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, 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?


  1. Thanks for pulling out this data. It's interesting to look at. I think one more number that should be considered is minutes per successful cross. Of the players w/ 10 or more successful crosses, I get the following:
    Javi 42.3
    Tony 131.2
    KB5 152.1
    Platita 164.5

    That Javi's rate of min/success and sheer rate of crossing are higher than everyone else's is not terribly surprising. That Tony comes in 2nd on rate of min/success is a bit surprising.

    Beltran and Plata could improve on their completion %age (it looks like Plata is doing better this year, albeit on a small sample size).

    Beckerman's rate is phenomenal, is it because he attempts many fewer, but better opportunities?

    Sorry, this is just more questions, no answers or intelligent discussion ...

  2. Interesting stuff! I was thinking, does Findley's cross to Sandoval in the Portland playoff game not count? I'd say it was definitely successful.

    1. ordan- You make an interesting observation. The numbers that I compiled were for regular season games only. I should have made that clear in the article. Sorry about that.

      Opta (where I got the info) did not give Findley credit with a cross. Maybe because the pass was on the ground, not in the air. They did give him credit for a key pass (a pass that leads to a shot)

  3. When you say that we attack more from the right than the left (based on Beltran's numbers), I wonder if you need to combine Wingert, Mansally, and Palmer's numbers together. I'm going off of memory here, but didn't Wingert's foot keep him out of a number of games last year?

    1. Taragui- That is a great point! I didn't take that into account. But if you look at Wingert's cross attempt per minute played, it is much much higher than any other outside back.

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