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, May 31, 2013

An Inside Look at miCoach with RSL's Dan Barlow

Dan Barlow - Strength and
Conditioning Coach at RSL
One of the things that impresses me the most with soccer players is the fitness level that each player must have to be able to perform at a high level for 90 minutes of play. The person that is in charge of keeping the players in the best shape possible at RSL is Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Barlow. To help him accomplish this task, the team is using a new tool from Adidas called the miCoach Elite Team System.

The miCoach Elite Team System is a tracking system that can track a player’s speed, heart rate, distance, acceleration, as well as other physical metrics. This occurs through sensors that are on a tight fit shirt that the players wear underneath their jerseys. This data is sent instantly to an iPad so that coaches can see real time data and monitor each player’s performance throughout the course of the practice session or game.

The system was first used during the 2012 MLS All-Star game. At that time, it was also announced that all MLS teams would have access to the system for the 2013 season.

Coach Barlow took a few minutes to talk with me about the miCoach system.

"We received the system when we were about halfway through our preseason" Coach Barlow said. "It was a little rough at first but Adidas has been working at it and we have been starting to get some good data from it."

He said that currently the team is using the system during all training seasons as well as home reserve league matches. They currently can't use the system for MLS matches yet due to the fact that when you have a system set up for both teams they run into interference from each other. But he did mention that this issue is being corrected and he expects to be using the system for all matches in the near future.

He went on to tell me that the real value of the system is the tracking of the data over a long period of time.

 "It is great to be able to track this data day by day, week by week." Coach Barlow said. "The more data that you accumulate, the more it means". He went on to say that by accumulating this data over a longer period of time, he would be able to analyze the data and pick out trends that he might not have seen before.

Prior to using the system the team primarily used heart monitors to track a players fitness during practice. He told me the additional data that the system provides will help him with his training routines. They can now train in particular "speed zones" as Coach Barlow called them. He explained that sometimes it is best for a player to be running at a specific speed during their training session. The miCoach system makes this possible.

What does the future bring for the miCoach system? Barlow says that is hard to say. "We are still learning the system and figuring out what all we can do with it. We don't have a lot of data yet". 

The technology behind this system is only going to continue to improve. It wouldn't surprise me if over time, this information will be shared with the broadcast crews and then passed along to the viewers. I think it would be fascinating to be able to see a player’s heart rate as he steps up to take a PK.  My guess is that it will be only a matter of time before we see this.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pulling the Trigger- A Look at Shooting Statistics

When thinking about offensive skills for players, one skill that I think is undervalued is the ability to shoot the ball. It seems the skills that people think of are size, speed, and ball control. But without the ability to get a shot off, put it on frame, and to score, the other skills are just not as valuable.

I ran across an interesting stat yesterday. Ned Grabavoy has scored on 22% of the shots that he has taken. Granted, he has only taken 9 shots all year. but that is still a very impressive number. That got me thinking about how our other players were doing at their shooting skills. The numbers are very interesting. Lets look at the forwards first.

Player Sp90 SoGp90 SoG % GpS %
Saborio 4.14 1.43 34.62% 15.38%
Findley 3.45 1.29 37.50% 12.50%
Plata 3.28 1.37 41.67% 4.17%
Sandoval 1.92 1.05 54.55% 9.09%
Garcia 3.28 1.26 38.46% 15.38%

The table above shows shots per 90 minutes, shots on goal per 90 minutes, shots on goal percentage and the percentage of goals per shot. So what stands out on these numbers? I wasn't surprised that Saborio was taking the most shots among the forwards. I was surprised that his shots on goal percentage was so low. But that is made up with a very high percentage of his shots hitting the back of the net.

Sandoval's numbers surprised me as well. His shots per 90 minutes were by far the lowest of the forwards. Althought, his shots on goal percentage was far and away the highest. But then his goal percentage was again low. It seems that when he is getting shots off, they are heading right for the keeper. It will be interesting to see if he will get better at this with more experience. In the mean time, I think he should shoot more.

Here is a fun note. A shot that hits the post or crossbar is not considered a "shot on goal". Garcia has now hit the post or crossbar 4 times in his limited appearances. If you were to count those as shots as "on goal", his shots on goal percentage would be 69.23%.

Player Sp90 SoGp90 SoG % GpS %
Gil 2.08 0.91 43.48% 8.70%
Grabavoy 0.79 0.35 44.44% 22.22%
Morales 1.84 0.81 43.75% 12.50%
Velasquez 2.13 0.61 28.57% 0.00%
Stephenson 1.36 0.68 50.00% 0.00%
Beckerman 2.03 0.88 43.48% 4.35%

Here are the stats for the midfielders. The 22% by Grabavoy is the highest among the team for goal percentage. I was surprised to see a pretty high shooting rate for Beckerman, Gil, and Velasquez. If Velasquez is going to shoot at that high of a rate, he needs to get more shots on frame. I also find it very interesting that other than Velasquez, the rest of the midfielders have a higher shot on goal percentage than most of the forwards. 

I find these stats very interesting and it is something that I will continue to keep an eye on. What do you think? Are there other stats you think I should take a look at?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Crunching the Numbers- Chicago

There are some very interesting trends to point out coming from the disappointing draw against Chicago. I am just going to jump right into the numbers and give some of my thoughts below

  • The Findley/Plata strike partnership has now played together for 145 minutes. The team has yet to score while they are on the field together.
  • In 154 minutes, the Saborio/Plata strike partnership has been on the field for 4 goals. This gives them a great MpTG score of 36.75.
  • Plata has played 464 minutes along side a target forward (Saborio/Sandoval). In that time the team has scored 10 goals for a MpTG of 46.4. He has played 213 minutes when not paired with a target forward. In that time, the team as yet to score a goal.
  • Saborio lowered his MpTG score from 107.4 to 94.17. He still has the fourth highest MpTG score among the five forwards. If you take out the time he has played with Findley, his MpTG drops to 68.2.
  • Velasquez's MpTG dropped to 59.2. Gil's MpTG raised to 90.3. 
  • Findley's MpTG rose to 139. While he is not on the field, the team's MpTG score is 56.2.

So what do these numbers tell us? First, it does not appear that playing without a target forward is a very good tactic for RSL. I did some further research and out of 18 goals scored by the team, 16 of them were scored when a target forward (Saborio/Sandoval) was on the field. The only two that were not were the last two goals scored in Chivas. Plata especially needs to have that other target forward in the game to play effectively. 

The numbers are also showing that not only is Findley struggling, but the team continues to struggle while he is on the field. His MpTG numbers are the highest among all of RSL forwards. There is an 82.8 difference in the team's MpTG from when Findley is on the field to when he is off. I like Findley and don't consider myself a Findley hater. But at some point the stats really starts to show that the team might be better off playing Findley in the reserve matches until he regains his form.

Many people have been asking for more playing time for Velasquez in the midfield They feel the team plays more dynamically when he is in the game. The numbers also seem to show this to be true. He has played 402 less minutes than Gil has. The interesting thing is that the team has only scored one less goal while Velasquez has been on the field.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Review of the D By the Numbers

By now, readers of this blog should be familiar with my minutes per team goal stat (MpTG). Today I thought I would mix it up a little bit. Instead of looking at it as an offensive stat, I thought I would modify it to look at how RSL is playing defensively. Some of my findings were very surprising to me.

This stat is a little different than the MpTG stat. This one takes a look at each of RSL's players on the back line. Instead of seeing how often RSL scores while a player is on the pitch, this stat looks at how often RSL concedes a goal while the player is on the pitch. For the MpTG stat, the lower the number, the better it is for the player. With this stat (which I am calling Minutes per Conceded Goal or MpCG) the higher the number the better. As a point of reference, the team is currently conceding a goal every 83.57 minutes.

Player Min Goals Conceded MpCG
Wingert 360 5 72.00
Beltran 990 9 110.00
Schuler 1080 13 83.08
Bourchers 720 8 90.00
Salcedo 181 2 90.50
Palmer 534 9 59.33
Mansally 328 3 109.33
Watson-Siriboe 450 7 64.29

Only giving up a goal every 110 minutes was a very respectable number for Beltran. I was surprised to see that Mansally  had a very high number as well. I was also surprised to see Palmer's score to be so low. I never really remember thinking that Palmer was playing poor defensively.

Player Min
not played
Goals Conceded MpCG
Wingert 810 9 90.00
Beltran 180 5 36.00
Schuler 90 1 90.00
Borchers 450 6 75.00
Salcedo 989 12 82.42
Palmer 648 5 129.60
Mansally 845 11 76.82
Watson-Siriboe 720 7 102.86

The table above shows how the team played while the player was not on the field. I couldn't believe that the team was giving up a goal every 36 minutes that Beltran was not on the field. And again, this shows that the team plays much better defense when Palmer is not in the match.

Player Min Goals Conceded MpCG
Borchers/Schuler 540 5 108.00
Schuler/Watson-Siriboe 360 5 72.00
Borchers/Salcedo 90 1 90.00
Schuler/Salcedo 90 1 90.00
Bouchers/Watson-Siriboe 90 2 45.00

Finally, this shows how the center back pairings do when they are playing together. Going into the season we knew that Schuler would be put into the starting lineup. It is good to see that he works so well with Borchers next to him.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Questioning the Numbers- Post Chivas Look at Stats

No RSL fan can really complain about the result that came from the Home Depot Center Sunday night. A blowout 4-1 win and 3 points on the road is really all that could have been hoped for.

The match does offer an interesting case study into my team goals stat that I have been using. The basic theory behind my stat is that everyone one on the field should get credit when the team scores a goal, not just the players that get the goal or the assists. The stat should show how well the team plays while that player is on the field.

My problem comes from the play of Luis Gil. Now I won't say that he played really bad, it was more to the fact that he was invisible to me on the field. Other than the one break away that he and Robbie Findley handled so poorly, I can't really tell you much more of anything that he did. The stats show that he had 21 completed passes as well as a shot on goal but none of that stands out in my memory. But he was on the field for three of the four goals scored. His minutes per team goal (MpTG)  number dropped from 104.75 to 83.82.  Does this show a flaw in my stat where the team scored despite Gil not playing great? Or does it prove my stat where Gil was contributing by doing the little things that I didn't notice to help the team to score three times? Those are questions that I will have to ponder.

Here are some other interesting stats coming out of the Chivas match

  • The team is now averaging a goal every 68.82 minutes. After the L.A. match that number was at 115.71.
  • The Plata/Sandoval forward pairing has played the most minutes together at 310. Their MpTG is now at 51.67 which is fourth for all forward pairings on our team. The Saborio/Findley paring has played the second most minutes with 224. That pairing has not scored a goal together yet.
  • Going into the match, Findley's MpTG was 328. By being on the field for the last two goals, his MpTG has dropped to 118.33.
  • Sandoval still leads the team in MpTG. It dropped again going from a goal every 50.22 minutes to a goal every 46.82 minutes. He is now third among the forwards in minutes played behind Plata and Saborio.
  • Both Grabavoy and Beckerman have been on the field for 15 of the team's 17 goals. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Look at the RSL Midfield

In my last blog post I mentioned that I didn't think I truly understood all the little things that Ned Grabavoy does on the pitch for RSL. I have only looked at the forward's stats up to this point. After thinking about it some more, I decided to figure out my Minutes per Team Goal (MpTG) stat for all of our midfielders as well. With the forwards I was surprised with how low a score Sandoval has. I was curious to see how our midfielders stacked up with each other as well as the forwards. Here is what I found:

Min Team Goals  MpTG
Gil 838 8 104.75
Grabavoy 845 11 76.82
Morales 602 8 75.25
Velasquez 574 9 63.78
Stephenson 258 3 86.00
Beckerman 841 11 76.45

For comparisons sake, RSL as a team is scoring a goal every 83.08 minutes. I was surprised to see that Gil had the highest number at a team goal every 104.75 minutes. The thing that really shocks me is how much higher his score is than all the other midfielders. 

It is impressive that Velasquez has been on the field for 9 of the 13 goals scored by the team. That is pretty impressive given the fact that he has played less than many of the other midfielders.

Min not played Team Goals  MpTG
Gil 251 5 50.20
Grabavoy 235 2 117.50
Morales 478 5 95.60
Velasquez 506 4 126.50
Stephenson 822 10 82.20
Beckerman 239 2 119.50

This table shows how the team is scoring when the players are not on the field. Again, Gil sticks out to me for the wrong reasons. The team seems to play much better when he is not on the field. And the team is playing awful when Velasquez is not on the field. 

A lot of people have been calling for Velasquez to be getting the start over Gil. These numbers seem to prove those people correct. At least that is how I see it from the upper deck.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Crunching the Numbers- Montreal

Many blogs do excellent jobs of reviewing matches. Instead of doing a review in the traditional sense, I thought I would start doing something a little different. Going forward, every Monday I will be taking an overall look at the statistics and share some points that I find interesting.
  • The team has now scored 13 goals in 1080 minutes played for a goal every 83.08 minutes. This is the highest rating since 2007 when the team scored a goal every 87.10 minutes. Just to put things in perspective, in 2010 RSL scored a goal every 60 minutes that they played which is the lowest number in team history. 
  • Devon Sandoval is leading the forwards in my Minutes per Team Goal (MpTG) stat with a goal being scored every 50.22 minutes that he is on the field (see here for an explanation how I figure this stat out). He has now been on the field for 9 of the 13 goals that RSL have scored. In comparison the team is scoring a goal in every 157.25 minutes of play that he is not on the field.
  • Is Garcia/Sandoval our strike partnership of the future? They have currently played 140 minutes together on the field. In that time, the team has scored 4 goals or a goal every 35 minutes.
  • Many wondered where the goals would come from when Saborio got hurt. The stats are showing that this should not be as big of a concern as first imagined. RSL has now played 543 minutes without Sabo on the pitch. During that time they have scored 8 goals for a goal every 67.87 minutes
  • According to the Opta Chalkboard Ned Grabavoy had 33 successful passes with no unsuccessful passes. That is pretty incredible. Sometimes I think I miss all the little things that Grabavoy does in a match. Watch in the future as I look at the offensive minded midfielders with my MpTG stat.
Matt over at RSL Soapbox had a great tweet the other day. He said "I've never met a statistic that lied. I've met plenty of people (myself included) that derive the wrong things from a statistic, though." This tweet is so true. The stats above can tell a very interesting story as far as how players or the team as a whole are playing. I will be the first to admit though that they don't tell the whole story. But I also feel that they can be a very important tool to be used. At least, that is how I see it from the upper deck.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Value of a Good Forward- Part 2

Back in this post, I took a statistical look at how the team played while each of our forwards were in the match. This post was made after the 2-1 home win against Seattle. RSL has now played six matches since this post and I thought that it might be a good time to take a look at how the forwards are doing now. At this point in the season RSL has scored 11 goals in 11 games played, or scoring a goal every 90 minutes.

Player Min Team Goals  Min per Goal
Sabo 537 5 107.40
Findley 328 1 328.00
Plata 498 6 83.00
Sandoval 367 7 52.43
Garcia 267 4 66.75

At this point of the year RSL is a third of the way through their season and these numbers are starting to have a little more weight than they did earlier. There are many interesting things that I see while looking at this table.

First you have to look at Sandoval. So far, he has been on the field for all but four of RSL's goals this season. Now granted, he only has scored once this year. But, in looking at his time on the field he has set up many scoring opportunities for his teammates plus he is third on the team in shots on goal. With a little luck his minutes per goal number would be even lower. 

Garcia is someone else whose minute per goal number could be a lot lower. In his limited time playing so far, he has hit the woodwork on four separate occasions. But his 66.75 minutes per goal stat is still impressive. It just seems when he gets on the pitch things start to happen for the team. The numbers back this up.

In regards to Findley, you have to imagine that once he gets healthy and has more time on the pitch that his minutes per goal number will come down. But in the time that he has played so far the team has not played very well.

Now lets look at the flip side of things. Below is how the team is playing when each forward is not on the field.

Player Min not played Team Goals  Min per Goal
Sabo 453 6 75.50
Findley 662 10 66.20
Plata 493 5 98.60
Sandoval 624 4 156.00
Garcia 719 7 102.71

I think one thing really stands out when looking at this table. One of the major concerns this year was going to be all the time that Saborio would miss due to his time away from the team for international duty. Would the team be able to score goals while he was gone? In looking at the stat above, the answer is yes. At least that is how I see it from the upper deck.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Striking up a Relationship- Another Look at RSL Strikers

Last week RSL Soapbox had a great article posted where Matt looked at our forward combinations that we had available to use while Saborio was out injured. It was a great article that everyone should take a look at. It got me thinking statistically. What is our best strike partnership? I thought I would try to find out.

I decided to use the same statistic that I used in my last blog post. As a review, the stat basically figures out how many goals are scored while a particular player is on the field. They don't have to be the one that scored the goal, but they just had to be on the field when the goal was scored.

For my analysis this time, I decided to figure out which strike partnership was on the pitch for each goal that was scored and how many minutes each partnership played together. From those two things I could come up with a minutes per goal stat. Here are my findings:

Strike Pair Mintues Goals Mins per Goal
Sabo/Findley 224 0 n/a
Sabo/Plata 126 3 42
Plata/Sandoval 179 4 44.75
Sabo/Sandoval 56 1 56
Findley/Plata 73 0 n/a
Findley/Sandoval 31 1 31
Sabo/Garcia 142 2 71
Findley/Garcia 13 0 n/a
Sandoval/Garcia 40 0 n/a
Plata/Garcia 63 0 n/a

Just to get a perspective on the goals per minute stat, on a whole, the team is averaging a goal every 100 minutes played.

So what does this tell us? The lowest is the Findley/Sandoval pairing, but we only have 31 minutes to go off of so we can't take too much away from that yet. I really would like to see more of the Sabo/Plata pairing. The time that they have been on the field together they seem to have great chemistry. There are two things that really stand out to me from the table above. One is how well the Plata/Sandoval pairing works together. The team is scoring a goal every 45 minutes that they are on the pitch together. That is not bad at all. The interesting thing is that neither one of them have actually scored yet, but their play on the pitch is leading to their teammates scoring at a good pace. The second thing that stood out to me is how poor the pairing of Sabo and Findley are so far. I think it says something that they have played the most minutes together and the team has yet to score while they have been on the field together.

Now I know that none of these strikers had played with each other prior to this year and these numbers are bound to change as they learn to play with each other. But I still think there is value in these numbers at this time. That is how I see it at least from the upper deck.

-Charles (ccb1212)