It’s “Underdog” week at SBNation. It’s unclear why we’re being asked to tie in a 60’s cartoon superhero to sports, but what Ezra Koenig asks for, Ezra Koenig gets. So says the Moon Tome that guides Vox Media’s every move. All hail.
It appears that Atlanta United is still yet to sign a Nagbe replacement. You know this. We know this. The void Darlington Nagbe left involved a very particular set of skills that are rarely found within MLS. So when the season starts back, Atlanta will have to continue to find the answer to replacing those skills. Is it possible they could find them in a fictional cartoon dog with superpowers?
Anyone who watched Nagbe for an extended period of time recognize the ability to retain possession as one of his key assets. Not to buy too much into stereotypes, but Underdog, as a dog, likely has good instincts with regards to being able to chase and hold onto the ball effectively. He possibly might even excel at returning the ball to the person who passed it to him in the first place because he’s a good boy yes he is, yes he is. Could be crucial for the 1-2s that play an important part in Frank de Boer’s system.
Additionally, it seems that having superpowers could prove very useful in holding onto the ball. Super strength may allow him to shield the ball well when necessary. You could also see how it might be useful defensively, an area which Nagbe did well in but never excelled at. You could probably rate his strength a little below Jeff Larentowicz and feel confident in your assessment.
Which leads us to the fact that Underdog seems to (from the 20 seconds of highlight tape we watched) have a speed advantage over Nagbe. It’s not quite Miguel Almiron in small spaces but I think he may have an advantage over someone like Tito Villalba over 60 meters.
Additionally, he might have similar search engine optimization abilities as Josef Martinez Lionel Messi Zlatan Ibrahimovic Cristiano Ronaldo David Beckham Hilarious Tik Tok Vine Challenge Try Not to Laugh.
Now, let’s really get into something here and I understand if you skip past it. Some people just aren’t ready for analytics yet and I understand because there are still some kinks being worked out. But real quick, watch this highlight reel and let’s circle back.
Ok so, there are two key stats we need to address. First it appears that Underdog’s xVillain/96 is going to be wayyyyyyyyy higher than Nagbe’s. As far as we know, Nagbe had no hilarious yet semi-threatening villains threatening his existence or the existence of the planet. Underdog is really going to have to get that down if he wants to fully step into Nagbe’s shoes.
The second thing is...well were you paying attention to Underdog’s positioning? Here, we paused it for you if you don’t want to go back through the video:
Ok, we know not everyone is super tactically gifted but can you tell what he’s doing wrong here?
He ran into a drawbridge.
Overall, Underdog really could be the Nagbe replacement. The only real obstacles are being corporeal and possible issues with age although it’s unclear if he goes by dog years or cartoon years or superhero years. He may be immortal. We really won’t know until he undergoes a medical.
But physically, mentally, everything checks out for him to possibly even be an improvement. He might have difficulty integrating into the team initially, but it seems likely his speech affectation and general clumsiness will be eventually seen as endearing, with that realization coming through a series of adventures where Underdog and Josef stop the city of Atlanta from a threatening yet seemingly inconsequential attempt at destruction by an evil yet inept scientist or something.
He’s probably the Nagbe replacement. There’s really only one more thing to check...
OH GOD. Absolutely DO NOT go back through Underdog’s old Tweets, my goodness, I know he was younger then, but...that’s just...that’s just inexcusable, nope, nope, noooooo, Underdog is not the Nagbe replacement. Not at all in any way. Yikes, man.