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.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

End of Year Review- The Defense

When looking over the course of the whole year, the RSL's defense had a very up and down season. They started off the first few months with some of the best defensive rates in club history. Then about two-thirds through the season they were leaking goals at an alarming rate. But, by the end of the season they came back strong and have played fantastically so far through the playoffs.

What was the cause of the up and down season? Injuries played a huge role and National Team call ups were a factor as well. By the end of the year RSL had used 8 different center back pairings and 3 different keepers in MLS play. The team ended up giving up 41 goals on the season or a goal every 74.63 minutes. All things considered, it is really remarkable that RSL did not give up more goals than they did.

Here is a breakdown of how each player did over the course of the year. MpCG stands for "Minutes per Conceded Goal" or how long it took for a goal to be scored while they were playing. Unlike my Minutes per Team Goal stat that I use for offensive players, the higher the number the better with MpCG.

Player Min Goals MpCG
Schuler 1440 15 96.00
Beltran 2230 26 85.77
Wingert 1742 22 79.18
Watson-Siriboe 630 8 78.75
Borchers 2520 35 72
Salcedo 1070 15 71.33
Palmer 1198 17 70.47
Mansally 774 11 70.36
McDonald 270 5 54.00
Maund 270 6 45.00

With how he has been playing in the playoffs, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Chris Schuler led the team in MpCG. He was the biggest reason that the team had the defensive turnaround towards the end of the season. In fact if you only look at the games he has played since coming back from injury (including playoffs), RSL is only giving up a goal every 150 minutes!

Next is a breakdown of how the team played when a particular player was not on the field. The "difference" column is the difference between when a player played compared to when he didn't play. 

Player Min not played Goals MpCG Difference
Beltran 830 15 55.33 30.44
Schuler 1620 26 62.31 33.69
Wingert 1318 19 69.37 9.81
Watson-Siriboe 2340 31 75.48 3.27
Mansally 2199 29 75.83 -5.46
McDonald 2700 35 77.14 -23.14
Palmer 1853 24 77.21 -6.74
Salcedo 1900 24 79.17 -7.83
Maund 2700 34 79.41 -34.41
Borchers 540 6 90 -18

It is pretty crazy to think that the team gave up a goal every 55 minutes when Beltran was not on the field. I decided to take a closer at this. Beltran missed 9 games on the season. In 6 of those 9 games the team gave up 2 or more goals. Although he did struggle in a couple games down the stretch, Beltran is a pretty vital piece of the defense.

The other thing that I found interesting in looking at this is that the team actually played pretty well when Borchers was not in the match. This somewhat surprised me.

Finally, here is a look at the centerback combinations that played this season.

Player Min Goals MpCG
Borchers/Schuler 900 8 112.5
Schuler/Salcedo 90 1 90.00
Borchers/Watson-Siriboe 270 3 90.00
Schuler/McDondald 90 0 90.00
Schuler/Watson-Siriboe 360 5 72.00
Borchers/Salcedo 979 14 69.93
Borchers/Maund 270 6 45.00
Borchers/McDonald 180 5 36.00

It should come as no surprise that Schuler and Borchers were RSL's best centerback duo. They have wonderful chemistry and have been playing great together in the playoffs. It is a bit surprising that the team gave up so many goals when Borchers was paired up with almost anyone else.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Eye on the Academy- What is USL PRO and the PDL?

By Pat Eyler

I’ve talked a bit about USL PRO teams and the PDL, but not everyone knows what these two leagues are and how they fit into the bigger picture of US Soccer (and maybe into player development). If I’m going to keep talking about this stuff (and believe me, I am), maybe I should take a little time to explain things.

The US Soccer system, sometimes called a pyramid, is divided into tiers.  This is further complicated by the (sometimes feuding) organizations that control these leagues.  

At the top is Major League Soccer (MLS), the US first division of soccer.  Beneath that is the North American Soccer League (NASL), made up of some of the teams that made up USL1 (a now-defunct league).  The third tier is USL PRO, which is made up of  the remainder of the teams from the old USL 1 and the surviving teams from the USL2.  Under that is the USL Premier Development League(PDL), along with the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and parts of the Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL).  Beneath this there are a variety of club and amateur leagues.

All of these are a part of the US Open Cup tournament. This has historically been the way lower division clubs come the the attention of MLS fans For example the Amateur Cal FC who beat Portland before losing to Seattle in 2012, or the annual friendly between the (PDL) BYU Cougars and Real Salt Lake.  

MLS clubs have also loaned out players to USL PRO and NASL teams to give them playing time and extra development.  This is becoming more formal with an agreement that started this year entangling the USL PRO with MLS Reserves.  The stated intent is that by 2015 every MLS club will either affiliate with an existing USL PRO side, or start one of their own.

The big question now is what is RSL’s plans going forward in regards with this agreement? It is something that we will be following up here on the blog.

Monday, December 2, 2013

MLS Cup Preview- Findley and Sabo

After taking a little bit of a break from the blog I am hitting high gear this week getting ready for the MLS Cup. Watch for a new article each day this week. There has been a lot of talk about looking at who should start between Saborio and Sandoval (see here, here and here). But for this post I wanted to take a different look at things.

I have been of the mindset that Jason Kreis should start one of only two different forward combinations up top. He should either start Saborio and Plata or Sandoval and Findley. I think everyone would agree that you don't really want to play Sandoval and Saborio together. Our record without starting a target forward was not the best so that eliminates the Findley/Plata combo.

But what about Saborio and Findley?  At the beginning of the season those were the two that everyone thought would get the bulk of the starts this season.  They are RSL's two most experienced forwards. Saborio led the team in goals and Findley has been arguably RSL's best player in the playoffs. Why should they not play together in the MLS Cup Finals?  That is the question I set out to answer.

As I started tracking the stats this year, of the forward pairings one thing was plain to see. Findley and Saborio did not play well together. It was kind of shocking with how bad the stats were while they were on the field together. In regular season play, RSL played 519 minutes with the two on the field together. In that time, RSL only scored 5 goals or a goal every 103.8 minutes. When Findley and Saborio were not on the field together, the team scored at a rate of a goal every 48.8 minutes. That is a huge difference!

I thought I would break down those numbers even more to see how well Findley and Saborio played when they were playing with other forwards. The numbers were pretty staggering. In the regular season, Robbie Findley played 741 minutes when Saborio was not on the field. During that time RSL scored 14 times or a goal every 52.9 minutes. On the flip side Saborio played 827 minutes without Findley. In that time the team scored 17 times or a goal every 48.6 minutes.

Since I have started writing this blog and really diving into stats I have always claimed that statistics can give us very important information but they don't tell the whole story. Statistically, everything points that it is a bad idea for Findley and Saborio to start together. The numbers show that RSL plays much better when Findley plays with Sandoval or Sabo plays with Plata. But this might be the case where the stats don't tell the whole story.

As I started researching this article, I was of the opinion that there is no way in the world I would want Findley and Saborio to start together. Then I looked at RSL's record in matches that those two started up top. RSL has started them together 10 times across all competitions. In those ten matches RSL has lost only once back in March at DC United. They had an overall record of 5-1-4 in matches where Findley and Saborio stared.

So who do I think should start come Saturday. Well I had been leaning to staying with the Findley and Sandoval combination assuming that Sandoval was healthy (he has sat out the last few practices). But now I won't be as worried if Kreis decides to start Findley and Saborio together.