Welcome to From The Upper Deck, my blog about RSL and soccer in general. I have a lot of passion for the beautiful game. I am just a fan that likes to sit in the upper deck and take it all in.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Striking Up a Partnership- Midseason Report

By Charles Barnard

The loss of Alvaro Saborio has been a big blow to the offensive attack of RSL. The season started great with the offense scoring goals at a record setting pace and Saborio was a big part of that. While Saborio has been on the field this season, RSL was scoring at a rate of a goal every 45 minutes.  RSL has now played 8 league games without him. In those past 8 games RSL is scoring at a rate of a goal every 120 minutes. 

It is clear to see that no one has truly stepped up to fill Saborio's shoes. I felt that now was an applicable time to really dive in and look at each of RSL's striker stats and to see how well each striker is playing with each other. 

First let's look at how each striker is doing individually. Goals represent the amount of team goals, not the amount of goals the player has scored. MpTG (minutes per team goal) is how often the team scores when a player is either on or off the field. 

PlayerMinGoalsMpTGMin not playedGoalsMpTGDifference

By looking at this it is clear to see how important that both Saborio and Joao Plata has been to the team this season. Looking at the difference you can see how RSL scores much more when these two players have been on the field. 

It is also interesting to see how bad the offense has been with Garcia playing. By this point, everyone knows the slump that Garcia has been in. It has been over a calendar year since he scored his last goal. These numbers also show that the offense as a whole has not been good with Garcia on the field.

While there is a lot of value from individual numbers, I also feel we can learn a lot by looking at how well the team does when a particular partnership is up top. 

MinGoalsMpTGMin not playedGoalsMpTG

There is a lot of data to look at here, but let me point out some of the things that stands out to me. First, the combination of Saborio and Plata this year was killer. The chemistry between those two players has been wonderful. Last season they had a similar MpTG while playing together.

The numbers for Plata/Garcia looks great so far, but those numbers might be a bit deceiving. If you remember Garcia came on late in the Chicago match and RSL played 3 forwards up top. In the handful of minutes that lineup was on the field, RSL scored twice. 

The question continues to be what partnership should start in the absence of Saborio? One pairing that looked great at the end of last season was Findley/Sandoval. But even if Findley was 90 minute fit, that pairing would take Plata off the field. Sandoval/Garcia also played well last season but with both players struggling to find the back of the net that is not ideal either. And finally, I have never been a fan of Plata/Findley together. 

That leaves either continuing with Plata/Sandoval or to give a shot to Plata/Garcia. Which partnership do you think the team should use come Saturday night?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Midway Look at Minutes Per Team Goal

It is hard to believe that RSL has already played 15 matches this season. Since we are nearing the half way mark of the season I felt the time was right to start really looking into season statistics. By this point in the season there is a good sample size to really start to analyze the data. The first stat that I am going to look at is Minutes per Team Goal (MpTG).

For those that are unfamiliar with MpTG let me explain what it is. It is not a soccer standard stat but one that I came up with. First, I take a look at how many goals were scored by the team while a player was on the field.  Some simple math gets me a number showing how many minutes on average it takes for the team to score while the player is playing. Next I look at how many goals were scored while that player was not on the field. From that I can see how many goals per minute are scored when that player is not playing. This gives a basic look at how well the team plays with and without each player.

Let's first take a look at the forwards. Remember that the goals shown below are the amount of goals the team has scored, not that particular player. As a point of reference, the team as a whole is scoring at a rate of a goal every 54 minutes.

MinGoalsMpTGMin not playedGoalsMpTGDifference

I don't think it is any surprise to see that the offense has been much more effective when Plata is in the match. You can really see how important he has been to the team when you look at the drop off that has happened when he has not been on the field. The numbers for Saborio are also interesting to me. Last season the team actually scored at a higher rate when he was not on the field. This year those numbers have been reversed.

It is a bit concerning about the lack of offense when looking at the numbers for Sandoval and Garcia. Most people probably have realized that neither player has a goal on the season yet. But it might be more concerning that the team is not scoring as much either when these two players have been on the field.

Here is a look at the RSL midfielders.

MinGoalsMpTGMin not playedGoalsMpTGDifference

In looking at these numbers the one that jumps out has to be how poor the offense has been without Kyle Beckerman on the field. It is taking 70 minutes longer for the team to score a goal when Beckerman has not played. I think people might miss how important he truly is for RSL on the offensive side of the ball.

It is also hard not to be impressed with the amount of goals scored in the limited time that Velasquez has been on the field. Now it is true that his numbers will look better due to the fact that he has mostly been a late game sub and more goals are scored in the final 15 minutes than any other period of matches. But a goal every 18 minutes is still very impressive. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Statting the Opposition- Seattle

By Wes Brown

Saturday’s game versus Seattle is going to rival the hype of last year’s at the same venue. Both are off to strong starts and are only separated by two points in the standings (Sounders having a game in hand). They’re also both missing key players due to World Cup duty and injuries -- Beckerman, Rimando, Saborio, and possibly Plata and Sandoval for RSL; Dempsey, Yedlin, and Traore for Seattle while also having Marshall and Neagle questionable.

Even with pseudo-B-squads, the game’s going to be entertaining, as it always is. Let’s jump into the numbers and see what RSL is up against.

Top stats

First we’ll take a look at some of the leaders in the stats that we measure -- striker duos by minutes per team goal (MpTG); center back pairings by minutes per conceded goal (MpCG); percentage of shots on goal by individual (SoG%); and where Seattle concedes and scores goals throughout a match. Some of the numbers may be surprising.

  • Best strike partnerships (90+ minutes):  Dempsey/Cooper (22.50 MpTG) (8% time played); Martins/Barrett (24.75 MpTG) (3% time played); Martins/Dempsey (38.14 MpTG) (46% time played); Martins/Cooper (46.40 MpTG) (40% time played)
  • Best central defensive partnerships (90+ minutes):  Marshall/Scott (180 MpCG); Traore/Marshall (64.83 MpCG); Marshall/Anibaba (20.50 MpCG)
  • SoG%:  Barrett (71.43%); Neagle (64.00%); Martins (46.67%).
  • Seattle concedes 28.57% of their goals (6 total) in the first 15 minutes, and 66.67% of all conceded goals (14 total) come in the first half.
  • Seattle scores 32.00% of their goals in the final 15 minutes (8 total), 20.00% of all their goals (5 total) between the 60th and 75th minutes, and 64.00% of all their goals (16 total) in the second half.

Throwing some numbers out the window

Because a few key pieces are going to be missing for the Sounders (chiefly Dempsey), some of these numbers are not going to matter this weekend. Some of the analysis will have to be adjusted to focus on those players we’ll most likely see on the field. First and foremost, we should look at offense.

How often Chad Barrett’s name comes up at the top of some stat columns for Seattle is uncanny. In only 179 minutes, he’s been apart of five team goals which equates to a goal every 35.80 minutes (which is first on the team for 90+ minute players). He also has seven shots, which, despite being very low compared to his teammates, ranks second on the team for shots per 90 minutes (3.52). And that SoG% of 71.43% translates to 2.51 shots on goal per 90 minutes, first for the Sounders.

It’s been obvious watching Seattle play that the strike tandem of Dempsey and Martins is the crux of their goal-scoring. The partnership has been on the field for 14 of the Sounders’ 25 goals, and has played 534 minutes together (good for 46% of all time played). With Dempsey heading to Brazil, however, Sigi Schmid is most likely going to rely on the man he did at the start of the season:  Kenny Cooper.

Cooper’s stats are mixed. In 532 minutes, the team’s scored 11 goals while he’s on the field (or 48.36 MpTG). Conversely, there’s been 14 goals scored when Cooper’s off the field (or 45.57 MpTG). It’s largely negligible, but it’s something to think about. Where Cooper really falls flat are his passing stats. He’s currently 11th in passing accuracy amongst midfielders and strikers (69.59%), and despite registering two assists so far, his two key passes are lower than they should be for someone who’s caught up in the attack so often.

The one man not named Obafemi Martins that RSL should be worried about negating is Gonzalo Pineda. Since joining the team, the Mexican’s put up 1051 minutes, and has been on the field for all but one of Seattle’s goals. That equates to 43.79 MpTG while on the field, and 119.00 MpTG when off the field. Pineda’s passing is par for the course for the position (78.95% completed), but he has the ability to amp it up when needed to; like he did in a close match against San Jose a few weeks ago (95.12% completed). He also adds something to the position that Brad Evans struggled with:  chance creation. Pineda’s 19 key passes are first on the team, with three of them coming to fruition as assists.

Moving on, Seattle is largely bipolar with their goal-scoring/concession. With so many goals being allowed at the start of matches (even at home) the Sounders are going to need to defend well early against an RSL team that’s hot out of the gate. And, vice-versa, RSL will need to hold the fatiguing pieces together late as Seattle tries to rally for a potential comeback in the waning moments.

The center back partnership that’ll necessitate that for Seattle is in flux. With Traore definitely out and Marshall questionable with illness, that requires depth to step up. Both Scott and Anibaba have seen fairly substantial minutes thus far (272 and 301, respectively). Scott’s been the surprise of the two as the long-time Sounder has the best MpCG stat of the back line (90.67, a full 35 minutes above Seattle’s MpCG of 55.71). Anibaba, on the other hand, is noticeably worse:  43.00 MpCG when playing, and 62.07 MpCG when not playing.

A final player I’d like to look at is Dylan Remick. The youngster’s seen much more playing time than last year (504 minutes thus far), but he adds a lot to the left flank in terms of defending. With only 84.00 minutes between conceded goals, Remick is playing extremely well for being so young. He also gets forward from the left, and that’s something to worry about. With 21 open play crosses so far this season, he’s going to be servicing guys like Cooper and Barrett. Remick’s been decent with delivering successfully, too:  five crosses completed for 23.81%.

What to expect

Like against Colorado, RSL should be looking to sink their teeth in early and take advantage to Seattle’s routinely slow starts. They’ll need to find ways to neutralize Pineda’s passing and destroying abilities, and that’ll prove rather tough given how Pineda seems like excel in games with decisive midfield battles. Without Saborio and maybe even Plata, picking apart Seattle’s defense will be tricky. Sounders fans should hope Marshall is healthy enough to go, as a Scott/Anibaba partnership would most likely doom the home team. Regardless, it’s a situation where the speed of someone like Robbie Findley can work wonders against defenders who aren’t particularly quick.

On the other side of things, Borchers and Schuler (or Maund) will need to be wary of not only the size and aerial abilities of Cooper/Barrett, but the technical ability of a dribbling striker like Martins. Denying service on the flanks, winning first balls especially into the 18, and having stand-in Cole Grossman break up plays before they develop will be necessary as always.

This isn’t a Seattle side to be taken lightly, even without some of their key players. They have depth, and in some cases their depth has outperformed starters. Expect a close match, a 1-0 win for either team or another 0-0 draw for Salt Lake.

Friday, May 23, 2014

2015 Expansion Draft- Poll results

Earlier this week I revisited the question on who RSL should protect in the upcoming expansion draft. I have to say that the results were very interesting. One of the things that I wanted to do in this series of posts was to track how our views would change between now and draft day.

The first poll was conducted in early February. I knew that there would be some changes, but I am somewhat surprised by how much things have changed since then. Before getting into the new results here is a review of poll results from February. The percentage next to the name is the percentage of people that had that particular player on their protection list.

Beckerman (100%)
Beltran (100%)
Schuler (100%)
Rimando (95%)
Gil (95%)
Velasquez (91%)
Garcia (87%)
Morales (79%)
Saborio (70%)
Salcedo (66%)
Plata (50%)

Just looking at this list I knew that Plata's numbers would go up with his great start to the season. But I wondered what else would change. Would Mulholland make the list? Would any other players sneak their way on the list? And who would drop off it? The answers were pretty surprising. Here are the results of the most recent poll.

Plata (100%)
Schuler (100%)
Beckerman (98%)
Rimando (96%)
Beltran (89%)
Gil (81%)
Morales (79%)
Saborio (77%)
Mulholland (61%)
Sandoval (45%)
Grabavoy (44%)

So not only did Mulholland make the list but so did Sandoval and Grabavoy. Those that dropped off were Velasquez (36%), Salcedo (32%), and Garcia (30%). It doesn't necessarily surprise me that these three got less votes this time around. But I am a little surprised with how far Velasquez and Garcia fell from 3 months ago.

Personally I fall into the category of protecting our younger players over some of our aging stars. For the record here were the 11 that I protected.


I will look to conduct this poll at this one more time during the course of the season and prior to the expansion draft itself. It will be very interesting to see if these numbers will continue to change.

Did any of these results surprise you?