The Alex Muyl effect

Teams are better when Alex Muyl is in the starting lineup. It’s a simple fact.

After joining Nashville from New York Red Bulls, the winger immediately became a fixture in Gary Smith’s preferred eleven. And the Boys In Gold are better when Muyl is in the lineup. When Muyl starts, Nashville have won 10, drawn eight and lost just three. When he’s not in the lineup, they’ve won just one, drawn three and lost five.

It’s not a new phenomenon, either. New York Red Bulls averaged 1.78 points per games when he started versus 1.54 when he was on the bench or not in the squad.

What makes this surprising is that Muyl doesn’t necessarily stand out on the stat sheet. In 1,750 minutes with Nashville, Muyl has three assists and scored his first goal last weekend.

Muyl averages just one shot per match in a gold shirt, and has put just six of those on target. He averages one key pass every other match, and his goals added numbers don’t necessarily pop off the chart.

What makes Muyl special? Why are Nashville a significantly better team with him?

For one thing, Muyl’s workrate is absolutely exceptional. The New York homegrown winger plays the position almost like a box-to-box midfielder. He gets up and down for the full 90 minutes without losing a step, and he relieves defensive pressure from teammates like rightback Alistair Johnston.

Nashville get plenty of defensive production from their wingers. Randall Leal and Muyl are first and second on the team in both tackles and duels. Coming from New York’s high pressing system, Muyl is solid off the ball. It doesn’t show up in the stats sheet, but his ability to put defenders under pressure and force them into mistakes significantly improved Nashville’s ability to win the ball in midfield.

His positioning is always solid, as he cuts off passing angles and limits passing channels for his opponents. He forces the opposing side to be predictable in possession.

When Muyl finally got his first Nashville goal on Saturday, the celebration told the story. For Muyl, it was one of relief and a pent up release. For the rest of the team, it was one of joy and pride in a teammate who is more than deserving.

Alex Muyl’s contribution may not always show up on the stat sheet, but that doesn’t make it any less vital. He elevates the level of his teammates, puts in consistent performances every week, and does the little things well. As scouts like to say, he has all the intangibles. He’s an MLS version of Shane Battier.

And you can be certain that as Nashville SC continues to progress and build on their early successes, Alex Muyl will be a core part of that progression.

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