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, November 20, 2013

Eye on the Academy- Player Stock Report

By Pat Eyler

One of the requests I’ve had was to start building a player stock report for the academy players. Since there are players at two levels at the Academy (and some solid looking alumni), I’m going to split the report into a U16, U18, and Alumni.  I’ll also include a “made it” list for players who have hit the pros and where they are now.

For an initial listing, I’m just going to post the 3 players at each level that I think are most likely to end up playing at the MLS level.  As time goes on, I’ll try to flesh out some more detail on how they’re doing, who’s moving on and off of those lists.

Here we go:


Justen Glad
Has been called into the USMNT U18 camp, and played 183 minutes (including a start) for the RSL Reserves.  In addition to his defensive chops, he recently scored 2 goals against a fellow academy side Arsenal.
Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo
A constant scoring threat.  Bofo has also played for the RSL Reserves and looked good there.  He scored a brace against Arsenal as well.
Fito Ovalle
Frequently mentioned by Grande Sports for “stout defensive play”, a 40 yard defensive run was singled out in a recent game.


Niki Jackson
A forward who’s been scoring and assisting at the academy.  He’s also scored for the RSL Reserves.  All this despite being new to the team and feeling like “it’s going to take more time to adjust to it.”
Brooks Lennon
Another Academy player to get RSL Reserve minutes.  Lennon has also been called up to the USMNT youth teams.
Corey Baird
Another member of the USMNT U-18s.  Baird is an attacking threat who seems to be involved in a lot of Academy goals.  Check out his goal here against Guatemala earlier this year:


Jordan Allen
Ranked the #3 freshman in the nation, Allen has played 154 minutes for the RSL Reserves, with a start against the Whitecaps during that time.
Ricardo Velasquez
A three-time ACC player of the week, Velasquez has 7 goals and 9 assists this season.
Ive Burnett
A high end defender who’s starting regularly at South Carolina, where he’s also scored a goal. Burnett has played 93 minutes for the RSL Reserves.

So, who did I leave off?  What do you think about these players?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Eye on the Academy- Keeping an Eye on the Alumns

By Pat Eyler

RSL's academy has 40 alumni playing at various levels of college soccer this year. And it’s time for our monthly check in.  I’m going to keep focusing on the same set of players, unless someone crops up as a really interesting alternative.

I think there are seven players that deserve some attention and five of those are freshmen, I’ve dropped Davide Flores (a Junior) who doesn’t seem to be getting much time recently.  Even with a couple of defenders in their midst, they’ve accounted for 20 goals and 28 assists so far this season while playing for pretty good teams.

Player (Yr Pos Games/Starts)
Jordan Allen (Fr F/D 17/17)
Andrew Brody (Fr M 18/18)
Ive Burnett (Fr D 17/17)
South Carolina
Phanuel Kavita (Jr D 18/18)
Riggs Lennon (Fr F 6/16)
Coco Navarro (Fr F 17/17)
Ricardo Velazco (So M/F 18/18)


There’s also a pretty good keeper out there, Matt Bersano, R-So, GK, Oregon State University: 17 starts, 17 games, 20 goals allowed, 5 clean sheets, 95 saves - those are pretty good numbers. His GAA is up to 1.18 but he’s also climbed to 5.59 saves/game.

Ricardo Velazco was named ACC Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season - pretty good for a Sophomore.  Andrew Brody has previously been recognized as ACC Rookie of the Week.  

Unfortunately, Velazco and Brody were part of a losing effort in their final game of the season as the Cardinals dropped the first game of the ACC tournament and will not be advancing. Jordan Allen’s Virginia squad are moving on in the ACC tournament after beating Boston College.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Crunching the Numbers- Playoff Edition

My original plan was to  end my Crunching the Numbers posts with the end of the regular season. For the most part, all of my stats are only calculated in regular season MLS matches. But two things happened that I think I should put out a playoff edition. First, I was provided some additional stats that the team kept track of that I found interesting and wanted to share. Second, as the playoffs have progressed, I have continued to crunch numbers and have found some very interesting results. Lets take a look.

  • Devon Sandoval has played 1196 minutes in all competitions (MLS regular season/playoffs/ USOC). During that time RSL has scored 29 times or a goal every 41.24 minutes. This is the best scoring rate on the team. 
  • Sandoval and Robbie Findley have now played 256 minutes together in all competitions. In that time the team has scored 9 times or a goal every 30.77 minutes. This is the best scoring rate for any forward pairing on the team.
  • Since coming back from injury, Chris Schuler has played 630 minutes. In that time RSL has only given up 5 goals or a goal every 126 minutes. 
  • In regular season play, RSL was 10-0-2 when leading at the half. They were 0-5-2 when trailing at the half.
  • When scoring first in the regular season the team was 15-3-4. They were 1-7-3 when allowing the first goal.
  • Alvaro Saborio had a stretch of 6 games in a row where he had either a goal or an assist in each match.
  • RSL's total attendance for the year was 326,699. That averages out to 19,218 a match which was 9th in the league. 
So what can we learn from these numbers? My numbers for Sandoval have been really good all year long. But his numbers really jump off the chart when you start looking at his full body of work (including US Open Cup games). It is players like Sandoval that are the reason that I look at how many goals the team scores while a player is on the field and not just how many goals the player scores himself. While Sandoval does score himself, he seems to make a lot of the little plays to make the players around him better. 

The really interesting thing has been the realization of how well Findley and Sandoval play together. In regular MLS play, they only played 63 minutes together. I thought it was interesting that Kreis was playing a pair in the playoffs that had not really had much playing time together. But my mistake was failing to understand how they had actually played together for big chunks of time in the Open Cup matches.  There seems to be a really good chemistry between the two that some might say is not found between Findley and Saborio. 

Finally I am going to say that Chris Schuler's return has saved the season. He has played 7 games since returning from injury, and in the time the RSL defense has seen a remarkable improvement. As said above, RSL is only giving up a goal every 126 minutes in those matches. For comparison's sake, in the previous 10 matches prior to Schuler's return RSL was giving up a goal every 42.85 minutes! And Schuler has scored more goals in the past two matches than all the other RSL defenders have scored all year long. His impact has been felt on both sides of the ball.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Striking Up a Partnership- End of Year Review

As RSL prepares for the second leg on the first round of the playoffs, one of the biggest questions going into the match is "Who will start up top?". This is the same question that has been asked constantly throughout the course of the year.

The change in the perception of RSL forwards this year has been fascinating. Going into the season RSL had Saborio, Findley, and a bunch of unknowns playing forward. Now most fans would be fine with any of the five different forwards playing.  Watching the growth of the young forwards this year has been a joy.

The question still remains. Who will start up top tomorrow night? Although I have my theories, that is a question that only Coach Kreis can currently answer. What I want to do is to look back to see which forwards played best together. This is something that I did on occasion throughout the season and I thought today would be the perfect day to do a final year-end review on these statistics.

First, I will look at how effective the team played with each forward combination on the pitch. For those that are new to my blog, MpTG represents how many minutes it takes for the team to score a goal while each forward combo is playing. The stats below only represents regular season MLS games. As a point of reference RSL averaged scoring a goal every 53.68 minutes.

Players Min. Played Goals MpTG
Sabo/Plata 441 13 33.92
Plata/Garcia 396 10 39.60
Sandoval/Garcia 397 9 44.11
Findley/Garcia 53 1 53.00
Sabo/Garcia 335 6 55.83
Plata/Sandoval 451 8 56.38
Findley/Sandoval 63 1 63.00
Sabo/Sandoval 71 1 71.00
Findley/Plata 573 8 71.63
Sabo/Findley 519 5 103.80

There are many really interesting things to take away from these stats. The Saborio/Plata combination was by far the most effective pairing. They just seemed to have a really great chemistry. Looking back at the course of the season, the biggest surprise would be how ineffective the Saborio/Findley pairing has been. The team has not played well when these two have played together.

By looking at the minutes played you can tell which combinations that Kreis liked and which ones he didn't. I think it is somewhat interesting that the two combinations that Kreis played the most were the two most ineffective. I do understand that sometimes his hand was forced due to injuries or international call ups. But I would say in looking at these numbers you have to wonder if Kreis could have done a better job in picking his starting forwards throughout the season. 

Now lets look at how well RSL played when a particular forward combination did not play.

Players Min. Not Played Goals MpTG Difference
Sabo/Findley 2541 52 48.87 -54.93
Findley/Plata 2487 49 50.76 -20.87
Plata/Sandoval 2609 49 53.24 -3.13
Sabo/Sandoval 2989 56 53.38 -17.63
Sabo/Garcia 2725 51 53.43 -2.4
Findley/Sandoval 2997 56 53.52 -9.48
Plata/Garcia 2664 47 56.68 17.08
Findley/Garcia 3007 53 56.74 3.74
Sandoval/Garcia 2656 45 59.02 14.91
Sabo/Plata 2619 44 59.52 25.6

The final column is the difference between when a combination played vs when they didn't play. For example, RSL scored a goal almost 55 minutes faster as a team when Saborio and Findley did not play together. Again, these numbers really show how good the Saborio/Plata pairing was for RSL. They would score a goal 25 minutes faster when they played. That is pretty huge.

My guess is that RSL will start Saborio and Findley tomorrow night. Again, it might be because Kreis' hand is being forced due to the current injury to Plata. If Saborio and Findley do start together I will grimace a little inside because I know that they just don't play that well together.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Eye on the Academy- Possibilities of a PDL Team

By Pat Eyler

Apparently I’m not the only person thinking that MLS development expanding into the PDL is a good thing. With the San Jose Earthquakes recent entry, there are four MLS teams that also field PDL teams: the aforementioned ‘Quakes, the Chicago Fire, the Portland Timbers, and the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Three more MLS clubs have formal partnership agreements with PDL teams:  New England Revolution (Real Boston Rams), Philadelphia Union (Reading United AC), and Seattle Sounders FC (Sounders FC U-23).

RSL Academy Coach Freddy Juarez recognized that some players  need development beyond what the academy can provide as a U-18 program, “Some players will never make the jump.  Some are ready at 16, 17, or 18.  Some will go on to college and keep developing there.

In his latest article Leander Schaerlaekens focuses on changes that he thinks college soccer needs to make.  But in laying the foundation, he says something interesting:

The US Soccer Development Academy will soon expand to 100 clubs -- including MLS academies -- in the under-14, under-16 and under-18 divisions which operate according to a tightly regulated set of prescribed best practices. But those clubs offer no bridge to the pro game, the way MLS academies can via the homegrown contract.

Later, he adds:

A better synergy with the professional game could offer a solution. Many MLS academy products are simply not ready for a professional contract and opt to go to college instead. But once he gets there, he can still practice with the club but he can no longer play in his MLS club’s reserve team games. During his college’s summer break he can only play for the under-18s, if he’s still eligible, or the amateur under-23 Premier Development League (PDL) team.

I don’t think Schaerlaekens is calling for a league wide fielding of PDL U-23 teams, but maybe this wouldn’t be a bad thing.  It looks like several of RSL’s Western Conference peers are testing the waters, and from some comments from Coach Kreis perhaps they’re already thinking of it.