Friday, March 19, 2010

Gerbage goals?

With the recent kerfuffle involving Ali Gerba's situation with Toronto FC, there has been a lot of criticism directed at the fleshy striker. Legitimate gripes about his fitness, work habits, and attitudes are among them. Questions regarding his lengthy list of professional clubs also abound.

"I'm so hungry!!"

There have also been many unsuccessful attempts to reconcile his checkered professional record with his more than respectful goal scoring record for Canada. Like junior high students learning algebra (see what I did there? -- as a math educator I couldn't pass this up) those trotting out this argument keep running up against a wall without finding a solution.

The most commonly espoused theory is that Gerba's goals for Canada were scored against less than worthy opponents, with the implication that Gerba simply lacks the quality to score in MLS.

Does this theory hold water? Here's a look at Gerba's games, with the rank of Canada and it's opponent at the time of the match:

CAN RNK Opponent OPP RNK Goals
85 Honduras 50 0
85 Costa Rica 24 0
85 USA 10 0
85 Cuba 70 1
84 Spain 8 0
85 Austria 70 0
71 Jamaica 77 0
94 Venezuela 70 1
94 Costa Rica 52 0
94 Guadeloupe NR 1
56 Guatemala 81 2
56 USA 16 0
53 Iceland 117 0
53 Costa Rica 52 0
62 Estonia 129 0
62 Panama 67 0
60 St. Vincent 147 2
60 St. Vincent 147 2
77 Jamaica 94 0
79 Mexico 32 1
81 Honduras 60 0
81 Mexico 24 1
83 Guatemala 112 2
92 Jamaica 65 1
92 El Salvador 90 1
92 Costa Rica 30 0
92 Honduras 39 0
56 Jamaica 81 0

Quickly, of his 15 goals for Canada, 9 were scored against a lower ranked opponent (4 each against Guatemala and St. Vincent, and one against Guadeloupe, who surely would have been ranked lower than Canada if FIFA ranked them at all).

That works out to a strike-rate of 0.82 goals/game against lower ranked sides, and 0.35 against higher ranked ones.

Open and shut case, right?

Wrong. It's only that simple if you conveniently ignore that Canada doesn't score a lot of goals, especially against higher ranked teams. Here's what you can say about Ali scoring against big sides:
  • His strike rate of 0.35 goals/game in these matches is still higher than the overall strike rate of any active Canadian player
  • He has two goals against Mexico. In World Cup qualifiers. If you can find any player from the last 20 years that can boast more than that, I'd love to hear it.
By way of comparison, Canada's co-leader (with Gerba) in goals among active players is Ali's (for now) teammate Dwayne de Rosario. Who did his 15 goals come against? Haiti (2), St. Vincent (2), Belize (2), Costa Rica (2), Guatemala (2), Martinique, Venezuela, Scotland, Finland, Korea Republic (1 each).

For a guy with a reputation for scoring big goals, he hasn't scored much against quality opponents. The highest ranked on De Ro's shit list is South Korea, who were ranked 42nd at the time of the Gold Cup in 2002.

In conclusion, Ali Gerba may be fat, lazy, and useless. But don't use such a bullshit argument to back it up.


Grant said...

I think there is a certain segment of Canada supporters that poke fun at Gerba because we secretly love him. His goal-scoring record for Canada speaks for itself.

J said...

I think you're right. My affection for Gerba isn't really even all that secretive, and I don't think he got a fair shake last year.

The much touted O'Brian White scored exactly one more goal than Ali G in almost the same time on the pitch, yet nobody has soured on him. Of course, he's a "young player" (almost 25, only 3 years younger than Gerba, with knees probably 3 years older).

Ossington Mental Youth said...

yep, i agree, Gerba hasnt had a good good at TFC he arrived out of shape and injured and has had few games to play and gel with an always changing team. I think its ridiculous that they are considering ridding of him, he should havea full season before that happens.

Anonymous said...

The one thing I found frustrating during GC 09 was when Gerba wasn't effective (vs Honduras in the QF, except for one passing play orchestrated by Bernier resulting in Hutchinson's shot being saved in the first half), too many people go to his defense by using the default excuses, "He's not getting any service" or "He is not getting the right kind of service." Then the same people would compliment the likes of Hutchinson, JDG, and Johnson, et al, for their play. Aren't these the guys who are supposed to be providing that service for Gerba. Christ, he spent most of his time in that match and his ass getting easily marked out of the game by one Honduran CB.

Glad to see he had a good rebound in Montreal in 2010, and if he looks good to start the year he should be our number one guy come GC 11 time. But if I see the same kind of performance in crunch games like the Honduras match in 09, I want to see and hear more objective criticism, either of him or other the other sacred cows in our lineup.