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Beckerman v. Bradley: Early signs in 2014 show two difficult to separate players

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

I'm not going to purport to tell you whether Michael Bradley or Kyle Beckerman is the better player. I'm not even going to tell you which side is more effective.

What I am going to show, though, is how Michael Bradley has compared to Kyle Beckerman in these first early matches, and maybe on the way we can derive some facts about the way Toronto FC plays in relation to Real Salt Lake.

Given our two sides at hand have faced different sorts of opponents, it won't tell us everything. But it will at least tell us something, and that's a start.

Graphics from chalkboards for the relevant match

The first thing we'll notice is that Michael Bradley's passing has been a bit less accurate and a bit less frequent. We can attribute this to a number of things, but we should start by looking at the teams for which they play. Interestingly, both trend toward about 20 percent of the team's overall passing - an interesting mark if there was one. It is also worth noting that Beckerman and Bradley have had about the same number of inaccurate passes per match - between 15 and 20 - despite Beckerman completing between 20 to 30 additional passes per match.

We might also notice that Bradley has played slightly more vertically than Beckerman. This is one of the primary differences in their game for the U.S. national team, and they're two styles that I would imagine play well with each other. Beckerman spends a lot of time combining with the midfielders around him, creating space, and staying in relative safer positions.

Is this down to a systemic difference, or is this genuinely descriptive of the ways in which the two players operate? It's difficult to say, obviously, but I'm inclined to think there is a difference here.

One big area of difference, though, is in key passes. Michael Bradley had four key passes in both matches - passes that lead directly to a shot. That's pretty remarkable, and if he keeps that up, he will be the most creative (strictly speaking) midfielders in the league. It's obviously early days, but it's something to keep an eye on.

This is partly due to what's asked of each player - Bradley is the creative midfielder for Toronto; Beckerman is perhaps the least creative of the four midfielders in RSL's system - but when it's Luis Gil, Javier Morales, and Ned Grabavoy in front of you, there's less impetus for that.

We can also wonder how much of that comes down to the opposition in the first few games, but with no way to account for that, we can only rely on that which we have now.

Does it appear one is better than the other? In terms of key passes, Michael Bradley has, in a very short timeframe, been a better player for his team. But when it comes to doing the job they're asked, the difference is significantly slimmer.