ball. Out of the 240 crosses he has faced, Barraza has stopped just ten. That gives him a stopping percentage of just 4.2, which puts him in 22nd place among goalkeepers with at least ten starts. Nashville SC’s Joe Willis leads the league with a stopping percentage of 11.3.
Barraza also tends to stay in his box defensively — he’s no sweeper-keeper. Barraza has made just ten defensive actions outside of the penalty box in 18 games, which puts him in the bottom quarter of MSL keepers. DC United’s Zach Miller leads the league with 91, while Montréal’s Sirois made 30. Some of the best goalkeepers in the league aren’t sweeper-keepers: Philadelphia Union’s Andre Blake, New England Revolution’s Djorde Petrović, and FC Cinncinati’s Roman Celentano also don’t venture far from their lines. But those three are among the top when it comes to PSxG +/-.
Barraza might be NYCFC’s first-choice goalkeeper because of his ability with his feet and familiarity with the team’s system of playing out of the back, but this may just be his weakest attribute as a goalkeeper.
To begin, Barraza is 99th percentile of MLS keepers in touches: Nobody handles the ball with their feet more. Also, Barraza ranks first in pass completion percentage among goalkeepers.
However, these stats provide only part of the picture. Barraza averages the second-shortest pass length among goalkeepers at 27.6 yards. That could be the sign of a keeper who efficiently moves the ball off his feet and help start the attacking buildup. But this is a team that struggles to create dangerous opportunities. Barraza is really good at playing a boring game of hot potato, passing the ball at a high percentage but also at extremely short distances.
What we’re left with an average shot-stopper who doesn’t break up crosses, isn’t comfortable defending outside of the box, and passess the ball efficiently but to no larger purpose. Scoring goals might be NYCFC’s greatest concern, but you should add to that the the issues with who has been in goal for most of the season.