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When is Anderson Julio at his best coming off the bench?

The Anderson Julio Conundrum, explained

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Real Salt Lake Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last two seasons, there has been an ever changing and growing discord within the RSL fan base on what to do with Anderson Julio’s minutes. At times there have been calls for him to start games as opposed to his now ingrained super-sub role; however, the more common debates range around just how many minutes he should see of the bench. It seems inevitable that around the 60th minute of every match a choir of social media warriors and fans alike began the weekly cry to get Julio on the field.

If we manage to get to the 80th minute without his appearance, the cries are prone to explode into a congregation of torch and pitchfork wielding fans with “Fire Pablo” pickets raised high.

And somewhere out there in the shadows probably lurks another group that doesn’t want to see Anderson Julio at all. I know you’re out there, you can’t hide forever.

Ignoring the elusive last group, the question at hand really is a debate of just how many minutes the speedy Ecuadorian should be set loose on the field. By the 60th minute a fresh attacker can start to exploit some tired legs, but by the 75th minute, a fresh attacker can REALLY exploit some tired legs. Is it worth removing 15 minutes of on the field time to go for a slightly more effective substitution? Where does the balance strike true for Julio in the minute’s vs effectiveness spectrum?

Seeking a bit of clarity on the issue, I decided to dive into the statistics involving how effective Julio is per how many minutes he gets subbed in.

Short Rant

Before I get to my results, there is an important note to consider given stats – in this case assists. Or perhaps more accurately, phantom assists. Julio has been credited with three assists over his RSL career by MLS, but two of those, even as a hometown supporter, I find extremely suspicious. Take for example, this hockey assist, which MLS totally gave Julio credit for, and let me know your verdict.

If we’re giving that assist to Julio I would also like to give a shout to the ball kid who helped with the throw in that set up the play.

So having with my eyes watched every single Julio goal and assist in writing this article, and with the backing of American Soccer Analysis who also appear have working eyes, I have removed two assists from my below calculations.

Now onto the good stuff.

The Numbers

Surprisingly enough, in any game where we’ve subbed in Julio after the 80th minute, he has failed to add a single goal or assist to his tally over two seasons; thus highlighting the importance of actually playing significant minutes. In opposition to that, we see that Julio has put in his best production when subbed in between the 76th and 80th minute. Not even close to the 60th, showing that mere minutes are not the solution either. In fact, the 4 goals he has scored when leaving the bench between the 45th and 75th minute are matched entirely by that following 5 minute window.

Most of the extremely late, and sometimes dramatic goals Julio has scored in injury time, tend to be when he is subbed in around this 78th minute sweet spot.

I think there is also a case here for those who think that Julio would be better off starting more games. 3 goals in 13 games is markedly better than many of our current options. Chang and Meram as starters are not banging in goals at that rate, not even close. Another supporting piece of evidence to this a glance at his xGoal stats over each season.

Here we see in Julio a solution to a thorn that has been in the side for RSL all year, a decently good finisher. I went over this in more detail in my last work, but basically, RSL lacks any real player who out performs their xGoal without Damir Kreilach, aside from Julio. Julio is the one other player on the roster who actually scores their chances at a high rate. Last season he was expected based on his quality of chances to score less than 6; he scored 8. This season he is pegged to have less than 2 goals and sits at 3. It’s reasonable to think with more minutes in 2022, his xGoal would continue to increase, just as we saw last year.

Per shot, he has an increased chance to score compared to most players, and this would lend to the theory that having him on the field all game, to shoot more, would highlight this statistic.


I dare not draw a line and say Julio needs to start; I, just like you, have seem him be awfully ineffective in a more than a few starts. What I think the numbers highlight is a need for patience in his appearances off the bench.

I can relate to any fan who has sat through numerous games this season, watching the team play without any real attacking threat on display for an entire hour, and demands something change. The temptation to take action is real, this isn’t champagne soccer and enough is enough. But at the same time, these numbers, along with some conventional thinking, imply that there is plenty of merit into waiting further. Yes a 60th minute sub gives significant time to change a game, but given that players still have plenty of wind in their lungs, a speedster isn’t necessarily the right move at the time. Running the opposing center backs another 10, 15 minutes, before bringing on Julio has proven to be quite a boon to the teams attacking numbers.

All until the clock ticks passed 80. At that point it’s time to raise those torches.