WAR - Winger Above Replacement
There is one player on FC Cincinnati's roster that is not talked about nearly enough, Yuya Kubo. Kubo is one of FCC's three designated players, he's a Japanese international, and he was signed from one of the best teams in Belgium. Everything on paper says Kubo should be, at a minimum, a standout player on this team. He's primarily been a striker and a winger with all of his other teams. And that right there is the problem.
If you're an FC Cincinnati fan, you'd be forgiven for thinking Yuya Kubo is a midfielder.
In one of the weirdest moves not talked about for FCC, General Manager Gerrard Njikamp and manager Jaap Stam have converted a striker into a midfielder. Maybe this wouldn't be a problem in another timeline, but in this one FCC is going thorough a brutal goal drought.
You have an accomplished attacker with Europa League, Champions League, and International experience, and you've turned him into a box-to-box midfielder.
This is an FC Cincinnati team that has one striker Stam feels comfortable starting, Jurgen Locadia. The backup Brandon Vazquez can hardly buy his way into being a substitute. Which is saying something considering how ineffective Locadia has been and with MLS giving teams 5 substitutes.
Yuya Kubo was brought in to make this team better. Out with the old, in with the new. As for exactly who Kubo replaced, well that's always tricky. In my opinion, Kubo is a replacement for Roland Lamah. Lamah was primarily a winger, occasional goalscorer,and Belgian. Kubo was signed from Belgium so I'm counting it.
Roland Lamah played an average of 65 minutes a game, where Kubo is averaging 75 minutes a game played. So off the bat Kubo is getting used more. let's take a look.
Lamah averaged 1.52 shots a game with 0.56 shots on target. Kubo is averaging 1.41 shots per game and 0.59 on target. Lamah finished 2019 with 1 goal, Kubo has scored 2 so far on the season. Fairly even so far.
But since both were not out-and-out strikers, we can't just compare their goal-scoring. In terms of passing, Lamah recorded a passing completion percentage of 73.2%, a 23% short passes completion percentage, and averaged 1.11 passes into the final third per 90 minutes. Kubo has a completion percentage of 78.5%, a short passing completion percentage 36.4%, and averages 1.64 passes into the final third across 90 minutes. Lamah also averaged 2.42 crosses per 90 minutes and Kubo averages 1.88
That's a lot of stats to say... well statistically there isn't a lot separating these two except passing. Kubo is a much better passer of the ball than Lamah was, with a dramatically higher passing completion rate.
That video is the highlight reel from BSC Young Boys when he signed for Gent. FCC could use a player like that right now.
The concerning issue when digging into the statistics are the shots. Kubo is averaging fewer shots than Roland Lamah who scored exactly one goal last year. This is a lack of utilization and really a misappropriation of talent. I understand Allan Cruz is always hurt, but the midfield is downright crowded with talent right now. Why not move Kubo into his natural position?
Kubo has always been a striker before coming to Cincinnati. In fact he's really only had limited time at not-striker positions including winger. For his clubs he was always either the main striker options up top or he was a second, deeper lying striker. Under Jaap Stam, Kubo has not been utilized in this way.
With Gent, Kubo averaged 1.24 goals on target per 90 minutes with 22 goals across three seasons. He also averaged the same number of minutes a games as he has under FC Cincinnati. That's 0.35 goals a game for Gent, whereas in Cincinnati he's averaging just 0.2. He has the ability to score goals. In fact Kubo is trailing his career average in expected goals and expected assists here in Cincinnati.
And one way of looking at the passing stats is Kubo now has better teammates than Lamah did. Lamah was passing to Corbin Bone, Eric Alexander, and Darren Mattocks. Kubo is passing to Siem de Jong, Haris Medunjanin, and Jurgen Locadia. An improvement was an inevitability really.
All of this is to say, Kubo is a striker, play him that way. Put him up top with Locadia and let them play off of each other. When you are going through a goalless streak, you cannot ignore goal-scoring talent on the team.