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.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Crunching the Numbers- Vancouver

During the course of the off-season, we heard a lot of talk about Garth Lagerwey building RSL 2.0. I think that no one can deny that this version of RSL has been more successful than any of us thought it could be. But we didn't see RSL 2.0 on the field in Vancouver. The team that went up there and came home with only the second win in club history North of the border was RSL 3.0.

Back in June I wrote my thoughts about RSL 3.0. MLS does not give any types of awards for General Manager of the year. If they did, Lagerwey should win hands down. Not only for building a team competing for three trophies right now, but also for building an even brighter future for RSL in the coming years. Now on to the numbers!

  • RSL has now scored 54 goals on the season or a goal every 51.67 minutes. With 54 goals RSL is the top scoring team in the league.
  • The team has given up 39 goals on the year or a goal every 71.54 minutes.
  • RSL currently has a goal differential of +15 which is tied for the best in the league. It has a +1 goal differential on the road which is also tied for best in the league.
  • The team is currently scoring 1.87 goals a game at home and 1.63 goals a game on the road.
  • RSL has now had 13 different players score in MLS play. They have 9 players that have 3 or more goals scored! 
  • Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia have played 397 minutes together. During that time RSL has scored 9 goals or a goal every 44.11 minutes. That is the third best goal scoring rate for all the striker partnerships this year.
  • Chris Schuler has now played 1170 minutes. During that time RSL has given up 13 goals or a goal every 90.00 minutes. This is the best among all RSL defenders. 
It is crazy to think about how many options that Jason Kreis has when selecting who will be playing week to week. There is a stark difference between this season and last. In 2012 RSL only had 10 different players score goals and only 5 of those had 3 or more goals. In RSL history, there has been only one season where more than 13 players have scored (2007 with 14). And never before has RSL had so many players with 3 or more goals. The previous best was 6 players in 2010. The team has smashed that record this season.

The return to health by Schuler could be just the thing that the RSL defense needs. As mentioned above, when Schuler plays RSL gives up a goal every 90.00. When he has not played, RSL has been giving up a goal every 62.31 minutes. That is a pretty big difference. It will be interesting to see how much more playing time he gets between now and the end of the season. 

One last note in regards to Lagerwey and the work he did to rebuild RSL this year. In the off-season RSL lost four players (Will Johnson, Jamison Olave, Johnny Steele and Fabian Espindola) that all played major minutes for the team. Those four players this season have gone on to score 23 times for their new clubs. In comparison, DC United as a whole has only scored 20 times. Those were major shoes to fill and Lagerwey did it. Not only did he improve this year's team, but with RSL 3.0 the future is bright. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Eye on the Academy- Looking at the Reserve Matches

A number of academy players have been called up to play in RSL’s reserve matches and this week’s game was no exception.  Jose Hernandez and Niki Jackson were tagged for Tuesday’s reserve match vs Chivas USA, where Jackson finished a Lovel Palmer cross in the 90th minute.  Check out the video highlight here.

Since this is the final game of the reserve season, it’s worth taking a look back at which academy players received call-ups during the year.
  • Justen Glad- A U-16 who’s played 183 total minutes.  He started vs Portland and received a lot of praise, including having Andy Williams call him “mini-Borchers”.
  • Jose Hernandez- Was a U-16 until this summer and played 19 total minutes.
  • Niki Jackson- Played 20 total minutes and scored 1 goal.
  • Brooks Lennon- A U-16 who played 33 total minutes.
  • Corey Nemeth- Did not get any playing time in any reserve matches.
  • Fito Ovalle- A U-16 played 25 total minutes.
  • Sebastian Saucedo- A U-16 who played 90 total minutes. He’s looked like a dangerous attacking player.
The following are former Academy players who have been called up this season, but are now playing collegiate soccer:
  • Jordan Allen- Started against the Whitecaps reserves on July 16th in Salt Lake City. Played 154 total minutes.
  • Andrew Brody- Played 26 total minutes.
  • Ive Burnett- Played 67 total minutes.
  • Coco Navarro- Scored for RSL against the Colorado Reserves in Salt Lake, then started the next game (also against the Colorado Reserves) in Commerce City. He also started against Chivas USA in LA on May 20th. Played 237 total minutes.
  • Jon Zabasajja- Played 13 total minutes.

Benji Lopez also played reserve minutes as an academy player before signing with RSL.

The fact that there are 4 and a half (Hernandez) U-16s who have played for the reserves is a pretty good sign, especially when they’re earning praise for their play with the Academy team as well. Another good sign is that Glad, Lennon, and Saucedo were also picked up for the USMNT U-18s.

Next time, I’ll take a look at how some of the Academy Alumni are doing out in the big world of college soccer.
Niki Jackson in latest reserve match.
Photo by Charles Barnard

Thursday, September 26, 2013

RSL Family- Jason Kreis

As I have been working on this series looking at the RSL Family, I have tried to get the views of a wide variety of different people throughout the organization. One view that I didn't have so far was someone with the coaching staff. And with all the rumors surrounding the team, I feel like today's RSL Family post is more applicable than ever.

When you talk about RSL there is one man that has really seen it all. On November 17, 2004 RSL traded for Jason Kreis making him the first player in RSL history. From player to Head Coach he has been an essential part of the club ever since.

Everything changed for the team when Dave Checketts named him Head Coach. Kreis was the one that came up with "the team is the star" motto. The genesis of the RSL Family really started with him. If there was one person's view on the RSL Family that I wanted to hear, it was his.

I had the opportunity to speak with Coach Kreis after practice on Tuesday. I asked him the same question that I have been asking everybody else up to this point. What does the RSL Family mean to you?

Its a really sentimental thing for me honestly. I have been here since day one. I think it is pretty fair to say there aren't many people involved with this club or fans of this team that have been here longer than me. Its been an amazing ride. It's been an amazing journey to go from the very very lows of the first couple of years. When I tell you low they were really really low. The unhappiness that I was living with after every single match not being able to stop thinking about how bad it was here. To the very very highs of 2009, 2010, 2011. The CONCACAF run. The championship in 2009. It seemed like we never lost in 2010. It's been amazing.
I have made no secret about my personal feeling that I think the fans have been a big big part of this from day one because even when it was it's worst we still had supportive fans cheering us on. It wasn't like some other places where one or two things go wrong and now you have the fans booing you. It has never been that way here and I think it is something that the fans, this community, this family that we call RSL should continue to remind ourselves of. That we are a supportive group, a positive group. We should try to stay away the negativity of outside influences.
It is who we are. We call ourselves a family in the locker room. We call ourselves a family in the stadium. We call ourselves a family in the office. It's just who we are. We believe we gain strength through our togetherness. We gain the ability to compete with the DP's of the world. The all-star teams of Seattle and the Galaxy and New York. We think we have the ability to compete with them because of our togetherness. 
I find these comments fascinating on so many levels in wake of the recent rumors swirling Coach Kreis. But I think the final paragraph of Kreis' comments were the ones that got to the very heart of the RSL Family. It is real. As Kreis said, it is who we are. As a team, as an organization, as a fan base: We are a family.

I don't know if Kreis is going to stay or if he is going to go. I know from looking at him while he was talking to me that he loves this team. There was no doubt about that in my mind. I wouldn't blame him if he were to leave. It might be something that he is unable to pass up. What I do know is that if he does leave, in my mind he will always be a part of the RSL Family.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Eye on the Academy- Introduction

Editor's Note- This is a new semi-regular series that is being written by Pat Eyler. Pat has a real passion for the academy side of things and I am very happy that he has offered to cover this for us at From the Upper Deck.  Watch for his first full post later this week.

By Pat Eyler

Hi there. I’m Pat and I spend way too much time thinking about Soccer in the US and CONCACAF.  I watch CCL and Open Cup games, follow teams at various levels of the USSF Soccer Pyramid, and pay attention to the Academies.  Wait, What?!? Yes, the Academies.  You know, the program that MLS teams use to groom the next generation of players.

Fortunately for me, I live near Salt Lake so I’ve got a great local team to watch.  Even better, they have a great academy program that’s pretty easy to keep track of.  I don’t care so much about the won-lost record of these U-16 and U-18 teams (though knowing the U-16s won the national championship last year is pretty cool).  I do care about how the players are doing, and where they seem to be growing, or stagnating.

Charles asked me if I’d write occasional articles for his blog about RSL’s academy in Casa Grande, AZ (and I’m going to pretend that extends to a USL Pro team I think RSL will be starting up in a year or two).  I have some ideas for future articles (not nearly as stat heavy as Charles’ work), but I’d like to know what you’re interested in.  I don’t have any special connections, so I can’t promise in depth interviews, or “behind the curtain” insights.  But let me know what you’d like to know and I’ll see what I can do.

Ok, and since I can’t write a fluffy introduction without adding some meat, let me toss this out:

The other day, Eric Sondheimer of the LA Times wrote that academies are the wrong way to go, and that they hurt high school players.

The U.S. Soccer Federation's academy program pulls promising players out of high school with the lure of a pro career. But few of the kids will make it as pros.

I think RSL’s academy proves that his argument is false dilemma.  While not every academy player will go on to play professional soccer at the highest level, the young men down in Casa Grande seem to be doing a great job of balancing soccer development and scholastic achievement. In fact, one academy alum is now at Stanford and another has committed there, with a third committing to Princeton.  In fact, a recent blog post says that “every single one [of the student athletes] has been offered a college scholarship” - that sounds like a pretty good academic outcome for the players.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Crunching the Numbers- San Jose

I hate sports. I really hate sports. I love sports. I really love sports. This was the nature of my sporting weekend. Maybe it is because I get way to emotionally involved but there aren't many things that can change my mood faster than a positive or negative result by the teams that I am cheering for. Utah State loses to USC in football (that sucks). RSL loses to San Jose (man what a crappy day this is). Utah beats BYU (YES! Sorry to my BYU friends). Tottenham wins again (maybe this weekend wasn't so bad).

That is why stats are so important. When you are watching a game to analyze a player, your emotions can get involved. Emotions can cause you to see things that aren't really there or to miss things that are right in front of you. Stats themselves are emotionless. They can point out things that you might have missed otherwise due to your emotions. With that said, lets dive into the numbers after that emotional loss to San Jose.
  • RSL has now scored 53 goals on the season or a goal every 50.94 minutes. If they stay at this rate they will exactly double the amount of goals from the 2005 season. 
  • The team has now given up 39 goals on the season or a goal every 69.23 minutes.
  • RSL has now given up 2 or more goals in 9 of their last 12 matches. 
  • In those 12 matches they are giving up a goal every 46.95 minutes. In the previous 18 matches they were giving up a goal every 101.25 minutes. 
  • Against San Jose, RSL gave up goals in the 18th and 21st minutes. Prior to that the team had only gave up 2 goals on the season between the 15th and 30th minutes of all matches. 
  • RSL scores 40% of their goals in the first half compared to 60% in the second half. Interestingly enough RSL gives up 41% of their goals in the first half compared to 59% of their goals in the second half of matches.
  • Javier Morales now has 8 goals on the season. That is the most that he has ever scored in an RSL uniform. His 10 assists are the second most he has had with the team. 
  • Kyle Beckerman's 6 assists  are the second most assists that he has had in his career. He had 9 in 2011.
  • RSL has now had 25 goals scored by midfielders on the season. By comparison, Toronto FC, as a team, has only scored 25 goals and DC United as a team has only scored 19.
  • Nat Borchers and Carlos Salcedo have now played 979 minutes together. During that time RSL has given up 14 goals or a goal every 69.93 minutes. The 979 minutes are the highest among all center back pairings for this season (second is Borchers/Schuler at 540 minutes). 
So what can we learn from these numbers? There is no denying the fact that the defense is struggling. They are giving up goals at an alarming rate the past 12 matches. Things will have to get better in the back if RSL wants to make any type of run in the playoffs. So what has changed? It appears that the coaching staff is wanting the midfield to get more involved in the attack. Due to this, they are not supporting the defense as much as they have in the past. 

Javier Morales continues to have a career year. Here is an interesting thing to think about. He has 2 goals in his last three matches. Both goals were on corner kicks where he was left unmarked. I think that teams are just so used to him taking the corner kicks that they don't think to cover him when he is not taking the corners. 

Kyle Beckerman is quietly having a very good year offensively as well. He has been much more involved in the attack than he has in previous seasons. His 4 goals are tied for the most he has ever had with the club. He is one shot away from taking the most shots he ever has with the club as well. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Striking Up a Partnership- If Sabo is Out Who Should Start?

Alvaro Saborio is one of the best strikers in the league. He has been extremely valuable to RSL when he has been in the line-up this year. The problem has been that he has not been available to be selected in the starting 11 as much as anyone would like. Whether he has been out due to injury or international duty, Saborio has only played  1081 minutes of a possible 2610 minutes.

If this were the case last year it would have been a disaster. The depth at forward was very thin. This season it has been another story. Coach Kreis has four other good forwards that he is able to select from when he has needed to replace Saborio. In my last Striking Up a Partnership article, I looked at who was the best person to start with Saborio. Since Saborio is currently injured again I thought it would be good to take a look at the remaining forwards to see who should start in place of Saborio.

First lets take a look at each forward individually to see how they are doing. I am going to keep Saborio in this table for comparison sake.

Player Min Team Goals MpTG Min not played Team Goals MpTG Difference COR
Saborio 1081 19 56.89 1529 33 46.33 -10.56 -13.85
Findley 1128 19 59.37 1482 33 44.91 -14.46 9.15
Plata 1473 29 50.79 1138 23 49.48 -1.31 5.75
Sandoval 736 15 49.07 1875 35 53.57 4.5 19.8
Garcia 876 21 41.71 1730 31 55.81 14.09 -19.94

Let me go over what we are looking at. MpTG is my minutes per team goal stat. The difference column shows the difference between the MpTG when a player is playing vs when he is off the field. And the COR score is my overall offensive rating system. For both MpTG and COR, the lower the score the better. 

As you can see Olmes Garcia has the best MpTG and COR. Does that make it a slam dunk that he should start? I am not sure. I read an interesting stat the other day about Garcia. All 5 goals that he has scored have come in matches where he has come in as a sub. All 4 assists that Garcia has have come in matches where he was the starter. 

Since we are looking at who should start, I thought it would be good to take a look at how each player has done as a starter. 

Player Min Team Goals MpTG
Saborio 1053 15 70.20
Findley 972 13 74.77
Plata 1265 21 60.24
Sandoval 619 12 51.58
Garcia 539 10 53.90

You will notice that every player's MpTG is higher here than above. That is because more goals are scored later in the match. That is going to give a boost to any players coming in off the bench. I was really surprised that Sandoval does not have much of a drop in MpTG when he is a starter. Perhaps he is the best option to start.

Here is a look at how each player does when they come in as a sub.

Player Min Team Goals MpTG
Saborio 28 1 28.00
Findley 156 6 26.00
Plata 203 8 25.38
Sandoval 117 3 39.00
Garcia 337 11 30.64

Plata has been a real spark coming off the bench for RSL. It also surprised me that Findley had better numbers coming off the bench than Garcia. I would have thought that would be the other way around.

Now lets look at how each pairing does when playing together. This should be one of the key things we look at in determining who we want to start. 

Player Min Goals MpTG
Sabo/Plata 361 11 32.82
Plata/Garcia 365 10 36.50
Sandoval/Garcia 314 8 39.25
Findley/Garcia 42 1 42.00
Plata/Sandoval 390 7 55.71
Sabo/Garcia 335 6 55.83
Findley/Sandoval 63 1 63.00
Findley/Plata 562 8 70.25
Sabo/Sandoval 71 1 71.00
Sabo/Findley 398 5 79.60

With this information we can see that Plata/Garcia is our best non-Sabo pairing. I do find it interesting that the pairings that we have seen the most of this season (Findley/Plata and Sabo/Findley) are also two of the three worst statistical lineups that we have.

Let me throw out one more statistic before I come up with my conclusion on who should start. As I have gone through my stats, I have found that Robbie Findley has played 95 minutes in a formation where he was the lone striker. In that time the team has scored 5 times or a goal every 19 minutes. Not that I am an advocate for that, but there is a case that could be made about playing a 4-5-1 formation as well with Saborio out.

By looking at all these numbers my conclusion is that we should start Garcia and Sandoval together with Plata the first man off the bench. When you look above at the numbers for when a player starts, Garcia and Sandoval are the two best. They rank third on the pairings list with the team scoring a goal every 39.25 minutes that they play together. Plata also has the best numbers coming off the bench while Sandoval really hasn't done as well as a substitute. 

This is the lineup that makes the most sense to me for tomorrow's match if Saborio can't play. Especially when you consider the big center backs that San Jose will play, it is important that we have some size and speed on the field. 

Who do you want to see as the forward pairing if Saborio is unable to start? I did a quick poll and here are the results.

Plata/Garcia- 35%
Plata/Sandoval- 42%
Garcia/Sandoval- 14%
Findley/Sandoval- 7%

Thursday, September 19, 2013

RSL Family- Nat Borchers and Ned Grabavoy

As I have been doing my research on the RSL Family one of the places that it is most visible is on Twitter. Take a second and go to Twitter and search either #RSLFamily or #RSLFam. It is pretty cool to see how many people use those hash tags.

Let me give an example. Last night was the Meet the Team night for season ticket holders. Six different players got on to Twitter after the event to thanks fans for coming and used one of those two hash tags. The players believe in the RSL Family.

This was apparent when I was interviewing players after the last Portland match. Today I will share the comments that both Nat Borchers and Ned Grabavoy shared with me. I first asked Borchers about Coach Kreis' comments about being a team that is very close with each other and then his general thoughts on the RSL Family.

Borchers had this to say.

I think we have a really special group this year. Everyone has grown together from preseason until now. We have had some lows and some highs. I think everyone is really selfless on this team which is important. Everybody understands the system and they want to work for each other. There are no prima donna's running around the locker room which is huge. I think that it is a really special group.
I think Dave Checketts started that atmosphere when he built this team and started this franchise. Jason (Kreis) really thinks it is important to treat everyone like family who comes into this squad and is a part of this team in one way or another. It really helps out with the camaraderie  when you have got guys hanging off the field together doing things together. You really just buy into the message that Jason has sent to us.
Borchers makes a point that I had not really considered when it comes to the RSL Family. The roots really reach back to the formation of the team by Dave Checketts. I think it was Checketts that really had a vision of a family atmosphere for the team although I doubt he ever thought it would be the way it is now.

Grabavoy also had some interesting thoughts about the team. I asked him the same question about Coach Kreis' comments as well as if the RSL Family was something unique and different than other places around the league.

I think he (Kreis) is pretty spot on. Guys make the unselfish play, the unselfish pass knowing that it will be returned. I agree it is a great group. It is enjoyable to come in. It is easier when you win. Everyone is always happy when you win games. But it is enjoyable to come into work everyday. And it hasn't always been that way my whole career. it hasn't been that way for a lot of careers but it is very enjoyable.
I think so but I think other teams are starting that trend as well. I think our coaching staff, everyone feels comfortable talking to them and being around them. We can go to them for help. Our assistant coaches are great being personable and coming and not just asking about soccer but asking about family, about life. They really care about every player here. I think you see a connect between the coaching staff and management and the players. I don't think you get that on every team. It is a little bit separated. Some coaching staffs aren't around the players as much and talking to the players. I think that is because they are ex-players. They remember how it was. I think that helps as well.

One of the most interesting things about talking to the players was that each one had such a different perspective on the RSL Family. Grabavoy was the first to really talk about how important the coaches are to the team and to the family in general. Brian Dunseth brought up the coaching staff as well when I spoke to him about the RSL Family. The coaches seem to be really key to creating a positive atmosphere for the players. And that positive atmosphere appears to translate to positive results on the field.

This series on looking at the RSL Family has grown to be so much more than what I originally envisioned. I have now spoken with both former and current RSL players on the subject. I have also spoken with one of the broadcast crew, received some quotes from some academy players and shared some stories from some great fans. I am going to continue to try to bring different perspectives on the RSL Family. But I would love to hear what you think. What does the RSL Family mean to you? Share your thoughts below in the comments section. Or if you would like, send me an email (charles@fromtheupperdeck.com) telling me your story.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Look at the Back Line- Analyzing the Defense

Last week, I took a look at the Minutes per Team Goal (MpTG) for the attacking players on the team. One of the requests that I had was to take a closer look at the defensive side of the ball. Since I brought up some interesting questions in yesterday's Crunching the Numbers, I thought it would be a great time to take a closer look at the defense.

With the defense, I look at something I call Minutes per Conceded Goal (MpCG). It is basically the opposite of MpTG. I take a look at how many goals were given up while a particular player was on the field. From there, I can figure out how many minutes on average it takes for the opposing team to score. I then take a look at all goals that were scored while that player was not on the field and can tell how many goals were given up when the player is not playing. This gives a look at how well the defense plays while that particular player is on and off the field.

The one main thing to remember about MpCG is that you want a bigger number unlike MpTG where the smaller number is better. Another thing that I did for the first time was that I started to calculate Kyle Beckerman in with the defensive players to see how much he affects the defense.

Here is a look at how well the defense plays when each player is on the field. As a team, RSL is currently giving up a goal every 70.54 minutes.

Player Min Goals MpCG
Beltran 1969 22 89.50
Beckerman 1921 23 83.52
Schuler 1080 13 83.08
Watson-Siriboe 630 8 78.75
Wingert 1465 19 77.11
Salcedo 991 13 76.23
Borchers 2160 31 69.68
Mansally 669 11 60.82
Palmer 940 16 58.75
Maund 270 6 45.00
McDonald 180 5 36.00

What can we learn from these numbers? The defensive struggles over the past two months are highlighted when you compare these numbers to the last time I looked at these stats. It is interesting that Chris Schuler is now statistically the best center back for the team. I was also surprised that Borchers' MpCG is so low. 

Now here is a look at how the team played when the players were not on the field. This also has an additional column that shows the difference between when the player plays and when he doesn't. In this case you want a positive difference number .

Player Min not played Goals MpCG Difference
Beltran 641 15 42.73 46.77
Beckerman 689 14 49.21 34.31
Schuler 1530 27 56.67 26.41
Wingert 1145 18 63.61 13.49
Watson-Siriboe 1980 28 70.71 8.04
Salcedo 1619 23 70.39 5.84
Borchers 450 6 75.00 -5.32
Mansally 1944 26 74.77 -13.95
Palmer 1682 21 80.10 -21.35
Maund 2340 31 75.48 -30.48
McDonald 2430 32 75.94 -39.94

You can see right away that the defense plays very poorly when Beltran and Beckerman do not play. Once again, Schuler comes out looking really good in these numbers. The interesting thing with McDonald is that even though he has very poor statistics here, the team has an even goal differential of 0 when he has played.  

Finally, here is a look at the center back pairings for the team.

Player Min Goals MpCG
Borchers/Schuler 540 5 108
Schuler/Salcedo 90 1 90
Borchers/Watson-Siriboe 270 3 90
Borchers/Salcedo 900 12 75
Schuler/Watson-Siriboe 360 5 72
Borchers/Maund 270 6 45
Borchers/McDonald 180 5 36

I don't think anyone would have guessed that the combination seeing the most time on the field would be the Borchers/Salcedo pairing. Schuler once again comes out looking good here. 

So what do all these things tell us? With all these positive numbers, is Schuler the missing piece to the defensive puzzle? I am not so sure about that. While it is true that he got hurt prior to the defensive struggles, the defense played pretty well in the games immediately after Schuler going down. 

What can you see from this information? Let me know what you think.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Crunching the Numbers- Seattle

Wearing my RSL tie at the
wedding reception
Weddings are such wonderful events and happy occasions. My Sister-in-Law's wedding reception was Friday night and thus I was spared the misery of watching RSL fall to Seattle 2-0. From what I was later told, if I was to miss seeing a match this was a good one to miss. I was still trying to represent RSL the best way I could by wearing my RSL tie.

Before I jump into the numbers I just have to say this. Everyone knows that I love stats, but scorelines like the one for this match are the worst. There is rarely anything positive to come come out of a match like this statistically. Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative stats to look at. I am not trying to be a downer, but it is what it is.

  • RSL has scored 52 goals on the season. Their scoring rate has now fallen to a goal every 50.19 minutes. 
  • The team has now conceded 37 goals on the season. This comes out to giving up a goal every 70.54 minutes. 
  • RSL has given up 2 or more goals in 8 of their last 11 matches. 
  • In those last 11 matches, RSL is giving up a goal ever 47.14 minutes.
  • Prior to the last 11 matches, RSL was only giving up a goal every 101.25 minutes.
  • The team has now given up 25 goals on the road compared to 12 goals at home. 
  • Robbie Findley and Joao Plata have now played 562 minutes together. This is the most among any of the striker partnerships this season. During that time RSL has scored 8 times or a goal every 70.25 minutes.  That rate is the third worst among all striker partnerships. 
  • Nat Borchers and Carlos Salcedo have now played 900 minutes together. During that time, RSL has given up 12 goals or a goal every 75.00 minutes. 
I am not a big fan of the Findley/Plata striker partnership. The team doesn't seem to play as well when they are out there together and the numbers back that up. I was somewhat surprised that they have played the most out of any of our forward pairings. Interestingly enough, the strike pair that have played the second most together is Findley and Alvaro Saborio (398 minutes). When they play together the team is scoring at a rate of a goal every 79.60 minutes which is the worst among all strike pairs.

The collapse of the RSL defense is really surprising. I knew that there were struggles on the defensive side of the ball, but I didn't realize how bad it was until I really started looking at the numbers. RSL has now given up more goals that it's previous four years. The opponents scoring rate of 70.25 is the worst since the 2007 season. 

The shocking thing is the past 11 matches. Giving up a goal every 47.14 is horrible. There is no other way around it. Prior to these past 11 matches we were on pace to have the second best defense in team history. So that leads to the question of what happened?  What has changed these past 11 matches? I am not sure, but I will be looking into it.

What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on what has happened to the defense over the past 11 matches? 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Man in the Middle- RSL at Seattle

By Alan Christensen

Referee Preview:
 Allen Chapman

Friday September 13, 2013

CenturyLink Field

RSL vs Sounders FC

Total Matches                   30
Total Avg Yellows             3.0
Total Avg Reds                .2
Total RSL Matches          2
Total Crew  Matches        1

2013 MLS Matches Ref        19
Total Y’s                                57
Total R’s                                3
PK’s                                      5
Seasons Pro Ref                2
2013 Sounders Refed Results:     7/3 Sounders FC 2-0 DC United

2013 RSL Refed Results:         5/11 Impact 3-2 RSL

A few highlights from Chapman’s profile:

Center Official for Eastern Conference Quarter-Final second leg.

Chapman has the most games (19) in the 2013 season for all MLS referees. This is only his second year as a professional with a total of 30 games.  He has given very few red cards, but is about average for number of yellows given.
Second year official, huge crowd, national broadcast, huge rivalry and big stakes for Supporter’s Shield race a recipe for controversy?  We shall see tonight!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

RSL Family- Chris Wingert and Thoughts from the Academy

The team is the star.

Photo by James Bosworth
The motto of RSL is something that has permeated throughout the whole organization, even down to the academy level. In truth, this philosophy is the basis for the RSL Family itself. RSL is the anti-LA Galaxy in so many different ways. While LA wants to be the team of stars, RSL wants the team to be the star. Or in other words, a family.

In this edition of my RSL Family series I get the thoughts of Chris Wingert. I was very interested in getting the perspective of a player that has played on multiple teams in his career. I wanted to find out if the RSL Family was truly unique among other teams throughout the league.  I first spoke to him about the comments that Coach Kreis made about the team being so close.
I think in a way its not an accident. The staff has done a real good job of piecing together the puzzle and making sure the personalities, as best they can tell before they come here, are going to fit. And they have done a great job of that. At the same time we have been fortunate that all the new guys, the young guys, have really bought in. And they have really brought a lot to the table. They are not just "yes" men. They have a lot of personality but they really want to buy in to what we have going on here. A few of them have come from situations that maybe wasn't as good. They feel fortunate to be here. I know that is the case with me and a lot of the other guys. It is a fun group to be a part of.
Then I asked about the RSL Family itself and if it was something special and unique here.
I wold agree with that. I am sure that there are other clubs that are great organizations to be a part of as well, but that certainly is the case here. And since I have been around for awhile, and a lot of these guys have, I think we realize that we are fortunate and the grass isn't always greener. We are in a great situation with a great group of not only good players but great people. It is something we want to be a part of. It is one of the reasons that there has been a core group here for a long time.

In hearing these comments a couple of things stood out to me. As I have started to write about this topic, many people have commented on how great a group of guys are that we have here. I would not disagree with that statement in the slightest. I love how Wingert talked about this not being an accident. As the staff are looking for new players, they are not just looking for the best player possible. They are looking for good people that happen to be good at soccer as well.

The other thing that I loved was that Wingert, as well as the other players on the team, understand that they  have something good going on here. They are in a really great situation but more importantly they truly want to be here. And as fans, this makes us love them even more.

One of the facts that I love the most about the RSL Family is that this feeling of family has made its way down to our academy in Arizona. Andy Willilams talked a little bit about it here. I wanted to get a better understanding of what some of the kids at the academy felt about the RSL family. Here are the thoughts of three of the players.

"To me it means that we are as one in everything we do. All these kids are family to me and I would do anything for any one of them." - Justen Glad

"RSL Family means that not only do we live together, but we work hard and sacrifice to achieve all our goals." -Kaleb Goodman

"To me the RSL Family means that we help each other out. We live together, we are basically like brothers. We are as one." -Adam Furguson

Special thanks to Garrett Cleverly for getting these quotes for me.

These comments are awesome. These kids truly get what the RSL Family means. All those people that are involved with the academy should be applauded for this. As players come through the academy and eventually make their way up to the main team they will already have that bond in place. It is only going to make them, and the team stronger.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Plus and Minus of Things

I am a big believer that in soccer everyone on the field has some type of impact on almost every play. That is why I love looking at the MpTG stat so much. As the season goes on and there becomes a greater sample size, it shows a good representation on how well the team plays offensively while that particular player is on the field. Plus or minus (+/-) stats are another indicator of how well the team does when particular players are on the field.

At one point in the season someone asked me if I tracked +/- stats for players. At that time I did not, but I could see the value in it. I went back and calculated the stat and found some very interesting results. I have been keeping track of it ever since.

Historically +/- has been something that hockey teams have tracked. It has been only recently that it has moved to other sports like basketball. What is +/-? It is goal differential on a player level instead of a team level. You take all the goals that have been scored while a particular player is on the field and then subtract the amount of goals that have been given up while that player is on the field. Unlike MpTG the higher the number the better. I thought it would be good to take a look at the players current +/- and see what information we can learn from it.

RSL's goal differential is currently at +17 for the season. Lets first take a look at the forwards.

Player Min +/-
Saborio 1081 4
Findley 1070 5
Plata 1397 12
Sandoval 704 10
Garcia 831 7

So what can we tell from this? Theoretically, the more minutes a player plays, the closer his +/- will get to the team's differential for the season. I find it interesting that Sandoval has the second best +/- and has played the least amount among all the forwards. It is also interesting that Garcia who has by far the best MpTG on the team only has an average +/-. I am not sure what it means that Saborio and Findley have low +/- numbers. 

Player Min +/-
Gil 1625 9
Grabavoy 2220 17
Morales 1976 20
Velasquez 802 9
Stephenson 717 0
Beckerman 1831 17
Alvarez 747 4
Grossman 88 1

Above are the stats for the RSL midfielders. Morales stands out in this group with his +20. This is the highest on the team. It is interesting that Velasquez has played almost exactly half the amount of minutes that Gil has but they have the same +/-. And, what does it say that after playing over 700 minutes that Stephenson's +/- is still at 0?

Player Min +/-
Beltran 1879 19
Schuler 1080 0
Borchers 2070 16
Salcedo 901 14
Palmer 940 -7
Mansally 669 3
Watson-Siriboe 630 3
Maund 270 -1
McDonald 180 0

Finally here are the defender's stats. Beltran's +19 is outstanding as only he and Morales have numbers that are higher than the team differential. Salcedo really jumped out to me as well. For only playing 900 minutes his +14 is very impressive. On the flip side is Palmer. The team has really struggled defensively when he has played this year. 

What else can we figure out from these stats? I would love to hear what any one else thinks about it.