San Diego Loyal SC’s first new arrival for the club’s second season was a head-turner. Bringing aboard Corey Hertzog as a centerpiece attacker for 2021 added the third-leading scorer in the Championship’s regular season, and a player who was coming off another strong season at Reno 1868 FC with eight goals and four assists in the abbreviated campaign.
Hertzog will enter the 2021 season only five goals back of overtaking Charlotte Independence legend Jorge Herrera for second place in the Championship’s record book. His 67 goals across spells with Wilmington Hammerheads FC, Orlando City SC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Saint Louis FC and Reno have also seen the 30-year-old earn four All-League selections. He’s twice been on the club that finished the regular season with the best record in the Championship, and in 2012 with Wilmington helped power an underdog run to the USL Championship Final.
So, what do Hertzog’s numbers over the past three seasons tell us about the player that SD Loyal is getting for the 2021 season?
Among the 126 players to have scored at least 10 goals over the past three seasons, Hertzog ranks in the top 20 in both minutes played and goals. What stands out from his radar map, however, is the high volume of activity in and around the penalty area that comes from his ability to get into good spaces and willingness to pull the trigger.
With 147 total shots, excluding blocks, over the past three years, Hertzog has always shown a willingness to fire when able. He’s averaged 2.48 shots per 90 minutes since the start of the 2018 season, and there’s the potential that his overall totals for goals and shots would be higher if not for reduced minutes while playing behind Brian Brown at Reno to start the 2019 campaign. Coming to an SD Loyal team that ranked third-from-last in the Championship in total shots in 2020, Hertzog should have that number, and San Diego’s attacking threat, trending up.
You don’t get to where Hertzog sits in the Championship’s all-time scoring leader’s chart without some kind of consistency. But what has been somewhat notable throughout his career is the streakiness that can sometimes appear in Hertzog’s runs of finding the net. Going back to the 2016 season – his first for Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – a run of seven goals in eight appearances accounted for more than half of Hertzog’s goals during that campaign. The same happened in Reno in 2019 when Hertzog went on a run of seven goals in six appearances, and then two later runs of three goals in two appearances.
That type of success can carry a team for a while offensively, but it’s also meant that when things haven’t been clicking, the runs without a goal have been longer than other forwards. It’s also reflected in Hertzog’s minutes/goal ratio, which sits just outside the range of a goal every other game over the past three seasons, and his conversion rate, which sits below 50 percent. The high points are very high but finding a way to limit the runs without a goal is going to be key for San Diego to thrive.
Hertzog’s value as a marksman was in full evidence over his two seasons in Pittsburgh with 27 goals. What wasn’t given as much credit at the time, however, was Hertzog’s ability to create for others as he notched only three assists. With the introduction of Opta data in the Championship at the start of the 2017 season, that’s changed, and Hertzog’s ability to set up teammates for goals of their own has trended consistently upward.
Hertzog’s most productive season in chance creation actually came with the Hounds, but his 51 chances created resulted in only two assists in 2017. Over the past three seasons, though, Hertzog ranks in the Top 30 for assists (12) among players with at least 10 goals, and in the Top 20 in chances created from open play (71). Those numbers might not be at the same level as a playmaker in the vein of Solomon Asante, but it does give Hertzog some extra tools he can call on as needed to help San Diego’s attack run smoothly.