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, March 31, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- TFC

Real Salt Lake came away from Saturday with a dominating win over TFC 3-0. RSL is still undefeated on the season and sits second in the Western Conference with 8 points.

It is still early in the season but some statistical trends are starting to form. Lets take a look at the numbers from the match.
  • RSL has scored 8 times so far on the season or a goal every 45 minutes. Last season the team scored a goal every 53 minutes which was a club record.
  • The team is currently giving up a goal every 90 minutes. The club record for defense was in 2010 when RSL amazingly only gave up a goal every 135 minutes.
  • The team has now scored 6 times in the first half of matches. All of last season the team only scored 22 times in the first half. 
  • RSL has a record of 6-1-4 since Chris Schuler came back from injury late last year.
  • In the last 11 matches that he has played, RSL is only giving up a goal every 145 minutes when Schuler has been on the field.
  • RSL completed 383 passes vs TFC. That is the highest amount of completed passes so far this season.
  • Kyle Beckerman is currently leading the team with 238 competed passes. Chris Wingert is second on the team with 189.
  • Beckerman completed 64 passes against TFC. That was a team high for a match so far this season. 
  • RSL had a season high 9 key passes (a pass that leads to a shot) against TFC. They had been averaging a little over 5 key passes a game so far.
  • After coming into the match Rich Balchan was perfect in his 13 pass attempts. 
I really looked at a lot of the passing stats coming out of this match and they really paint a picture of how much RSL dominated the midfield against TFC. In looking at the passing stats so far this season I was surprised to see that Wingert was second on the team in successful passes.

The offense is really clicking in the early season for RSL. Coach Cassar made a point in the preseason that he wanted to get more people into the attack this year. That is clearly showing dividends so far. Gil's goal on Saturday really pushes that point home when looking at how many players were involved in the attack on that particular play. 

The trend of RSL scoring early also continued vs TFC. Last season RSL only scored 22 times in the first half and only 11 of those came in the first 30 minutes of play. This season RSL has already scored 6 times in the first half with 4 of those being in the first half hour of the match. Because of this, RSL has led in each of their first 4 matches. This has also been something that Cassar has been telling the media that he wanted to see.

Chris Schuler's value to this team continues to skyrocket. In the past 11 matches that Schuler has played in RSL has given up 7 goals. In the last 12 matches that RSL has played without Schuler the team has given up 24 goals. That is an incredible difference.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- LA

Saturday afternoon saw RSL return home to Rio Tinto for their first home game of the season. The somewhat choppy game resulted in a 1-1 draw between RSL and the Galaxy . The match started quickly with an Alvaro Saborio goal in the 19th minute but LA equalized on a Robbie Keane goal in the the 34th minute of play.

Let's dive into the numbers to see what interesting information that we can find coming out of this match.

  • RSL has scored 5 goals in 3 matches or a goal every 54 minutes of play. That is practically the same offensive production that the team had last year when they set a club record for scoring a goal every 53.6 minutes.
  • The defense has given up 4 goals or a goal every 67.5 minutes. Last season the defense gave up a goal every 74.6 minutes.
  • Over the course of their first two matches, RSL's opponents had attempted 54 shots 19 of which were on goal. In this match, RSL only gave up 10 shots with only 1 being on goal.
  • 80% of the goals that RSL has scored so far have been in the first half of play. Last season only 38% of their goals came in the first half.
  • Plata has played 207 minutes on the season. During that time RSL has scored 5 times or a goal every 41.4 minutes.
  • Plata now has 4 successful crosses on the season. No other RSL player has more than 1 successful cross.
  •  Since coming back from injury toward the end of last season Chris Schuler has played 930 minutes. During that time RSL has only given up 7 goals or a goal every 132.8 minutes.
  • Schuler had 17 clearances in the match. That is 7 more than the next highest player on either team.
  • RSL has a goal differential of +3 while Luke Mulholland is on the field. 
  • Tony Beltran completed 48 out of 51 attempted passes in the match (94%).
What can we learn from these numbers? With it still being early in the season the sample size is still very small. But there are trends that we can start to see. 

Plata continues to be the offensive catalyst for the team. He has 2 goals and 2 assists on the season. Truthfully, he should have scored on his chance in the 2nd minute as well. The offense was not as fluid after Plata had to come off for his injury. Hopefully RSL will not have to find out how the offense plays if Plata is out for a long period of time (Editor's note: Plata just said he would be out for 3 weeks on Twitter).

The return of Chris Schuler was a much needed boost to the RSL back line. Schuler is dominate in the air and his presence in the back really contributed to RSL cutting down on the amounts of shots being taken. There is a reason why I said that Schuler was the most important player for RSL this season. In the last nine matches that Schuler has played for RSL, the team has only lost once. 

It is interesting to see the team scoring earlier in matches. I do expect the trend will shift back overtime as historically more goals are scored in the final 15 minutes than any other time. But last season RSL only scored 11 times total in the first half hour of their matches. In 2012 they only scored 10 times in the first half hour. In the first 3 matches of this season RSL has already scored 2 times in the first 30 minutes. I am not sure if it means anything at all, but it will be interesting to watch to see if it continues.

Friday, March 21, 2014

RSL Family- Fan Chris Enger

Every family has one. You know, that somewhat kooky cousin that is so much fun to hang around. The one that always makes you laugh at family functions. The RSL Family is no different. If you were to take a poll of who this person might be for the RSL Family I would almost guarantee that Chris Enger would win.

I have known of Chris for a long time. I first ran across him on the Big Soccer message boards. Later I rediscovered him on Twitter. This is probably where he is best known (@fuegote and @RSLshow). I recently asked Chris if he would tell his RSL story.

The year was 1994. I was in high school at a student leadership retreat in the summertime and in the back ground was the World Cup. I wasn't a soccer fan at all but I watched some of it disinterestedly. I was watching to hang with the ladies. That's how my life was before Real Salt Lake. I wasn't a soccer fan. I made all the quips about Capre Suns and orange slices at half time and the diving. 

I was ignorant. Many argue I still am, but that's an article for another time.

When I heard that Salt Lake was going to have their own Major League Soccer team I was somewhat ambivalent to the news. "Meh, I may go," was my initial reaction. I am grateful for ESPN KALL 700's Bill Riley for giving me tickets to the home opener, April 16. That was my first experience with soccer in person and it was truly an eye opening experience. The singing, the chanting, the flags and the game winning goal all yanked a giant hook into my open fish lips and I became a soccer convert.

Like a young romantic after a first date, I went home after that match and wanted to learn more about this beauty that was just introduced into my life. I instantly ordered the MLS package and Fox Soccer so I could start watching more of this game that I was just growing to know and love. Season tickets were purchased, cow bells were clanged, and the rest is history.

Because of that first home game I have welcomed what feels like a second family into my life. From the front office, the players, to the fans, RSL has become somewhat of an identity. I went from saying, "here comes the soccer guy" to becoming "the soccer guy."

Becoming a passonate fan of the team has also led me to attempt to find hidden talents. I've written for soccernewsday.com as well as done a podcast for that site as well as an RSL specific podcast. Last year I ended a 7 year run working on the RSL Show podcast with Scott Black. I may start it up again I love talking about RSL that much. I was also one of the founders of the Rogue Cavaliers Brigade.

The development I've most enjoyed over the last ten years has been becoming a vocal advocate of RSL in the workplace dynamic. I've gone from being the butt of every soccer fan joke known on planet earth while being told RSL and MLS were going to fold soon to being the person co-workers talk to about the team. 

I wear many hats, but the hat most know me for is my fandom for RSL. Through thick and thin, the ups and down, I am RSLTID!

Although I have interacted with Chris for years over the internet I have not yet had the chance to meet him in person. I think it would be a blast to sit down with him one day and watch and RSL game together. He is truly one that has had a very positive influence on the RSL Family as a whole. If you don't follow him on Twitter I would strongly recommend it as he is a really funny guy.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

RSL Round Table- The Shooting Gallery

I saw an extremely interesting stat coming out of the San Jose match. Peter Hirdt, who is with Elias Sports, tweeted out that RSL had given up 27 shots in each of the their first two matches. Prior to 2014 the team had never given up that many shots in a match. In all of MLS history, only one team had every given up 27 or more shots on back to back games.

This brought a lot of questions to my mind. What was causing the shooting gallery that was taking place at Nick Rimando? And more importantly, is this something that RSL should be concerned about moving forward? I honestly wasn't sure what to think so I put out the call to some others to do another round table discussion. I wanted to get their opinions on these questions.

For today's round table we have both Wes Brown (@wesbadia) and James Rust (jamesrust15) along with myself. Wes writes for Soccer Newsday as well as RSL Soapbox. James was the former co-host for On Frame as well as the former pre/post game host on ESPN 700. I want to thank both of them for their time.

From what I saw in preseason, the small tactical adjustments Cassar's made to the overall formation/style of play has encouraged the outside mids to cut centrally as they make their runs into the box. (Others may have a different view of things). I believe this has enabled us to get so much more pressure and higher numbers inside the penalty area on the attack. It also opens up the flanks for overlapping runs by the fullbacks. Honestly, the adjustments play more into the pros/cons of the conventional midfield diamond more so than under Kreis. We all know that the diamond has been touted as being susceptible to wing play because of its lack of "width". Under Kreis, our shape in midfield was slightly different, and, I believe, because of that our diamond played with seemingly more width than maybe other diamonds have in soccer history.

Cassar's tactics may be more conventional/traditional for that diamond formation. The wide mids were originally supposed to be more attacking than the traditional two-way or box-to-box types. One was traditionally a winger; the other a modified #8. It's also why the diamond has sat the defensive mid so far back, to provide extra numbers in defense. While Cassar's players do have the two-way abilities (Ned and Luke are probably the best examples right now), asking these guys to get dug in on the attack in more central spots commits them more to offensive duties than otherwise. Of course, that places more emphasis on the defensive line, something Cassar has said he was going to focus on in order to be less susceptible on the counter.

The trouble (that we're at least starting to see) with all of this, is that it overexposes the flanks in a way that we haven't necessarily had to deal with before. Guys like Tony and Wingert are now emphasized to play MORE defense because of the openness in front of them, while still being asked to contribute on overlaps. Against San Jose (more so than against LA), our fullbacks were pinned back so much throughout the match that their offensive duties were largely unable to be carried out. Cordell Cato on RSL's left kept Wingert out of the attack almost completely. Shaun Francis (whom I don't rate very highly) on RSL's right had assistance from Shea Salinas, who gave a clinic on crossing/service on Saturday. Beltran had his hands full, and the few times he was able to get up-field, he service to attacking areas was either cut out or stymied before it came to fruition.

Starting with if it is something that RSL should be concerned with moving forward, I say yes. You can't expect to be able to allow 27 shots a game and think you are going to come away with many clean sheets, let alone points, even with Nick Rimando in goal. I think that we are experiencing the transition from Jason Kreis to Jeff Cassar a bit here. Cassar mentioned in the pre-season that one thing that may be a little different is seeing a few more guys getting forward. It is something that I have been hoping for the last couple of seasons to be honest. The simple fact of the matter is with an extra guy or two pushing forward it leaves yourself a little bit exposed at times in the back. With us being just two games in a think things will tighten up a bit and Jeff will find his fine line on when and how to be aggressive with pushing guys forward at a regular rate.

Now, why I think the high shot amount is a little concerning... While I am excited with what I have seen from RSL on the offensive side of the ball they are a bit fortunate to be sitting with four points through two road games. Nick Rimando flat out stood on his head in LA to beat the Galaxy. We saw Donovan with a couple counter attack opportunities, Robbie Keane put one off the post and then obviously the PK save by Rimando. We have come to expect Rimando to come up big like he has but if we are speaking truthfully it was a bit surprising that Keane didn't put away the PK as well as his shot that went off the post.

Last weekend in San Jose I feel like what primarily led to the high shot amount from the Earthquakes is that RSL held a 3-1 lead at halftime. Full credit to San Jose who could have just folded up shop and turned their focus to their upcoming mid-week CCL game. San Jose came out pushing and got RSL on our heels and we couldn't slow the momentum. We knew that Mulholland was not going to be able to 90 minutes and that is the price you pay when you miss a starter and have to adjust your substitution pattern. With Maund getting hurt and Plata subbing off the fresh legs of Grossman, Salcedo and Allen were put in a tough situation of coming on and trying to slow down full throttle pressure. Five minutes of stoppage time was death and the equalizer was inevitable.

This all accounts for the disparity in the crossing stats that Charles tweeted out after the match (SJ: 19, RSL: 0, if I recall). It also makes sense why we've given up so many attempts on goal, and, in particular, shots. We saw it against LA, too. Landon down that right flank was dangerous for about 30 to 40 minutes on that side. Even Samuel and Keane were drawn to that side against Beltran/Maund. Luckily we didn't give anything up as our defense was solid. And the tactical adjustment in the middle of the first half where Ned and Gil switched sides helped to break up Donovan's play a bit.

There was no kind of tactical adjustment against SJ. Gil was at the top of the diamond, Luke on the right. If ever there was a tangible way of measuring what Gil does on the right for the defensive side of the game, this might be it. It's all hindsight, but could Gil have negated a lot of what Salinas and Francis were doing on that flank? Or at least another possible switch with Ned to swap sides might've helped. I'm not blaming Luke at all. I just think we're a bit too open down those flanks, and the defensive approach Cassar is using is more about counter attacks when our shape is not set, as opposed to dealing with straight forward attacking by pretty capable opposing players.

Charles pointed out on Twitter Saturday night how much RSL was missing Schuler. I agree that we missed him greatly and would go as far to say that with a bigger presence in the back and maybe the outcome is different. The Maund injury was crappy timing as well but that stuff happens. Not knocking on Salcedo but we've got to be able to win aerial balls in our box, something Schuler does at a very high rate.

I think that we will see Jeff pick his spots a little more but it is making for wide open and entertaining games. I am loving what we are seeing from Plata. He is creating at times as well as finishing his opportunities. The midfield is pushing up and I love seeing Beckerman floating a bit more in the attacking half. All in all I am liking what I am seeing with the exception of the 2nd half collapse in San Jose but keep in mind that Nick Rimando will be heading to Brazil this summer along with Beckerman and this style could put a little too much pressure on Jeff Attinella.   

I think both of you have made some really great points. To be honest the reason that I wanted to tackle this topic was that I didn't know what the answer was.  By just watching the matches you could tell that there were a lot of shots but it didn't see to me to be record breaking or anything. When I read the tweet by Peter Hirdt I was pretty shocked. That is one of the great things about stats. They point out things that you might miss by just watching the match. 

One thing that I wondered was where were the shots coming from? Was RSL forcing the opposing team into bad shots? I first took a look at some stats (hey, it's what I do). So far this season, 66% of RSL's shots have been on goal. Only 53% of RSL's opponents shots have been on goal. On the surface that sounds pretty good. But keep in mind that in 2 matches that RSL opponents have had 19 shots on goal where RSL has only had 21 shots total. That is a pretty big difference. 

James makes a very good point above. We were fortunate to come out of LA with 3 points. And without some great saves from Rimando we would have given up even more than the 3 goals that we did in San Jose. So while we all feel good about the 4 points that we have or even think we should have had 6, we are not that far away from having 0 points so far on the season. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues this week. 

One thing is for sure. The high amount of shots can not continue if RSL wants to have a successful season. This is something that I will continue to watch for the foreseeable future and will report my findings here. I would like to that Wes and James for their time and thoughts on the subject.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- San Jose

RSL gave up two goals late on Saturday to end their match with San Jose tied 3-3. Although it is painful to think that the team let two points slip through their fingers, I think it is fair to say that 4 points out of their first two matches on the road was a pretty good start to the season.

Lets jump into the numbers to see what interesting information is coming out of the match. Again, I just want to preface this by saying that the sample size for these stats are still very small and can fluctuate greatly from week to week.  Even with this being the case, I still feel that there is interesting information to be found.

  • Alvaro Saborio and Joao Plata have now played 171 minutes together. In that time RSL has scored 4 times or a goal every 42.75 minutes.
  • Nat Borchers and Aaron Maund have played 161 minutes together. In that time the team has only given up 1 goal. 
  • Luke Mulholland has played 93 minutes so far this season. During that time RSL has scored 4 times or a goal every 23.25 minutes.
  • If Mulholland's goal from last week would have counted (as it should have) RSL would be scoring a goal every 18.6 minutes when he is in the match.
  • RSL has not scored in the 87 minutes that Mulholland has not been on the field.
  • Plata has been on fire. So far he has 2 goals and 1 assist on the season. He has taken 7 shots and all 7 have been on goal.
  • Plata currently has a COR score of -62.9 (the lower the score the better). 
  • RSL has given up 27 shots in each of the last two matches. Prior to 2014 RSL had never given up as many as 27 shots in a game. In MLS history, only one team (Miami 1998) had given up 27 or more shots in two consecutive matches. Thanks to Peter Hirdt (@PeterHirdt) for this stat.

So what do these numbers mean? It is great to see that the starting duo of Plata and Saborio picked up where they left off last year. Statistically they were the best strike partnership for RSL with the team scoring every 33 minutes when they played together last year. They seem to really compliment each other when they play.

Luke Mulholland
Photo courtesy of Real Salt Lake
While the season in only 2 games old, it is becoming pretty apparent what a valuable pickup that Luke Mulholland is going to be. He looked very good in the preseason and he has carried on that form to the regular season. His impact so far has been pretty dynamic on the offensive side of the ball and he is very good defensively as well. I would expect him to continue to get playing time, especially if Morales continues to be sidelined with a bad back.

Plata has seemed to improve in almost every area of his game. Last season his finishing was very poor. Only 38% of his shots were on goal and only 8% of his shots hit the back of the net. Both of these were the lowest among all RSL forwards. As mentioned above, all of his shots so far have been on frame and he has scored on 28% of his shots taken. 

RSL had problems defending set pieces during the middle portion of the season last year. Two of San Jose's goals also came off of set pieces. This is an area of the game where Chris Schuler is missed the most. Schuler is pretty dominate in the air and his return from injury last season helped the RSL back line tremendously. This is one reason why I was saying that Schuler is the most important player for RSL this year. 

Saborio has been struggling in these first two matches. Last season 40% of his shots were on goal. So far this year he has taken 8 shots with only 1 of them being on frame (12.5%). He has also missed some chances that normally he puts away. Again we are only two games into the season but this is something that you might keep your eye on.

Finally I have to say I am concerned by the amounts of shots that RSL has given up in the first two matches. Watch for a round table discussion later this week exploring this topic.

Friday, March 14, 2014

RSL Family- RSL President Bill Manning

By Charles Barnard

Before I get started I wanted to plug a new RSL podcast that is out there, Off the Crossbar. I feel very lucky that I was asked to take part in the second episode of the show. You can check it out here.

Photo courtesy of Real Salt Lake 
As I have continued on my journey to learn about the RSL Family I have discovered one important thing. The RSL Family means many different things to different people. And that thought was echoed by the president of RSL, Bill Manning.

For this series I have talked to many different people in the RSL organization, but one person that I had not talked to was Manning. Recently I was at an RSL media luncheon and had the chance to talk with him. I appreciate him letting me take a few minutes of his time.

Like everyone one else in this series I asked him the simple question, what does the RSL Family mean to you?

When you're in it you know what it means. It's a camaraderie. It's an accountability. It's fighting for the guy next to you. There is just a belief in our organization. Look at all the players that have been here five years plus. They mean something to us. They are family to us. You don't throw your family out on the street. It does change a little bit year by year but we really believe that we are a family. And we believe our fans are part of that. 

I think the RSL family may mean something different to everyone a little bit. Everyone has their unique version of it. But in the end it is a togetherness. It is probably the one word that would describe it. I think everyone has a little variation because it is how they feel. Its that togetherness and I think that speaks to our continuity.

I then asked him if he felt what we had here is unique?

I am sure there are examples in other leagues of popular teams but I think ours in unique because we are a small market team. We came out as an expansion team and struggled a little bit. We moved into this new building and had some success. We talk about creating a core of players that are integrated as part of this family. 

We kind of grew up together in a lot of  ways. We grew up in this small market and came together to take on the world. And we really have. From Monterrey to others in Concacaf and so on. I think there is a special feeling of togetherness that comes through. When I worked at the Philadelphia Eagles, people love that team and that town. It is part of the culture of that town. They feel like a family but it just feels bigger. Here it is more intimate.   

As he was talking I think Manning hit on something very interesting. He talked about togetherness. And he was right. If you had to boil all aspects of the RSL Family down to one word, I can't really think of anything better than togetherness.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Statistically Speaking- Crossing the Ball

By Charles Barnard

Soccer is an interesting sport. Two people can watch the exact same game and see two very different things. A certain play may stick out in your mind and might affect all future thoughts about those involved. Those thoughts could be positive or they could be negative. Add in emotion and the passage of time, and something that you remember to be true and think to be true was really not the case.

Let me give an example of this. I was having a conversation about RSL's outside backs with a co-worker. I made the point that Lovel Palmer was much better at crossing the ball than Tony Beltran. My co-worker agreed with me. We both brought up the game in Vancouver last season where Palmer sent in that perfect cross into Sandoval that was headed home for a goal. Of course Palmer was better with his crosses.

This is the perfect example where one amazing play clouded my memory of all other plays that had occurred over the course of the season. This is the reason why it is important that we pay attention to statistics. Statistically, Tony Beltran had a higher percentage of completed crosses last year than Lovel Palmer.

Crossing is a stat that some people asked for last season but was one that I did not track. When I was preparing my data base for this season though I decided to include it. On Saturday, Joao Plata led the team with successful crosses at a 40% success rate. Since I had not tracked this before, I had no idea if 40% was good or not. So I decided to take the time and look back to 2013 to see how our players did with their crosses.

It took a little bit of time to pull out all the data but the results were pretty interesting. Here is everyone on RSL with 10 or more cross attempts. All of this data came out of the Opta Chalkboard on mlssoccer.com.

Successful Cross Unsuccessful Cross Attempts Completed Percentage Min. Played Min. per Cross attempt
Morales 54 118 172 31.40% 2282 13.27
Beltran 17 59 76 22.37% 2230 29.34
Plata 10 35 45 22.22% 1645 36.56
Garcia 5 37 42 11.90% 996 23.71
Beckerman 15 20 35 42.86% 2281 65.17
Palmer 6 28 34 17.65% 1198 35.24
Gil 5 26 31 16.13% 2061 66.48
Grabavoy 8 20 28 28.57% 2688 96
Findley 0 22 22 0.00% 1260 57.27
Wingert 3 16 19 15.79% 1742 91.68
Mansally 2 11 13 15.38% 774 59.54
Saborio 2 8 10 20.00% 1346 134.6

There are some really interesting numbers that jump out to me. I always knew that RSL attacked more down Beltran's side, but I didn't realize how much more they attacked down that side. You can see this by comparing Beltran's cross attempts to Wingert's. That is a pretty big difference.

It is interesting to see that Beckerman had the best completed percentage on the team. The more I watch him play over the years the more impressed I am with his passing ability. The stat above only proves the point even more.

I was surprised to see how many cross attempts that Garcia took when he was in matches. That is an area of his game he will need to improve upon if he continues to take crosses at such a high rate.

And finally there is Robbie Findley. Findley does a lot of things very well for RSL. Apparently crossing the ball is not one of them. I have to admit as I was compiling the data I kept hoping to find even once where he had a completed cross. Unfortunately I never found it.  

What stands out to you? Are you surprised like I was that Beltran had a higher completed percentage than Palmer? Or perhaps that Gil took more attempts (in less time played) than Grabavoy? What other nuggets of information can we learn from the numbers above?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- Opening Night

By Charles Barnard

Welcome back to Crunching the Numbers. For those that are new to the blog, Crunching the Numbers is my Monday morning look back at the previous RSL match. I dive into all the stats and present to you what interesting information that I can see.

Before beginning this morning I wanted to say a few things. First, when it comes to statistical analysis, the bigger the sample size the better. When you try and pick out trends in the early part of the season they will fluctuate greatly from game to game. This is due to the very small sample size. I will continue to try and point out interesting things but just keep this point in mind for the first few weeks of the season.

Second, I want to give thanks to Dustin Chapman. For those who don't know, Dustin (@itschappy) holds a yearly Twitter award show called the Chappys. The 2014 version of the show was held last Friday. I am honored to say that From the Upper Deck won an award for best RSL blog. I am pretty humbled that this little blog was able to win that award. I want to thank Dustin for this and also thanks to everyone that helps contribute with the blog.

Since there is a limited amount of data so far this season, I will also be including some of my (non-statistical) observations from the match.
  • Last season when Alvaro Saborio and Joao Plata played together RSL scored a goal every 34 minutes. This was the best of all strike partnerships on the team.
  • When Nat Borchers and Aaron Maund played together last season the team gave up a goal every 45 minutes.
  • Against the Galaxy, Maund was successful in 22 of his 23 pass attempts. 
  • Plata led the team with 4 shots all of which were on goal. Last season only 38% of his shots were on goal and he only scored on 8% of the shots that he took (both were lowest among forwards on the team).
  • Plata was successful on 2 of his 5 attempted crosses (40%). Last season Plata was only successful on 22% of the crosses he attempted (Note: watch for a post on crosses later this week). He also led the team with 3 key passes (key pass is a pass that leads to a shot).
  • Since coming back from injury last year Cole Grossman has played 105 minutes. During that time the team has scored 4 goals or a goal every 26.75 minutes. 
  • Last season RSL scored 33% of their goals after the 75th minute. That trend continued as Plata scored in the 80th minute of play. 
Overall I thought RSL played well against a very good team on Saturday. It was great to see that Plata had such a good night. Although it was just one game it was good to see that he improved on so many of his numbers from last season. Hopefully this will continue.

I was very impressed with Maund. Even with his good preseason form I wasn't sure how to rate him going into this match. He ended up being very solid on the defensive side of the ball. But his most impressive play on the night had to be his flick on goal from the Plata cross. That ball hits the back of the net on most nights. It was also great to see how improved his passing out of the back was. Cassar made a point in his post game interview about how well Maund did with his passing. It is nice to think that we have such depth at center back. 

I continue to be impressed with Luke Mulholland. He came into the match and made an instant impact. It was a shame that his goal was incorrectly waived off. We knew from the preseason that he is very good with set pieces but his passing really impressed me in this match. People are saying that he is the next Johnny Steele but I think he will be better than Steele was for us. 

It was also good to see Jordan Allen make the field. It truly shows the confidence that the coaching staff has in him that they would put him in when they did. The kid has all the talent in the world but that was not what impressed me on Saturday. It was his very intelligent play of taking the ball into the corner to kill the match that impressed me. How many 18 year old's in his situation would have made an attempt at goal in that spot? Probably most. He seems a very mature player for his age. I think he will continue to get playing time for this team. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this match. And are there any specific stats that you would like me to track for this upcoming season? Let me know.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Eye on the Academy- March Stock Report

By Pat Eyler

It’s been a while since I've put together a stock report for the players, and a lot has happened in the meantime.  With the regular season approaching, I thought it was a good time to take another look at where things stand.  You might want to read my earlier post on who might play for RSL's upcoming development teams for a bit more insight into how and why the players are ranked the way they are.

The biggest change in my rankings is that Jordan Allen is no longer the top college prospect now that he is a member of RSL’s full men’s team. I've also added a few players based on the rumor that new rules will be created soon to allow MLS teams to sign players to USL Pro teams, and keeping some younger players on a PDL roster.

So, let’s get to it:

Ranking (Former Ranking)
Age Group
1 (2)
Ricardo Velasquez (MF)
Velasquez only has another year or two left in college, but I’m not convinced he’s ready for MLS yet. I think he might get signed to a USL Pro contract for a bit of seasoning
2 (4)
Ive Burnett (D)
Burnett is another one who’s more likely to see a USL Pro contract in the near term.
3 (-)
Matt Bersano (GK)
RSL’s full team is so deep at GK, that I can’t see them signing someone except to the USL Pro level.  On the other hand, I think they’ll need a USL Pro keeper and the opportunity to bring in an Academy Alum is probably too good to pass up.
4 (3)
Justen Glad (D)
Justen is a U-16 and has committed to Stanford, but has played (and impressed) with the reserves and full team (as a preseason guest) a couple of times.  He’s probably the most ready to jump into the pros, but I think he’ll play for the Academy and the PDL side for a while before he takes that step.  
5 (-)
Andrew Brody (MF)
A sophomore this year, Brody is likely to spend some time in the PDL or USL Pro before potentially stepping up to MLS.
6 (5)
Corey Baird (MF)
Corey is involved w/ the USMNT U-18s and has committed to Stanford, he’s probably bound for a year or two at the PDL side too.
7 (7)
Sebastian Saucedo (F)
‘Bofo’ has played with the reserve team a couple of times.  He’s another likely PDL player while he gets some college under his belt.  I’m tempted to move him higher up the list, but RSL is awfully deep at forward.
8 (10)
Jose Hernandez (MF)
The captain of the U-18s and a solid attacker.  He’s another player I think is bound for the PDL before thinking about the pros.
9 (-)
Jack Gayton (MF)
Probably headed to the PDL team for a couple of years while he plays @ Louisville.
10 (-)
Sam Gleadle (F)