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.