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.

Friday, January 31, 2014

RSL Development Team Squad Forecast

By Pat Eyler

Some of the most interesting news coming out of this off season was the many teams that announced information about their plans for USL Pro teams. The question for the RSL fan base has been when will the team announce final plans for their USL Pro team?

News on this front has started to trickle out the past few weeks. From information given at some of the town hall meetings to discussions taking place on the latest On Frame show as well as some comments by Garth Lagerwey to the Salt Lake Tribune,  it is sounding like they are trying to get a team ready for the 2015 season (the deadline set by MLS). If everything is to be believed that team will play in San Diego. To go along with this news were some comments made on On Frame (and in other places) about creating a PDL team as well.

This is exciting news and I thought it might be interesting to look at who might be on those teams.  I’m going to model both squads on a 23 man roster with 3 goalkeepers, 8 defenders, 8 midfielders, and 4 forwards.  

Until there is more definition around USL Pro/MLS loans/player movement for these reserve sides, it’s hard to know how many players would be moved down to get minutes versus being available for top level gameday rosters.  I’m going to mark 4 players as “loaned” from the MLS club on the USL Pro roster.  I’ll also mark home grown players, who should be protected from being signed by other MLS clubs.

I’m also thinking about this a year or two in the future. Some of the players who are currently in the academy or playing NCAA ball might be playing professionally by that point, so forgive a little fuzziness there. Other MLS clubs are using assistant coaches to help with their developmental teams so I am placing our assistant coaches with our teams as well.

USL Pro coach: Andy Williams (or Daryl Shore)
Goalkeepers: Lalo Fernandez (on loan), Matt Bersano (HG)
Defenders: Rich Balchan (on loan), Aaron Maund (on loan), Ive Burnett (HG)
Midfielders: John Stertzer (on loan), Ricardo Velasquez (HG), Andrew Brody (HG)
Forwards: Benji Lopez (on loan)

PDL coach: Paul Dalglish
Goalkeepers: Christian Herrera (HG), Luis Barraza (HG)
Defenders: Justen Glad (HG), Aaron Herrera (HG)
Midfielders: Miles Stray (HG) Corey Baird (HG), Jose Herandez (HG)
Forwards: Bofo Saucedo (HG), Niki Jackson (HG), Coco Navarro (HG), Sam Gleadle (HG)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The 2015 Expansion Draft Protection List- Prelude

By Charles Barnard

It is coming. It will be painful when it happens. We know it is coming and there is nothing that we can do to stop it. It is the expansion draft.

It is always fun when a new team comes into the league. But one of the downsides of new teams are the expansion drafts. On that day that you know you will be losing a player you probably didn't want to lose. With the dual arrivals of NYCFC and Orlando in 2015 there is a very good chance of losing two players instead of one. This expansion draft has another painful little twist to; we know that Coach Kreis will be one of the people involved in picking an RSL player.

What we don't currently know are all the rules that this draft will have. How many players can be protected? After a player is selected can an additional player be protected? Are Generation Adidas or Home Grown Players automatically protected? Many of these questions won't be answered until we get closer to the draft.

The thought of who RSL should protect is a fascinating one. I thought it would be fun to conduct a poll to see who the fans think we should protect. We will create our own protection list. I will then conduct the same poll at the halfway mark of the season and after the season has concluded. It will be interesting to see what changes (if any) will be made to the list between now and the draft itself.

Here are the rules that I am going to go by (I am just guessing on these). You can protect 11 players.  RSL doesn't currently have any GA players so we don't need to worry about that but I am going to guess that Home Grown players will be automatically protected. One quick note on this: Even though Carlos Salcedo did go through the RSL Academy, he did not sign as a Home Grown player so he is eligible for the draft.

Now this is where you come in. Please submit to me the 11 RSL players that you think should be protected. Remember this is for the 2015 season, not this upcoming season. Do take age into consideration but don't worry about things like contract lengths as that information for each player is not readily available.  You can email your protected list to charles@fromtheupperdeck.com or send me your list on Twitter (@ccb1212).
After compiling the results I will post the findings here on the blog as well as my own protected list and reasons behind each pick.

I am really interested in the results of this and think it will be fun to track over the course of the year. I hope that you will all respond so we can get a really good sense of who the fan base thinks the team should protect.

Thanks to Arthur for creating this Google survey. You can now just enter in your picks here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

End of Year Review- Offensive Ratings (The COR Score)

Through the course of my end of year reviews, I have taken a look at most of the stats that I tracked through out the year. I have looked at everything from my Minutes per Team Goal (MpTG) stat through strike partnerships, as well as looking at the defensive side of the ball. Last week I looked at players plus/minus ratings and their shooting statistics. In the final entry of my end of year review I wanted to revisit the offensive rating system that I created about midway through the season, the COR score.

When I set out to create the COR score I was looking for a way to incorporate many different statistics into one offensive rating number. The thought behind it was this one number would give a sense of how a player is playing overall. It starts with a player's MpTG as a base and then subtracts weighted points for things like goals, assists, and shots on goal. A player's COR score will show not only how well a player played, but how well the team played around that player.

Now that I have a season's worth of numbers, it will be interesting to see the results. As a reminder, the lower the number the better.

Player COR
Garcia -10.67
Saborio -6.6
Morales -5.43
Plata 6.51
Sandoval 18.05
Grabavoy 18.05
Findley 20.56
Velasquez 25
Gil 28.11
Beckerman 29.44
Stephenson 31.34
Alvarez 55.03

It might surprise some to see Garcia topping the chart. His offensive production for the first few months of the season was unbelievable. At one point in the season his COR was almost at -40. Although his offensive production cooled towards the second half of the season, his overall body of work was still very impressive for such a young player. 

As I was doing my research for this article I was curious to see where Saborio would end up. Saborio actually does not have a very good MpTG. Some wondered during the playoffs (me included) if RSL was actually a better team when Sabo didn't play. With a COR score being so low (low is good) it shows that his offensive production was so great that it might outweigh his lower MpTG. 

The very nature of the COR score will lead the forwards on the team to have a better rating than midfielders. Theoretically forwards should have more goals, shots on goal, and so forth. With that in mind, it is pretty amazing that Morales has such a low score. It really shows how awesome his season was last year all around.  Not only did he have the lowest MpTG on the team, he also had some incredible individual offensive stats. 

It was interesting to see Sandoval and Findley come out in the middle of the pack for completely different reasons. Sandoval had a very good MpTG rating but poor individual stats. Findley on the other hand had some decent individual stats but a poor MpTG rating. It would be nice to see both of their COR scores drop this coming year. 

It is also pretty interesting that the two players with the lowest COR score are no longer on the team. Granted that most defensive midfielders will have a lower COR score just based on the position that they play on the field. That is the reason I do not include defenders in with rest of the team. But, Alvarez's score was much higher than Kyle Beckerman's who shares the same position. It is somewhat telling that Stephenson had such a high score as he never really played well in MLS matches for the team.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

End of Year Review- Shooting Statistics

In today's end-of-year review I wanted to take a look at shooting statistics. I took at look at this stat a couple of times last year and found the information very interesting. You can get a sense of where the RSL attack was coming from by looking at who was taking the shots and how aggressive each player was in front of the net.

When I analyze shooting statistics I take a look at three different aspects. First is the ability to get a shot off. Second is the ability to keep the shot on frame. And finally, are the shots that players taking hitting the back of the net? Each of these aspects is a skill and just because a player is good at one doesn't mean he is good at the others.

Below are the shooting stats that I compiled for the forwards. These stats are only for MLS regular season matches. I feel that it is important not just to look at shots and shots on goal but to also average them over 90 minutes (Sp90 and SoGp90) so we can have a better comparison between players regardless of the total amount of time that they played over the season. I also look at the percentage of shots actually being on goal (SoG%) and the percentage of shots that result in goals (GpS%). As a point of reference, the team averaged taking 13.2 shots a game and had 4.9 shots on goal a game.

Player Shots Sp90 Shots on Goal SoGp90 SoG % GpS %
Saborio 52 3.48 21 1.4 40.38% 23.08%
Findley 37 2.64 15 1.07 40.54% 16.22%
Plata 50 2.74 19 1.04 38.00% 8.00%
Sandoval 18 1.83 9 0.92 50.00% 16.67%
Garcia 33 2.98 14 1.27 42.42% 15.15%

What do these numbers tell us? First, that when he played, Saborio was by far RSL's most aggressive player. He led the team in every shooting category except shot on goal percentage. Granted, his numbers are a little inflated due to him scoring 4 times due to penalty kicks.

Garcia was also very aggressive when he was in matches. For a player so young he was also very accurate with his shots. His shot on goal percentage of 42% is very impressive. What is even more impressive is that shots that hit either the post or crossbar is not considered a shot on goal. I believe Garcia had at least four shots that hit either the post or crossbar this past season. 

While he was very impressive in other parts of his game, Sandoval needs to work on taking more shots. Having less than one shot on goal per 90 minutes played is a little disappointing. Now as I said above, these stats include regular season matches only. It was good to see that he was much more aggressive in the playoffs and in US Open Cup matches.  

Out of all the information above, the one number that stands out the most to me is Plata's goal per shot percentage. Only 8% of the shots he took hit the back of the net. That has to improve. Especially since his shooting rate is pretty high. 

Here is a look at the RSL midfield.

Player Shots Sp90 Shots on Goal SoGp90 SoG % GpS %
Gil 36 1.57 13 0.57 36.11% 13.89%
Grabavoy 28 0.94 10 0.33 35.71% 17.86%
Morales 47 1.85 18 0.71 38.30% 17.02%
Velasquez 20 2.02 8 0.81 40.00% 0.00%
Stephenson 21 2.39 7 0.8 33.33% 4.76%
Beckerman 44 1.74 17 0.67 38.64% 9.09%
Alvarez 9 0.83 5 0.46 55.56% 11.11%

It is interesting to look at the midfielders. I was surprised to see how often both Stephenson and Velasquez took shots. Grabavoy had a very good goals per shot percentage. Morales also had some very good shooting statistics but his numbers are also slightly inflated due to 2 penalty kicks that he took over the course of the season. Beckerman also seems to take a higher amount of shots than would be expected from his defensive midfield position.

There are a lot of interesting pieces of information that can be gleaned from the above stats. I would love to hear anything you picked out. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

End of Year Review- The Plus and Minus of Things

Prior to the start of the 2014 season I wanted to complete my review of 2013 stats. I have already reviewed the player's MpTG, Striker Partnerships, and have taken a look at how well the defense played last season (those can be found here). In today's post I will be looking at the plus/minus stat for each player.

At one point last season someone asked me if I tracked plus/minus stats for players. At that time I did not, but could see the value in it. I went back and calculated the stat and found some very interesting results. I continued to track it from that point forward and will again track it for the 2014 season.

What is plus/minus? It is basically goal differential on a player's level instead of a team level. You take all the goals that are scored while a player is on the field and subtract all goals that are given up. Historically this is a stat that has been heavily used in hockey and has since found its way into other sports like basketball. It is also finding its way into soccer as more and more people that look at stats have been using it to determine how well a team plays while a player is on the field.

On the season, RSL had a goal differential of +16. This was the second best goal differential for a season in team history (2010 had a goal differential of +25).

First lets take a look at the forwards. These stats represent the regular season only. Neither the playoff nor US Open Cup matches were taken into account.

Player Min +/-
Plata 1645 11
Sandoval 885 10
Garcia 996 8
Saborio 1346 5
Findley 1260 2

I was pretty surprised by the results found here. It somewhat makes sense that Plata had the best plus/minus as he played the most minutes. I would have never have guessed that Sandoval would rank second best among the forwards. On the flip side I was shocked that RSL was only a +2 when Findley was on the field. It was also interesting that the player with the best MpTG stat among the forwards (Garcia) only ranked in the middle of the plus/minus rankings. I am not sure how to interpret that.

Player Min +/-
Morales 2282 18
Grabavoy 2688 15
Beckerman 2281 15
Velasquez 892 10
Gil 2061 9
Alvarez 981 5
Stephenson 790 0

Above are the stats for the midfielders. Of course, the first thing that stands out is Javier Morales. Morales' +18 is the best plus/minus on the team. He also had the best MpTG on the team as well. I did find it interesting that Gil's plus/minus was not great for the minutes that he played. Also, perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised that Stephenson (and to a lesser extent Alvarez) were released due to their poor plus/minus rankings. 

Player Min +/-
Beltran 2230 17
Wingert 1742 15
Borchers 2520 15
Salcedo 1070 12
Mansally 774 4
Watson-Siriboe 630 3
Schuler 1440 2
McDonald 270 1
Maund 270 -1
Palmer 1198 -6

Finally we take a look at the defenders. Some of these numbers really surprised me. I wasn't too surprised with the group at the top, especially with the amount of minutes that they played. I think there are two numbers that really stood out to me though. First is the -6 of Lovel Palmer. I think we can all agree that Palmer was a really good person and will be missed on the team. But, this number is a clear indication on why he was traded. On the defensive side of the ball, he was not good. 

The second surprise was the +2 for Chris Schuler. Statistically he was by far our best defender on the season when he played. It is surprising to see that our offense struggled though while he was on the pitch. Again, this doesn't take into account the playoffs and we all saw what he did there scoring 2 goals. But over the course of the regular season a different picture was painted. This is something to keep an eye on going into 2014.

Finally, I divided the minutes by the plus/minus number. This gives us a plus/minus per minute. Basically it tells how long it takes for a players plus/minus number to go up (or down for Palmer and Maund).

Player Min +/- per min. played
Sandoval 885 10 88.50
Salcedo 1070 12 89.17
Velasquez 892 10 89.20
Wingert 1742 15 116.13
Garcia 996 8 124.50
Morales 2282 18 126.78
Beltran 2230 17 131.18
Plata 1645 11 149.55
Beckerman 2281 15 152.07
Borchers 2520 15 168.00
Grabavoy 2688 15 179.20
Mansally 774 4 193.50
Alvarez 981 5 196.20
Watson-Siriboe 630 3 210.00
Gil 2061 9 229.00
Sabo 1346 5 269.20
McDonald 270 1 270.00
Findley 1260 2 630.00
Schuler 1440 2 720.00
Stephenson 790 0 N/A
Palmer 1198 -6 -199.67
Maund 270 -1 -270.00

I was very surprised by these results. I would not have guessed that Sandoval and Salcedo would have topped the list. It was also a little surprising to see that out of the everyday players that it was Wingert with the best rating. 

What do you see from the information above? Do you have any take-a-ways that I missed? I would love to hear any comments.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Look Forward to 2014

I am back! After taking some time off of writing during the off season I am back and am ready for RSL's 10th season to start. During the course of this week I will be looking back at some end-of-season stats from last year to go along with the ones that I have already completed. But, with the start of the new year, I thought it would be a good time to talk a little about the blog itself and what I am hoping to accomplish with it.

I started From the Upper Deck early in the season last year. I had been very active on Twitter for a long time (@ccb1212) and one of my favorite topics of discussion was RSL.  I wanted some place that I could talk about RSL in more than the 140 characters that Twitter allowed; and thus, From the Upper Deck was born.

It really grew into something much bigger than I ever thought it would. I never thought I would have the opportunity to interview players, or coaches but I have now been fortunate enough to say I have done both. I never thought I would be in the position to hear such wonderful stories about the RSL Family and what it means to people. I am very happy with how those articles turned out and am looking to continue that feature this year. I never thought I would have other fans step up and write articles for my blog as well (thanks Alan and Pat!). I have loved all those things about the blog. But, first and foremost this blog is about stats.

I love stats. I have loved stats since the first time I bought a pack of baseball cards as a kid. The pictures were great and all, but what I loved most about baseball cards were the stats on the back. They fascinated me as a kid. My love of stats continue on to this day. But it took a little bit of time before my love of stats and my new love of soccer came together. I can thank "Dr. Goals" Kenny Deuchar for it all.

Deuchar came to RSL as a much hyped forward in the 2008 season. Everyone thought he was the answer to our scoring woes from the year before. He wasn't. He really struggled that season to put the ball in the back of the net. However, I noticed something that season. The team seemed to play better when he was on the field. Even though he wasn't scoring, the team was. So I sat down and did some math. I figured out how many goals the team scored while Deuchar was on the pitch. Then I went back and figured out how many goals they scored when he was not playing. My hypothesis was correct. The team scored more goals when he played compared to when he didn't. This is how my Minutes per Team Goal (MpTG) stat came into being. MpTG tells how many minutes it takes for the team to score a goal while a player is on the field. The lower the number, the better.

In the statistical analysis that I do, I look at MpTG more than any other stat. In my mind, the most import thing for an attacking player in soccer is for the team to score a goal. But who scores the goal or who gets the assist can be deceiving. It really doesn't matter who scores the goal as long as a goal is scored. Many times the most important part of a play that leads to a goal is something that happens seconds or even minutes before the ball hitting the back of net. Even though a player does not get credit for a goal or an assist does not mean that he did not have a positive effect on the play. MpTG gives credit to all the players on the field when a goal is scored.

What I find most interesting in looking at MpTG is not so much comparing one player to another. It is comparing the player when he is playing compared to when he is not. Let me give you a perfect example from last season: When Javier Morales was on the field, RSL scored a goal every 44 minutes. When he was not on the field, the team scored every 129 minutes. That is an incredible difference and really shows the value that Morales had on the team.

Next I came up with Minutes per Conceded Goal (MpCG) for the defenders. This is pretty much just the opposite of MpTG. It takes a look at how many minutes on average it took for the opposing team to score a goal when a particular defender was on the field. In this case, the higher the number the better.

I look at many other stats as well for my blog. Some more traditional stats like +/- and others that I have built on my own like the COR score. All of these stats tell a story about how a player is playing. While no stat can tell the whole story, they can point out things that people might miss in just watching the game. The main goal of this blog is to bring that information to you. I will post my conclusions but I still try to present the data in a way that lets the reader come to their own conclusions on the data.

I still find stats just as fascinating as that little kid that first looked at the back of a baseball card. I hope that I can share a little of that fascination with you.