Defensive midfielder is not a glory position. You rarely score goals, you probably don’t even record many assists. Your job is often to do the dirty work, to clean up messes, to make that unnoticed simple pass, to manage the game. If the broadcaster doesn’t mention the defensive midfielder much, he’s probably done a great job.
There might not be a better player in Major League Soccer in this role than Sebas Mendez.
The Ecuadorian international, brought in via Targeted Allocation Money a few days after Christmas, has been nothing short of an instrumental signing for the 2019 Lions. Mendez has led Orlando in touches in each of the last four matches in which he’s played 90 minutes, coinciding with the team’s improved play through May. He leads Orlando in passing accuracy (88.6%) and touches.
There’s a great underlying statistic that shows just how valuable Mendez has been to Orlando City, and as good a case as any for why he should be included in the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. American Soccer Analysis has developed a statistic called expected buildup percentage (xB%), which essentially measures how often a player is involved in his team’s possessions that end in a chance.
At 96.8%, Mendez is third in all of MLS in xB%, trailing only the top two holding midfielders in the United States men’s national team senior pool—Toronto’s Michael Bradley and Columbus’ Wil Trapp. That means that almost 97 percent of the chances Orlando have created this season have involved Mendez in one way or another.
Oh, and did I mention he’s only 22 years old? And that’s he’s a full international for a competitive CONMEBOL side?
Mendez is already among the top holding midfielders in MLS at an age where most players are still developing maturity and decision-making. The sky’s the limit for him.
Most Memorable Moment
Mendez has had some terrific tackles in a purple shirt, but his best Exploria Stadium moment came representing his country, when he completely shut down Christian Pulisic during the USMNT-Ecuador friendly back on March 21.