The latest iteration of the EA Sports FIFA video game officially hits shelves on September 30th. It will be the final installment of the FIFA series developed by EA Sports as the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement on further licensing.
While you will still have to wait a few days to take control of your favorite Boys in Gold and spend an inordinate amount of time building your FIFA Ultimate Team squad, you can already take a look at this year’s player ratings.
Here are the five mistakes EA Sports made in handing out its ratings to the Nashville SC squad.
1) Hany Mukhtar’s 76 overall rating
Hany Mukhtar finally received his well-earned gold card, but he is still criminally underrated by FIFA. His 76-overall rating is only the 25th best in Major League Soccer.
Let’s recap. Mukhtar is the prohibitive frontrunner for the MLS Most Valuable Player award. He leads the golden boot race and tied for 7th in assists. If more encompassing metrics impress you more, Mukhtar leads the league in American Soccer Analysis’ Goals Added (g+) figure.
Mukhtar’s stellar 2022 season is not an outlier, it is a continuation. He finished second in the MVP voting in 2021. This year, the German playmaker joined an illustrious list of MLS greats to have produced multiple 10 goal / 10 assists seasons.
What more does a man have to do?
It is crystal clear that the EA Sports rating team has not watched a lick of MLS action. That Mukhtar is languishing behind the likes of Marcelino Moreno tells you all you need to know.
If I had to wager, their rating process consists of the following questions:
- Did he once play for a Champions League club?
- Was a big transfer fee paid to acquire them?
- If not, who cares
I would not care nearly as much if the FIFA video game series did not play such an outsized role in shaping the opinions of soccer fans across the globe. When MLS stars do not get respect from FIFA, it permeates into young, impressionable fans creating another generation of Euro snobs that reflexively sandbag the league every chance they get.
Mukhtar deserves more respect and a much higher rating. He is not the only one negatively affected and surely will not be the last.
2) Jacob Shaffelburg’s pace
EA Sports assigned Jacob Shaffelburg an 82-pace rating, the second-highest on Nashville’s roster behind Shaq Moore and 85th among all MLS players. For most, it is a respectable number. Jacob Shaffelburg is not most people.
The Canadian’s speed jumps out of the television every time you watch him play. He simply has another gear that the vast majority of MLS players do not have.
You cannot tell me with a straight face that Josef Martínez and his knees of an 85-year-old nursing home resident should have a higher pace rating than Shaffelburg.
While we are at it, I am lumping Taylor Washington into this conversation as well. He deserves much better than his 73-pace rating. Personally, I want to see a forty-yard dash between him, Shaffelburg, Moore, and any other Coyote who believes they can claim status as Nashville’s fastest man. This is an easy content opportunity if any Nashville media team members happen to be reading.
As far as assigning blame for the poor pace ratings, I am putting this one on EA Sports’ Chief Financial Officer. This is a simple fix. Open up the budget, pay for access to Second Spectrum’s tracking data, and sort by top speeds recorded. God knows they have the revenue to pay for it, I have seen the prices people pay for FUT coins.
3) Dax McCarty’s vision and long passing
EA Sports needs to jack up Dax McCarty’s vision rating (63) and long passing (66) to something much, much higher. I submit as proof:
It’s not like vision and pinpoint accuracy from distance are new traits from McCarty. He has made an MLS Hall-of-Fame (if there was such a thing) career out of diagnosing the field and delivering accurate balls from long range. Those sorts of traits do not diminish with age, vision especially.
After he hangs up his boots professionally, I really want to watch McCarty play in a Sunday beer league. Although standing still in one place is not in his nature, he could sit in the pocket and just ping balls to guys half his age while pounding a six-pack until the day he dies. I am pretty sure that Andrea Pirlo thought that playing in MLS would be the exact same thing, just sub the beer for a glass of Chianti.
4) Brian Anunga’s strength
Like Shaffelburg’s pace, Anunga received a respectable 77-strength rating. But it does not go nearly far enough.
If I had to start an American football team with nothing Nashville SC players, my first pick would be Brian Anunga. Sometimes, I wonder if he was born into the wrong sport. Compared to most soccer players, the Cameroonian is built like a human bowling ball. In another life, he could easily add extra weight and play as a running back. The only thing stopping him from becoming the MLS version of Nick Chubb is still needing the ability to run nine miles over the course of a 90-minute match.
The strength Anunga has now is born out in his style of play. He is a rugged defensive midfielder who bodies the opposition off the ball, uses strength to secure possession, and wins aerial duels despite his sub-six-foot stature.
While we are at it, let’s bump up that penalty kick rating as well.
5) Not including GEODIS Park
The last mistake made by EA Sports was not including the sparklingly new GEODIS Park. Okay. So this one is not actually related to anyone’s individual ratings, but it deserves discussion.
The 30,000-seat stadium in Nashville’s Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood is a crown jewel of American soccer infrastructure. It is the largest soccer-specific stadium in the United States and Canada. That distinction alone is deserving of recognition in the sport’s most recognizable video game.
Instead, EA Sports opted to include LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium as a new MLS stadium playable in the game.
I am not naive. I understand why EA Sports opted for the Banc. With the arrival of Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini, LAFC exudes glitz and glamour with their big-name European stars residing in Hollywood. But it can still be a mistake.
GEODIS Park makes a compelling case for inclusion as both symbolic of a wider MLS-style stadium and possessing one unique element that would translate well to FIFA Ultimate Team.
Developed by Populous, a major architectural firm renowned for its work on sporting venues, GEODIS Park shares common elements of what has become a distinctly MLS-style soccer stadium. Populous designed seven other MLS stadiums including TQL Stadium, Allianz Field, Exploria Stadium, Children’s Mercy Park, Audi Field, PNC Stadium, and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
There are certainly plenty of similarities that can be drawn between GEODIS Park, those venues, and other recently opened stadiums (Q2 Stadium and Lower.com Field, most notably).
If you are playing as an MLS team in FIFA, GEODIS Park better mimics what is becoming the MLS archetype stadium than the short-roofed Banc of California Stadium built more for aesthetic than sheltering attendees from the brutal summers and winters found most everywhere else across the league.
GEODIS Park also features one standout element that would create a unique FUT “home” stadium.
The lighted Soundwave “N” in GEODIS Park’s northeast corner is one of the most distinctive stadium elements in North American soccer. At night, the sign appears to float in place above the pitch.
Now imagine this incorporated into FUT. Your chosen FUT club’s crest could replace the Soundwave “N” creating a special venue among the generic slog of FUT stadiums that you see game in and game out.
EA Sports had the chance to make something special but dropped the ball.
Despite the miscues, I hope you all enjoy the latest and last release of EA Sports’ FIFA franchise.