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, April 30, 2014

Fantasy Strategy- Double-game Weeks

By Nic Shellabarger

In the weeks before this year’s season began, the guys over at MLS.com made one bit of fantasy strategy quite clear: take advantage of the weeks when teams play twice to double your opportunities to earn points. Seems like simple multiplication, but low scores in week 7 taught me that there’s a little more to it.

Know Your Players

It’s easy to look at a player’s current total score compared to their cost and make value judgments, but unfortunately these two pieces of information may not be enough to judge a player’s quality and points potential for any given game, especially this early in the season.

Take for example Leonardo Fernandes of the Philadelphia Union. At 26 total points for only $5.4, Fernandes seems a great buy at the bigginning of week seven with the Union headed into a double-game week. Such was my thinking as I snagged him up before the set of two games. Unfortunately, the purchase didn’t pan out as I’d hoped.

While Fernandes’s point’s average looked good, I missed two key factors that might have helped me make a better purchasing decision. First, Fernandes is not consistent in his points per game. A couple of seven to eight point games increased his early average, but the majority of his games were ones and zeroes. Despite the two game advantage, a little basic math tells us that one times two isn’t very much.

The second factor I should have considered was Fernandes’s playing time in each game. A quick look at his history shows me that he has only played the full 90 minutes twice this season. This should have been a sure sign to me that he would be subbed, which he was, in a two match week. Twice as many games doesn’t mean much when a player only spends a total of 90 minutes on the pitch.

In week seven, the two-game week for the Union, Fernandes scored a total of 3 points. Not exactly a high-benefit trade for the week.

Consistent Scoring Positions

Instead of looking at solely at point totals and cost, you might be better off looking at consistent scorers in consistent scoring positions. Forwards and attacking midfielders are good investments in the long run, when the games that they contribute to scoring drives average out with the games that they don’t, but relying on them to perform in a single game might be a bit of a gamble.

Instead, look at defenders who are defending well every game. Regardless of the outcome of any given game, a good defender will accrue at least a few points. An almost guaranteed 6 points from a defender in a two game week seems a pretty solid buy. If you’re lucky, you may even get a stand-out performance such as the one from Gaddis or Okugo in week seven and double that point total.

Stick With What Works

Another option is to just forget about the double game week and stick with what’s working for you. I dropped Aurelien Collin in week seven in order to free up funds to purchase some Philadelphia Union players. Had I stuck with Collin, I would have bagged 14 points for the week (possibly even 28 if I captained him), more points than the total of all my Union players put together for week 7.

Of course, an opportunity for double points is hard to pass up, so…

Upcoming Double Game Weeks
Week 10
Houston Dynamo
Columbus Crew
Seattle Sounders
FC Dallas
San Jose Earthquakes
Colorado Rapids
Week 11
Sporting KC
Philadelphia Union
Week 12
DC United
Houston Dynamo
LA Galaxy
FC Dallas
Week 13
Sporting KC
Chivas USA
Portland Timbers
Week 14
Columbus Crew
Real Salt Lake
Colorado Rapids
Chicago Fire
Week 15
Week 16
Vancouver Whitecaps
Montreal Impact

Monday, April 28, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- Vancouver

By Charles Barnard

Saturday night was a punch in the gut. After a great start to the match, RSL gave up two goals late to draw with Vancouver 2-2. While RSL remains undefeated, the match was the third game this season where they gave up a stoppage time goal that prevented the team from securing all three points.

RSL has now played 8 games which is roughly 25% of their season. The sample size is getting to a point where we really can start to see trends in the data. Some of these trends really jumped out to me as I was compiling the stats this week. Let's take a look.

  • RSL has scored 13 goals on the season or a goal every 55 minutes. This is still slightly behind last season's record pace of a goal every 53 minutes.
  • The team has given up 8 goals or a goal every 90 minutes. If the season ended today this would rank 2nd best defensively in club history.
  • RSL has scored 5 goals in the first 15 minutes of matches this season. The team has only scored 6 goals in each of the last two seasons during the first 15 minutes of play.
  • 69% of all goals RSL has scored have come in the first half of play. By comparison only 38% of goals were scored in the first half all of last season.
  • In the last 985 minutes of play (going back to last year's playoffs) RSL has only trailed for a grand total of 5 of those minutes.
  • When Saborio and Plata play together, RSL is scoring a goal every 37 minutes. When they are not playing together RSL is scoring a goal every 83 minutes.
  • RSL has given up 5 goals (62.5% of all goals given up) in the final 15 minutes of matches this season. Last season RSL only gave up 13 goals in the final 15 minutes and they only gave up 9 goals during that time period in 2012.
The numbers are really painting an interesting picture. RSL is continuing to score early in matches. At this point is seems like this is a trend and not just luck. I wonder if Coach Cassar has emphasized trying to score early in matches. The first 15 or 20 minutes of this past match was one of the best I have ever seen from RSL. 

On the flip side the amount of goals that RSL is giving up in the final 15 minutes is becoming very concerning. Due to the nature of soccer I would always expect a team to give up more goals in the final 15 minutes of matches than at any other time. But, the rate that RSL is giving up goals is above and beyond the norm.

Here is a question: Could the two stats above be linked? Is RSL spending so much of their energy in the first half of matches trying to get the early lead that they have nothing left in the tank to protect the lead once they get it? I have no idea if that is the case or not but it is something to keep in mind.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Statting the Opposition- Vancouver

By Charles Barnard

This week I take another stab at looking at RSL's upcoming opponent's statistics prior to this weekend's match. Today we look at the Vancouver Whitecaps. Who should RSL be worried about heading into this match? As fans, who should we hope to see or not see in the starting lineup?

So far this season I have only seen Vancouver play probably 10 to 15 minutes. I have just not caught any of their matches yet. This is one of the reasons why I like to take a look at the stats prior to the game. It gives me a real sense of who I should be watching for from the Whitecaps. With that said, on to the stats.

  • Vancouver is currently scoring a goal every 63 minutes. They are giving up a goal every 78 minutes.
  • 9 of the 10 goals the Whitecaps have scored this season have come in Vancouver.
  • The Whitecaps are currently scoring 80% of their goals in the second half of play and 40% of all their goals have come in the final 15 minutes of the match.
  • 75% of Vancouver's conceded goals have come in the second half of matches.
  • The Whitecaps best attacking duo is Kenny Miller and Kekuta Manneh. When they have played together this season Vancouver is scoring a goal every 39 minutes.
  • Vancouver has scored a goal every 72 minutes that Darren Maddocks has been on the field. When he has not been on the field they are scoring a goal every 25 minutes. 
  • Pedro Morales leads the team in shots (17) and shots on goal (9). He is creating a scoring chance (shot or pass leading to a shot) every 14.3 minutes.
  • Manneh is creating a shot every 13.25 minutes that he has played. 
  • Statistically Vancouver's best defender has been Johnny Leveron. The team has only given up 1 goal in the 135 minutes that he has been on the field. 
Vancouver has been very good defensively so far this season on the road; only giving up 2 goals in 3 road games. Rumors out of Vancouver are that defender Jay DeMerit will be out this match. It will be interesting to see if the strong defense can continue without his veteran experience.

I am curious to see who the Whitecaps will start up top. They have been using some combination of Maddocks/Manneh/Miller at forward this season. Statistically Manneh is the player that scares me the most. It will be vital for RSL to be mindful of the speed that Vancouver has up top as both Manneh and Maddocks are some of the fastest players in the league.

Coming into this match RSL has scored 7 goals in the first half. On the other hand, Vancouver has only given up 2 goals in the first half of matches. It will be interesting to see if RSL will be able to continue to score in the first half of matches. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

RSL Family- Will Johnson

By Charles Barnard

It is the nature of sports to have rosters that frequently change. Although RSL has had a stable core of players it still hurts to watch players move on to other teams. One thing that I have noticed is that even if a former team member is now wearing a different team's jersey, they are still considered a part of the RSL Family.

There is no better example of this than Portland captain Will Johnson. Johnson was a fan favorite while he was here. Out of all the players that have left RSL, many people would say the loss of Johnson hurt the most. This was apparent by the applause he received the first time he returned with Portland to play in the Riot.

After last week's match with the Timbers I decided to head to the Portland locker room instead of the RSL one. I wanted to hear what Johnson thought of the RSL Family that still loves him so much.

I asked him the same question that I have asked everyone else to this point. What does the RSL Family mean to you?

It's special. I will always have very fond memories here. We won a championship and I think whenever you win a championship with a group of guys that bond is close. So that is a big part of it. From top to bottom the whole organization is professional, it is close and everyone knows each other. It is all about each other's family. They stick together. It is tight. It makes living here and playing for this team fun. It is a big deal to be a part of that family for sure.

I then asked him if he enjoys coming back here to play.

I love coming back here. It is great to see all the familiar faces. It is remarkable that they have been able to keep so many quality people around, on the front office side of things as well as on the field. That is a credit to the organization and that is one of the points about what it really means to be a part of the RSL Family. I love coming back here. I love competing against my friends. It is like playing with your brothers in the back yard except there is 20,000 people watching. I thoroughly enjoy it. 

The RSL Family is more than just a slogan that the team has adopted. It is real. It is real to us as fans, but it is just as real for the players on the field. I can see that more and more with each person that I talk to. It makes me proud to think that even though we have people that are no longer a part of the RSL organization,  they will still always be a part of the RSL Family.

I just want to say what a classy guy Johnson was. I came up to him after what I could tell was a really tough loss in his mind. He was frustrated by the fact that his team has yet to win on the season. After I identified myself as an RSL blogger he totally could have blown me off, but he didn't. He took time for me and really thought about what he wanted to say. I can truly see why it hurt people in the RSL organization so much to let Johnson go. It really didn't have so much to do with the loss of a great player (which he is) but the loss of such a great person.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Fantasy Strategy

(Editors Note: This is the first in a new series of articles looking at fantasy soccer that will be written by Nic. I hope you enjoy it)

By Nic Shellabarger

Let me begin by explaining a few things. First, I’m fairly new to soccer. I’ve been a pretty big fan and avid follower for about 3 years now. Before that I played in AYSO. My experience is pretty limited. However, something about the beautiful game has caught my attention (obsession) and lately the hours spent thinking/reading/watching the game have started adding up.

This season I took my first stab at creating an MLS Fantasy Soccer team. I came into it with little knowledge of how fantasy soccer works and my team has suffered because of it.

I am now 7 weeks in. I’ve learned a few things and thought about many things that I need to learn more about. I’m ready to see if I can turn this team around.

The Situation
It’s week 8 and my fantasy team is down in every one of the 14 leagues I’m in. I’m down to 1,365th place overall. It’s time for a strategy change and even though I haven’t had a statistics class for over 15 years, I think it’s time to crunch some numbers.

In fantasy soccer there are four different positions to be filled: goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards. My first task is to crunch some numbers to see which position offers the most value-per-dollar. To do this I have taken the average points earned of the top 30 players in each position (top 20 for goalkeepers) and divided that with the average cost (in millions) of a player in that position.

Goalkeepers                 5.08 pts/million
The goalkeeper is a bit of an exception to most considerations of fantasy soccer statistics. The cost of each goalkeeper is so similar, that I think it’s probably best to go with one that you are familiar with and who is performing well, and not worry too much more about it.

The average goalkeeper has a cost of $5.27, has earned 26.75 points across seven games, and has a point/cost ratio of 5.08 pts/million.

Forwards                      3.41 pts/million
The forwards are the stars. These are the guys that we see on the Goal of the Week videos, the league MVP’s, the Golden Boot winners. Their frequent appearances on the highlight reels make them a tempting purchase.

But, before you stack your front line, consider this. When they score or assist, they score big for your fantasy team. The problem is they don’t score often enough. Forwards don’t often get the attacking bonus that midfielders can, and they almost never get defending bonuses. Their points opportunities are limited and thus they have the lowest points to cost ratio of anyone on the fantasy field.

Yes, get yourself a good forward, but you probably shouldn't run a forward heavy formation on your team.
The average forward has a cost of $8.15, has earned 27.83 points across seven games, and has a point/cost ratio of 3.41 pts/million.

Midfielders                   4.1 pts/million
Like the media darlings on the front line, a good attacking midfielder will have the opportunity to make goals. They are, however, also more likely to rack up assists, key passes, crosses, and attacking bonuses. Defending mids also get in on these points to a lesser extent, but also capitalize on the defending bonuses.

This balance of opportunity makes the midfield possibly the best place to stack players as they have the highest point to cost ratio of any of the field players.

The average midfielder has a cost of $8.13, has earned 33.36 points across seven games, and has a point/cost ratio of 4.1 pts/million.

Defenders                    3.96 pts/million
The right defenders can be a serious boon to your weekly points. Defenders earn points for doing their job over and over again. No highlight reel worthy plays are necessary for a defender to earn points for your team, just good, consistent defending over the course of 90 minutes.

As an added bonus, look for some of the bigger, taller defenders like  Aurelien Collin or Matt Hedges who are likely to add to their points when they score on set pieces.
The average defender has a cost of $7.94, has earned 31.46 points across seven games, and has a point/cost ratio of 3.96 pts/million.

All of these statistics aside, there are going to be outliers. There will be players that consistently score high each week regardless of their position on the field. Get yourself some of these players. However, when you’re looking to fill out the depth of your team, your money is probably better spent creating a dynamic midfield or a solid back line. 

It looks like I have a couple of changes to make on my team!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- Portland

By Charles Barnard

RSL continued their undefeated streak on Saturday with a 1-0 over the Portland Timbers. Nick Rimando once again had an unbelievable performance in goal to preserve the shut out. Going back to the Playoffs last season, RSL is now 6-0-5 in its last 11 matches (MLS Cup was considered a draw).

With the shut out the team's defensive numbers continue to shine. But some of the best defensive numbers are coming from someplace you might not expect it. Let's jump into the numbers.

  • RSL has now scored 11 goals on the season. They are now averaging scoring a goal every 57 minutes.
  • The defense has only given up 6 goals on a season or a goal every 105 minutes.
  • Olmes Garcia has not scored a goal in the last 846 minutes that he has been on the field (over all competitions). 
  • Garcia has played 345 minutes this season. During that time, RSL has only given up 1 goal. 
  • Sebastian Velasquez has only played 40 minutes so far this season but in that time RSL has scored 2 goals.
  • When Joao Plata plays, RSL is scoring a goal every 38 minutes. When he has not played, RSL is scoring a goal every 80 minutes. 
  • Plata is creating a shot (shot or pass that leads to a shot) every 12 minutes that he is on the field.
  • RSL is only giving up a goal every 150 minutes that Chris Schuler has been on the field this season. 
  • Since coming back from injury last season RSL is 7-1-6 with Schuler in the lineup.
I am a firm believer that a player can contribute to a team without scoring goals. That is the whole reason I started keeping many of the stats that I do. And Garcia is contributing to the team while he is on the pitch. He is very good at drawing PK's and the defensive number above is pretty impressive for him. 

With all that said I am worried about his offensive production. For a forward not to score in well over 800 minutes is not good. His shot attempts are way down this year as well. Last season he was averaging taking a shot almost 3 times per 90 minutes played. This season that number is slightly above 1 shot per 90 minutes played. 

Joao Plata is on the other end of the spectrum. He has been much more aggressive this season. He is averaging almost 1.5 more shots per 90 minutes this season than he did last. He has also been much more accurate. So far this season 70% of his shots have been on frame compared to only 38% last season. Now he has still really only played a limited amount of time so these numbers may decrease, but it will be interesting to continue to track through the course of the year.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Difficult Early Season Schedule: RLS’s Unseen Advantage

Editors Note: Here is a post from guest writer Nic Shellabarger. Thanks Nic for contributing this article

By Nic Shellabarger

The early season schedule for Real Salt Lake in 2014 has been called difficult, daunting, and even one of the toughest in the MLS. With two contests against the ever formidable LA Galaxy and one each against a tough San Jose Earthquakes, a reorganized and wealth infused Toronto FC, and the reigning league champions in Sporting KC, not to mention four out of six away games, it’s easy to see why. But was this schedule as tough as so many made it out to be? Or was it possibly the perfect setup for a competitive run for the Supporter’s Shield?

RSL has had what was likely the most static off season in the league. Other than an arguably important change in the coaching staff, our starting lineup is basically the same guys that stepped onto the frozen KC pitch last December. This continuity gives RSL a marked advantage over teams that have recently incorporated new high-profile players into their lineups. This is especially the case for a team like Toronto FC who have purchased an all-new lineup in the brief off season.

RSL players are familiar with one another. They understand each other’s pace and purpose as they make a run for the ball. They understand how to work within the diamond formation that they have so carefully perfected under years of tutelage from Jason Kreis. They understand each other’s abilities in a way that will take other teams months of working together to accomplish.

This familiarity creates a distinct advantage for RSL in early season games. After the briefest of off-seasons, they are ready to go. What better time to face this high-profile, big money teams then right at the beginning when those teams are still trying to work out the kinks?

Even with an abundance of away games, this continuity of players gives us a distinct advantage over our opponents. Each team will face a certain number of away games each year. The elevation and climate of our home pitch has given us the increased opportunity to face opponents on their home turf while they are still developing their game. Later in the season when teams are beginning to gel and establish unity, they will face us on our turf.

This window of opportunity, however, is quickly closing as we begin to see players fall into sync forming dangerous combinations such as Obefemi Martins and Clint Dempsey or Mauro Rosales and Erick Torres that are finally starting to work well together. With six games in the books, it’s time for Real Salt Lake to take their familial unity and convert it into goal scoring opportunities and bring home that Supporter’s Shield.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Statting the Opposition- Portland

By Charles Barnard

I have been tracking RSL stats since starting From the Upper Deck. This season the decision was made to try and track some other teams as well. Today marks the debut of what will hopefully be a new regular series of articles I am calling Statting the Opposition.

Today we take a look at the Timbers. Portland has had somewhat of a rough start. They are still in search of their first win on the season. This is surprising when you consider that they have played 4 of their first 6 matches at home.

Here are some of the most interesting numbers that I have noticed while looking at their data.

  • The Timbers are currently scoring a goal every 67.5 minutes.
  • Portland is giving up a goal every 49 minutes of play.
  • Kalhif Alhassan has played 197 minutes so far this season. In that time the team has scored 7 times or a goal every 28 minutes. In the 341 minutes that he hasn't played, Portland has only scored once.
  • Diego Valeri leads Portand in scoring chances (shots+passes leading to shots) with 30 or a scoring chance every 17 minutes.
  • When Gaston Fernandez plays, the Timbers are scoring every 180 minutes. When he doesn't play the team scores every 30 minutes.
  • Portland is only scoring a goal every 170 minutes when Jack Jewsbury plays.
  • Statistically Portland's best defender is Footy Danso. When Danso plays the Timbers are only give up a goal every 65 minutes. 
  • The best center back pairing so far for Portland has been Danso and Norberto Paparatto. When they play together the Timbers give up a goal every 73 minutes. The worst pairing this year has been Pa Madou Kah with Paparatto. When they play together Portland has been giving up a goal every 35 minutes.
It will be interesting to see the starting lineup for the Timbers on Saturday. Will Alhassan or Fernandez start? The numbers clearly point to the fact that Portland's offense plays better when Alhassan is on the field. He also seems to be the one that Coach Caleb Porter has been going to for the past few matches. But will that continue?

The other pressing question is which center back pairing will play between Kah/Paparatto/Danso. Each pairing has played at least 146 minutes with the pair of Paparatto/Kah playing the most together (214 minutes). The general thought around the league is that Paparatto has been struggling. It will be interesting if he will start or if RSL will face the pairing of Danso/Kah.

Here are some other interesting tidbits about the Timbers provided to me by Portland stat guy Mike Donovan (@TheMikeDonovan). Portland has been offside more than any other team in the league. Also Diego Chara is leading the league in fouls committed. Not only that, he is on pace to smash the record for most fouls committed in a single season.

I would love some feedback on this column. Are you interested in the stats of RSL's upcoming opponents? Please let me know in the comments below or tweet at me (@ccb1212). 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- Philly

By Charles Barnard

RSL's unbeaten streak continued with a 2-2 draw in Philadelphia. I don't think that anyone truly expected the team to still be undefeated at this point in the season. RSL now returns home where they will play 4 out of their next 6 matches.

The team is now 17% of the way through their season. While it is still early, trends are starting to form in the data. It is important to remember though that the sample size is still pretty small.
  • RSL has scored 10 times so far this season. That averages to scoring a goal every 54 minutes. That is just shy of last year's mark of a goal every 53.6 minutes, which was a club record.
  • The team has given up 6 goals or a goal every 90 minutes; second best record in club history.
  • 70% of RSL goals have come in the first half of matches this season. Last season they only scored 38% of their goals in the first half.
  • The team has scored 3 goals this season in the first 15 minutes of play. In all of last season, they only scored 6 total goals in the first 15 minutes of matches.
  • When Luke Mulholland is on the field RSL is scoring a goal every 43 minutes. When he is not playing, RSL is scoring every 65 minutes. Remember that first number would be even lower if you were to account for the goal that was taken away from him.
  • With the 2 goals scored against RSL, the team is now giving up a goal every 120 minutes that Chris Schuler plays which is second best on the team. In the 161 minutes that Aaron Maund has played this season the team has only given up 1 goal.
  • 50% of the goals that RSL has given up on the season have come in the final 15 minutes of play.
  • 50% of the goals that RSL has given up have come on set pieces. 
I find the amount of goals that RSL has scored in the first half of matches very interesting. The traditional thought is that you will see a lot more goals scored in the second half of matches than the first. So far this season RSL has scored 7 goals in the first half. All of last season only 22 goals were scored in the first half. In 2012 only 17 goals were scored in the first half. I am very curious to see if this trend will continue.

On the opposite end of the spectrum I do have to say I am a bit worried with RSL's late game defending. Again, I would expect for the team to give up more goals in the final minute of matches than at other times. That is the nature of soccer. But, to have given up 3 goals already in the final 15 minutes is a little concerning. By comparison, in 2013 we gave up 13 goals in the final 15 minutes and in 2012 that number was only 9.

Goals off set pieces will be another interesting number to watch this year. RSL has given up 3 goals on set pieces this season. I don't have historical data for previous seasons on this statistic, but I think many fans would say it has been a problem in the past. On the other hand, only giving up 3 goals during the run of play in 6 matches is pretty impressive.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

RSL Family- Nick Rimando and Devon Sandoval

By Charles Barnard

It is quickly approaching a year since I started this series about the RSL Family. In that time it has been very interesting to see how the idea of the RSL Family has changed and grown. When I started writing, the term RSL Family was used on Twitter a little bit. The players have referred to themselves as a family for a while now. But the idea that we are all a part of the RSL Family has just continued to grow.

More and more people in the community and around the country are seeing that we have something special here. And the team is embracing it. Just look at the season ticket commercials that were released earlier this year. All of them are using the #RSLFamily. But more than that they are showing the RSL Family brings a diverse group of people together. There are not many things around that can do that.

I recently had the chance to talk to two players that are on the opposite ends of their playing career. Nick Rimando is the veteran that has been with RSL longer than any other player and has been playing in the league since 2000. On the other end of the spectrum is Devon Sandoval. Sandoval is only entering his second year for the league after being drafted last year by RSL.

I first talked to Rimando. I again asked him what I have been asking everyone else. "What does the RSL Family mean to you?"

It means all is one. We fight for each other on the field and off the field. If anyone needs anything the staff is there for you. The players are there for you. For me it means one team regardless if you are in the office, the players, or the coaches.

It's a good vibe here. Among the players inside the locker room we have the right mix of players. On the field and off the field we get along really well. The coaches are great. You just feel comfortable in this locker room.

Next I spoke with Sandoval. I asked him the same thing. I also asked if he felt what we have here with the RSL Family is something that might be unique among other teams in the league.

I felt it right when I got here. They welcomed me and made me feel at home. It is something special we have here.

I think so. I have heard that from other guys on the team that what we have here is pretty special. I am really happy to be here. I love it.

Sandoval and Rimando are at two very different points in their careers. But it is nice to see that both can recognize that something special has been built here.

At this point I think that this series is just about complete. I have talked to a very wide range of people on the topic of the RSL Family. There is one or two more people that I would like to get their perspectives. If there is any person in the RSL Family that you would like to hear from let me know.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- SKC

On Saturday night RSL held on to get a point on the road against Sporting KC. Last year the team learned how important even one extra point can be at the end of the season. Will we look back at the end of this season and think how vital this draw was?

I have been blogging for a little over a year now. As one that looks at and writes about stats, I hate 0-0 draws. It is much more difficult to dig in and find interesting pieces of information after a 0-0 draw. But I will do my best to find those stats of interest for you.

  • RSL is still sitting on 8 goals scored on the season. They are now scoring a goal every 56 minutes which is just slightly behind last year's record setting pace.
  • The team has only given up 4 goals or a goal every 112 minutes which is also second best in team history.
  • RSL only recorded 5 shots vs SKC with only 1 being on goal. Chris Schuler led the team with 2 shots.
  • RSL is averaging 10.6 shots attempts per match. The Galaxy leads the league averaging 18.3 shots attempts per match.
  • Luis Gil was only 7 for 15 on attempted passes. Luke Mulholland wasn't much better at 8 for 15. Ned Grabavoy led the team completing 85% of his pass attempts.
  • Since coming back from injury last season, Schuler has played 1040 minutes. In that time RSL has only given up 7 goals or a goal every 145 minutes. 
  • This season RSL has only given up 1 goal in the 270 minutes that Schuler has played.
  • Joao Plata leads RSL in shot creations (shots + passes that lead to a shot). He is creating a shot every 12.1 minutes that he plays. Morales is second on the team creating a shot every 26.7 minutes.
  • Plata has created 32% of all shots that RSL has taken this season. 

Schuler's defensive numbers continue to be extremely impressive. RSL has a record of 6-1-5 since Schuler has come back into the lineup after his injury last year. There is a huge difference for RSL's defensive numbers from when he is on the field compared to when he is off. 

There were a couple of articles posted on the web this past week looking at specific players around the league and how many shots they create per match (the best one found here). I thought this was very interesting so I started to calculate this for all RSL players. Plata's numbers jumped off the chart. It is crazy to think that in the limited time he has played he has created so many shots for the team. I will be writing a full article in the near future with my findings for the whole team.

I was a little worried about how RSL was not attempting many shots so far this season. RSL is currently third from the bottom of the league in the amount of shots taken per game. But the conversion rate for RSL's shots are very high. Currently the team is scoring on 15% of the shots they have taken. That is second highest in the league. Here is the interesting thing. Dallas currently is leading the league in goals scored with 13. They also have the best scoring percentage at a whopping 28% of their shots leading to goals. What is crazy is that they are last in the league only averaging 9.2 shots per match. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

RSL 3.0 A Revised Look

Garth Lagerwey is a genius.

That statement might be a bit bold, so let me rephrase it. Garth Lagerwey is far and away the best general manager in MLS. This becomes more and more clear to me each passing week as I watch RSL play.

But how does the play of players like Rimando, Beckerman, Morales, and Saborio affect my opinion of Lagerwey? To be honest, it doesn't. What does affect my opinion of Lagerwey is the play of players like Plata, Mulholland, Allen, and Garcia. Very quietly Lagerwey has built a powerhouse of a team. Not only for this season, mind you, but for 2015 and beyond.

Last season I took at look at what I called RSL 3.0. That is the youth of the team that will be taking over for the core group of starters that RSL currently has. At the time I looked forward three years into the future to the year 2016 to see what our team might look like. We are one year closer to that date so I thought it might be fun to take another look at RSL 3.0.

On opening day of the 2016 season, Saborio and Beckerman will be 34 years old., Borchers will be 35 and Morales and Rimando will be 36. Now I wouldn't put it past any of these players to still be playing. But I do think it is safe to say they will all be past their prime. But RSL fans won't need to worry. RSL 3.0 will be ready to go.

The future of our group of forwards is very bright. Due to injury, as well as international call ups, we have seen many of our young forwards already. The sky is the limit to 21 year old Olmes Garcia's potential. Devon Sandoval (22 years old) has already proved how valuable he could be in last season's playoff run. And Joao Plata (22) has been the early season MVP for the team this year. The crazy thing to think about is that in 2016 these three will be 24 years of age or younger!

Since my original article, the team has also added home grown prospect Benji Lopez. The 19 year old has yet to see the field for RSL but the coaches and front office are very high on him and what he might become.

The RSL midfield of the future also looks very promising. Luis Gil has taken tremendous strides over the past year. He turned in his very good 2013 season into a call up with the USMNT. At only 20 years old, Gil is probably only going to continue to improve. The only question is how long RSL will be able to keep him before he looks to move to Europe.

Sebastian Velasquez (23) also took another step forward last year. His skill with the ball is already pretty awesome. Team management came out in the preseason and said they are hoping for more from him this year. John Stertzer (23) had his rookie season sidetracked by injuries but has still shown glimpses of why RSL drafted him. Cole Grossman (24) has taken the role of  Beckerman's backup and is expected to see a lot of playing time this year while Kyle is gone to the World Cup.

The two exciting new pieces to the midfield puzzle are Jordan Allen and Luke Mulholland. In last year's article I listed the 18 year old Allen as one to watch at outside back. But it seems like he is destined to play midfield (or forward) instead. The homegrown product impressed in the preseason and the coaching staff rewarded him by getting him on the field in the first two matches of the season. Mulholland (25) was signed in the off season and has quickly made a name for himself as a spark plug off the bench. If his high level of play continues I would not be shocked to see him get more time in the starting lineup.

The RSL defense is also in a very good position going forward. Even though he has been with the club for 7 years now we need to remember that Tony Beltran is still only 26 years old. He continues to improve and has once again been called up to the USMNT. There is no doubt the the center back pairing of the future is Chris Schuler (26) and Carlos Salcedo (20). Schuler is dominate when he is healthy. Salcedo continues to get valuable experience and will only continue to improve. And, Aaron Maund (23) has also shown a vast improvement so far this season.

New this year to my list is Rich Balchan (25). He made his RSL debut against TFC and looked pretty good. His career has been injury plagued but he has been solid when he has had a chance to play.

The player to watch for in the future is a kid named Justen Glad. The 16 year old played some preseason minutes with the team and looked great. Minutes after coming into the match he nearly had an assist sending in a perfect cross to Saborio whose shot went wide. He continues to play for the academy and was recently named to the US U-18 team. The team is extremely high on Glad but it is unknown when we will be able to see him in an RSL kit. He has already been offered a scholarship to attend Stanford. When he does arrive he will be one to watch.

Jeff Attinella played well as Rimando's back up last season. The 25 year old will have another big role with the team this season while Rimando is away. But the future belongs to Lalo Fernadez. The 21 year old came through the RSL academy and has now spent the last two years learning from the best keeper in the league, Rimando.

The future is bright for RSL. But there is no doubt that this list will continue to change over the next few years. One place where RSL is sure to get hurt is from next year's expansion draft. The odds of RSL losing two players in that draft are extremely high, especially with Jason Kreis being one of the people that will be involved in selecting the players. It will be very interesting come the off season to see who RSL will protect (see my early look at the expansion draft here).

The future of Garth Lagerwey with the team is uncertain. His contract is up at the end of the year. Even if he were to leave at the end of the season, he has put the pieces in place for RSL to be successful long after he is gone.