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, August 14, 2013

Striking Up a Partnership- Who Should Start with Sabo?

With the return of Alvaro Saborio to the line up, one of the main questions that RSL fans have been asking is who is the best forward to team up top with Sabo when we play our traditional diamond formation? The debate has raged on Twitter and on Big Soccer about who the best of our four remaining players plays best with Saborio. I thought I would take a look into this question.

It is a tough question to answer because it leads to many other questions. You have to look at how well the player is playing. How does each player do when they start? How do they do off the bench? And how well do they play with Sabo? I am going to try and tackle each one of these on a statistical level.

As far as statistics goes, I like looking at a stat that I call Minutes per Team Goal (MpTG). This stat takes a look at how often the team scores while a particular player or players are on the field. It gives an overhead view of how well the team plays while that player is either on the field or off of the field.

First, I am looking how each player is playing overall.

Player Min Team Goals MpTG Min not played Team Goals MpTG
Sabo 925 14 66.07 1235 25 49.4
Findley 914 13 70.31 1246 26 47.92
Plata 1164 22 52.91 997 17 58.65
Sandoval 623 13 47.92 1538 24 64.08
Garcia 738 17 43.41 1418 22 64.45

The first thing that stands out here is that Saborio's numbers are higher compared to some of the other forwards. This is because the first few games of the season that Sabo played in, the team really didn't score that many goals. Since he has come back, his MpTG stat has dropped dramatically. Another thing that is interesting is that the team scores the lowest rate while Findley is on the field and the highest rate when Findley is not on the field.

Since we are trying to figure out who is best as a starter along with Saborio, I thought it would be important to see how each player has done actually playing as a starter. 

Player Min Team Goals MpTG
Sabo 897 13 69.00
Findley 839 11 76.27
Plata 956 14 68.29
Sandoval 538 10 53.80
Garcia 477 8 59.63

Here we see that every player has a higher rate than the stats above. That is because more goals are scored in the second half after subs comes in. Subs will almost always have better stats per minute than starters. I did find it interesting that Sandoval has the best stats while playing as a starter. Again the team has the lowest scoring rate while Findley is a starter.

Maybe a better way to look at this is to see who is the best coming off the bench. Here are the stats the forwards have when they are not starting the match. One thing to note here is that the sample size for some of the forwards here is very low. 

Player Min Team Goals MpTG
Sabo 28 1 28
Findley 75 2 37.5
Plata 203 8 25.38
Sandoval 85 3 28.33
Garcia 261 9 29

Again you can see right away that the stats are much lower when they come in off the bench. Many people including Coach Kreis have commented on how well Plata does off the bench. The stats backs this up with Plata having the best MpTG off the bench. 

Finally, it is no question that Saborio will be starting. So lets take a look at how each player plays with Sabo.

Players Min Team Goals MpTG Min not played Team Goals MpTG
Sabo/Findley 369 4 92.25 1791 35 51.17
Sabo/Plata 234 7 33.43 1926 32 60.19
Sabo/Sandoval 71 1 71 2089 38 54.97
Sabo/Garcia 335 6 55.83 1825 33 55.3

The biggest number that jumps out is the MpTG for the Sabo/Plata combination. Plata does seem to have great chemistry with Sabo and this stats backs that up.

The last thing that I did was ask other RSL fans what they thought. Who did they think should start with Sabo. Here are those results.

Findley- 52%
Plata- 34%
Garcia- 13%
Sandoval- N/A

But do any of these stats answer the question of who should start with Sabo? Maybe, but probably not. I love looking at stats but I am the first to admit that they don't tell the whole story. What do you think? Who do you think should be starting with Sabo?


  1. Another variable is the score line at the time of substitution. Plata and/or Garcia are even more dangerous if RSL is already leading and the opponent is pressing forward. Not to mention the fatigue that a starting Findley has already induced on the defense.

  2. One thing that is brought up repeatedly is which forward pairing softens up the opponents so the subs can maximize exploitation of the tired defense. Seems to me that a 'goals after being subbed off' could capture that to a limited extent. It could be that the substitution pairing could be measured: Findley starts then off for Plata yields a better minutes per team goal compared to Sandoval starts then off for Plata?

  3. What are the stats on when a goal is scored? How much higher is the rate after the 65'?