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.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Statting the Opposition- Portland

By Charles Barnard

I have been tracking RSL stats since starting From the Upper Deck. This season the decision was made to try and track some other teams as well. Today marks the debut of what will hopefully be a new regular series of articles I am calling Statting the Opposition.

Today we take a look at the Timbers. Portland has had somewhat of a rough start. They are still in search of their first win on the season. This is surprising when you consider that they have played 4 of their first 6 matches at home.

Here are some of the most interesting numbers that I have noticed while looking at their data.

  • The Timbers are currently scoring a goal every 67.5 minutes.
  • Portland is giving up a goal every 49 minutes of play.
  • Kalhif Alhassan has played 197 minutes so far this season. In that time the team has scored 7 times or a goal every 28 minutes. In the 341 minutes that he hasn't played, Portland has only scored once.
  • Diego Valeri leads Portand in scoring chances (shots+passes leading to shots) with 30 or a scoring chance every 17 minutes.
  • When Gaston Fernandez plays, the Timbers are scoring every 180 minutes. When he doesn't play the team scores every 30 minutes.
  • Portland is only scoring a goal every 170 minutes when Jack Jewsbury plays.
  • Statistically Portland's best defender is Footy Danso. When Danso plays the Timbers are only give up a goal every 65 minutes. 
  • The best center back pairing so far for Portland has been Danso and Norberto Paparatto. When they play together the Timbers give up a goal every 73 minutes. The worst pairing this year has been Pa Madou Kah with Paparatto. When they play together Portland has been giving up a goal every 35 minutes.
It will be interesting to see the starting lineup for the Timbers on Saturday. Will Alhassan or Fernandez start? The numbers clearly point to the fact that Portland's offense plays better when Alhassan is on the field. He also seems to be the one that Coach Caleb Porter has been going to for the past few matches. But will that continue?

The other pressing question is which center back pairing will play between Kah/Paparatto/Danso. Each pairing has played at least 146 minutes with the pair of Paparatto/Kah playing the most together (214 minutes). The general thought around the league is that Paparatto has been struggling. It will be interesting if he will start or if RSL will face the pairing of Danso/Kah.

Here are some other interesting tidbits about the Timbers provided to me by Portland stat guy Mike Donovan (@TheMikeDonovan). Portland has been offside more than any other team in the league. Also Diego Chara is leading the league in fouls committed. Not only that, he is on pace to smash the record for most fouls committed in a single season.

I would love some feedback on this column. Are you interested in the stats of RSL's upcoming opponents? Please let me know in the comments below or tweet at me (@ccb1212). 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- Philly

RSL's unbeaten streak continued with a 2-2 draw in Philadelphia. I don't think that anyone truly expected the team to still be undefeated at this point in the season. RSL now returns home where they will play 4 out of their next 6 matches.

The team is now 17% of the way through their season. While it is still early, trends are starting to form in the data. It is important to remember though that the sample size is still pretty small.
  • RSL has scored 10 times so far this season. That averages to scoring a goal every 54 minutes. That is just shy of last year's mark of a goal every 53.6 minutes, which was a club record.
  • The team has given up 6 goals or a goal every 90 minutes; second best record in club history.
  • 70% of RSL goals have come in the first half of matches this season. Last season they only scored 38% of their goals in the first half.
  • The team has scored 3 goals this season in the first 15 minutes of play. In all of last season, they only scored 6 total goals in the first 15 minutes of matches.
  • When Luke Mulholland is on the field RSL is scoring a goal every 43 minutes. When he is not playing, RSL is scoring every 65 minutes. Remember that first number would be even lower if you were to account for the goal that was taken away from him.
  • With the 2 goals scored against RSL, the team is now giving up a goal every 120 minutes that Chris Schuler plays which is second best on the team. In the 161 minutes that Aaron Maund has played this season the team has only given up 1 goal.
  • 50% of the goals that RSL has given up on the season have come in the final 15 minutes of play.
  • 50% of the goals that RSL has given up have come on set pieces. 
I find the amount of goals that RSL has scored in the first half of matches very interesting. The traditional thought is that you will see a lot more goals scored in the second half of matches than the first. So far this season RSL has scored 7 goals in the first half. All of last season only 22 goals were scored in the first half. In 2012 only 17 goals were scored in the first half. I am very curious to see if this trend will continue.

On the opposite end of the spectrum I do have to say I am a bit worried with RSL's late game defending. Again, I would expect for the team to give up more goals in the final minute of matches than at other times. That is the nature of soccer. But, to have given up 3 goals already in the final 15 minutes is a little concerning. By comparison, in 2013 we gave up 13 goals in the final 15 minutes and in 2012 that number was only 9.

Goals off set pieces will be another interesting number to watch this year. RSL has given up 3 goals on set pieces this season. I don't have historical data for previous seasons on this statistic, but I think many fans would say it has been a problem in the past. On the other hand, only giving up 3 goals during the run of play in 6 matches is pretty impressive.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

RSL Family- Nick Rimando and Devon Sandoval

It is quickly approaching a year since I started this series about the RSL Family. In that time it has been very interesting to see how the idea of the RSL Family has changed and grown. When I started writing, the term RSL Family was used on Twitter a little bit. The players have referred to themselves as a family for a while now. But the idea that we are all a part of the RSL Family has just continued to grow.

More and more people in the community and around the country are seeing that we have something special here. And the team is embracing it. Just look at the season ticket commercials that were released earlier this year. All of them are using the #RSLFamily. But more than that they are showing the RSL Family brings a diverse group of people together. There are not many things around that can do that.

I recently had the chance to talk to two players that are on the opposite ends of their playing career. Nick Rimando is the veteran that has been with RSL longer than any other player and has been playing in the league since 2000. On the other end of the spectrum is Devon Sandoval. Sandoval is only entering his second year for the league after being drafted last year by RSL.

I first talked to Rimando. I again asked him what I have been asking everyone else. "What does the RSL Family mean to you?"

It means all is one. We fight for each other on the field and off the field. If anyone needs anything the staff is there for you. The players are there for you. For me it means one team regardless if you are in the office, the players, or the coaches.

It's a good vibe here. Among the players inside the locker room we have the right mix of players. On the field and off the field we get along really well. The coaches are great. You just feel comfortable in this locker room.

Next I spoke with Sandoval. I asked him the same thing. I also asked if he felt what we have here with the RSL Family is something that might be unique among other teams in the league.

I felt it right when I got here. They welcomed me and made me feel at home. It is something special we have here.

I think so. I have heard that from other guys on the team that what we have here is pretty special. I am really happy to be here. I love it.

Sandoval and Rimando are at two very different points in their careers. But it is nice to see that both can recognize that something special has been built here.

At this point I think that this series is just about complete. I have talked to a very wide range of people on the topic of the RSL Family. There is one or two more people that I would like to get their perspectives. If there is any person in the RSL Family that you would like to hear from let me know.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- SKC

On Saturday night RSL held on to get a point on the road against Sporting KC. Last year the team learned how important even one extra point can be at the end of the season. Will we look back at the end of this season and think how vital this draw was?

I have been blogging for a little over a year now. As one that looks at and writes about stats, I hate 0-0 draws. It is much more difficult to dig in and find interesting pieces of information after a 0-0 draw. But I will do my best to find those stats of interest for you.

  • RSL is still sitting on 8 goals scored on the season. They are now scoring a goal every 56 minutes which is just slightly behind last year's record setting pace.
  • The team has only given up 4 goals or a goal every 112 minutes which is also second best in team history.
  • RSL only recorded 5 shots vs SKC with only 1 being on goal. Chris Schuler led the team with 2 shots.
  • RSL is averaging 10.6 shots attempts per match. The Galaxy leads the league averaging 18.3 shots attempts per match.
  • Luis Gil was only 7 for 15 on attempted passes. Luke Mulholland wasn't much better at 8 for 15. Ned Grabavoy led the team completing 85% of his pass attempts.
  • Since coming back from injury last season, Schuler has played 1040 minutes. In that time RSL has only given up 7 goals or a goal every 145 minutes. 
  • This season RSL has only given up 1 goal in the 270 minutes that Schuler has played.
  • Joao Plata leads RSL in shot creations (shots + passes that lead to a shot). He is creating a shot every 12.1 minutes that he plays. Morales is second on the team creating a shot every 26.7 minutes.
  • Plata has created 32% of all shots that RSL has taken this season. 

Schuler's defensive numbers continue to be extremely impressive. RSL has a record of 6-1-5 since Schuler has come back into the lineup after his injury last year. There is a huge difference for RSL's defensive numbers from when he is on the field compared to when he is off. 

There were a couple of articles posted on the web this past week looking at specific players around the league and how many shots they create per match (the best one found here). I thought this was very interesting so I started to calculate this for all RSL players. Plata's numbers jumped off the chart. It is crazy to think that in the limited time he has played he has created so many shots for the team. I will be writing a full article in the near future with my findings for the whole team.

I was a little worried about how RSL was not attempting many shots so far this season. RSL is currently third from the bottom of the league in the amount of shots taken per game. But the conversion rate for RSL's shots are very high. Currently the team is scoring on 15% of the shots they have taken. That is second highest in the league. Here is the interesting thing. Dallas currently is leading the league in goals scored with 13. They also have the best scoring percentage at a whopping 28% of their shots leading to goals. What is crazy is that they are last in the league only averaging 9.2 shots per match.