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, May 30, 2014

Statting the Opposition- Seattle

By Wes Brown

Saturday’s game versus Seattle is going to rival the hype of last year’s at the same venue. Both are off to strong starts and are only separated by two points in the standings (Sounders having a game in hand). They’re also both missing key players due to World Cup duty and injuries -- Beckerman, Rimando, Saborio, and possibly Plata and Sandoval for RSL; Dempsey, Yedlin, and Traore for Seattle while also having Marshall and Neagle questionable.

Even with pseudo-B-squads, the game’s going to be entertaining, as it always is. Let’s jump into the numbers and see what RSL is up against.

Top stats

First we’ll take a look at some of the leaders in the stats that we measure -- striker duos by minutes per team goal (MpTG); center back pairings by minutes per conceded goal (MpCG); percentage of shots on goal by individual (SoG%); and where Seattle concedes and scores goals throughout a match. Some of the numbers may be surprising.

  • Best strike partnerships (90+ minutes):  Dempsey/Cooper (22.50 MpTG) (8% time played); Martins/Barrett (24.75 MpTG) (3% time played); Martins/Dempsey (38.14 MpTG) (46% time played); Martins/Cooper (46.40 MpTG) (40% time played)
  • Best central defensive partnerships (90+ minutes):  Marshall/Scott (180 MpCG); Traore/Marshall (64.83 MpCG); Marshall/Anibaba (20.50 MpCG)
  • SoG%:  Barrett (71.43%); Neagle (64.00%); Martins (46.67%).
  • Seattle concedes 28.57% of their goals (6 total) in the first 15 minutes, and 66.67% of all conceded goals (14 total) come in the first half.
  • Seattle scores 32.00% of their goals in the final 15 minutes (8 total), 20.00% of all their goals (5 total) between the 60th and 75th minutes, and 64.00% of all their goals (16 total) in the second half.

Throwing some numbers out the window

Because a few key pieces are going to be missing for the Sounders (chiefly Dempsey), some of these numbers are not going to matter this weekend. Some of the analysis will have to be adjusted to focus on those players we’ll most likely see on the field. First and foremost, we should look at offense.

How often Chad Barrett’s name comes up at the top of some stat columns for Seattle is uncanny. In only 179 minutes, he’s been apart of five team goals which equates to a goal every 35.80 minutes (which is first on the team for 90+ minute players). He also has seven shots, which, despite being very low compared to his teammates, ranks second on the team for shots per 90 minutes (3.52). And that SoG% of 71.43% translates to 2.51 shots on goal per 90 minutes, first for the Sounders.

It’s been obvious watching Seattle play that the strike tandem of Dempsey and Martins is the crux of their goal-scoring. The partnership has been on the field for 14 of the Sounders’ 25 goals, and has played 534 minutes together (good for 46% of all time played). With Dempsey heading to Brazil, however, Sigi Schmid is most likely going to rely on the man he did at the start of the season:  Kenny Cooper.

Cooper’s stats are mixed. In 532 minutes, the team’s scored 11 goals while he’s on the field (or 48.36 MpTG). Conversely, there’s been 14 goals scored when Cooper’s off the field (or 45.57 MpTG). It’s largely negligible, but it’s something to think about. Where Cooper really falls flat are his passing stats. He’s currently 11th in passing accuracy amongst midfielders and strikers (69.59%), and despite registering two assists so far, his two key passes are lower than they should be for someone who’s caught up in the attack so often.

The one man not named Obafemi Martins that RSL should be worried about negating is Gonzalo Pineda. Since joining the team, the Mexican’s put up 1051 minutes, and has been on the field for all but one of Seattle’s goals. That equates to 43.79 MpTG while on the field, and 119.00 MpTG when off the field. Pineda’s passing is par for the course for the position (78.95% completed), but he has the ability to amp it up when needed to; like he did in a close match against San Jose a few weeks ago (95.12% completed). He also adds something to the position that Brad Evans struggled with:  chance creation. Pineda’s 19 key passes are first on the team, with three of them coming to fruition as assists.

Moving on, Seattle is largely bipolar with their goal-scoring/concession. With so many goals being allowed at the start of matches (even at home) the Sounders are going to need to defend well early against an RSL team that’s hot out of the gate. And, vice-versa, RSL will need to hold the fatiguing pieces together late as Seattle tries to rally for a potential comeback in the waning moments.

The center back partnership that’ll necessitate that for Seattle is in flux. With Traore definitely out and Marshall questionable with illness, that requires depth to step up. Both Scott and Anibaba have seen fairly substantial minutes thus far (272 and 301, respectively). Scott’s been the surprise of the two as the long-time Sounder has the best MpCG stat of the back line (90.67, a full 35 minutes above Seattle’s MpCG of 55.71). Anibaba, on the other hand, is noticeably worse:  43.00 MpCG when playing, and 62.07 MpCG when not playing.

A final player I’d like to look at is Dylan Remick. The youngster’s seen much more playing time than last year (504 minutes thus far), but he adds a lot to the left flank in terms of defending. With only 84.00 minutes between conceded goals, Remick is playing extremely well for being so young. He also gets forward from the left, and that’s something to worry about. With 21 open play crosses so far this season, he’s going to be servicing guys like Cooper and Barrett. Remick’s been decent with delivering successfully, too:  five crosses completed for 23.81%.

What to expect

Like against Colorado, RSL should be looking to sink their teeth in early and take advantage to Seattle’s routinely slow starts. They’ll need to find ways to neutralize Pineda’s passing and destroying abilities, and that’ll prove rather tough given how Pineda seems like excel in games with decisive midfield battles. Without Saborio and maybe even Plata, picking apart Seattle’s defense will be tricky. Sounders fans should hope Marshall is healthy enough to go, as a Scott/Anibaba partnership would most likely doom the home team. Regardless, it’s a situation where the speed of someone like Robbie Findley can work wonders against defenders who aren’t particularly quick.

On the other side of things, Borchers and Schuler (or Maund) will need to be wary of not only the size and aerial abilities of Cooper/Barrett, but the technical ability of a dribbling striker like Martins. Denying service on the flanks, winning first balls especially into the 18, and having stand-in Cole Grossman break up plays before they develop will be necessary as always.

This isn’t a Seattle side to be taken lightly, even without some of their key players. They have depth, and in some cases their depth has outperformed starters. Expect a close match, a 1-0 win for either team or another 0-0 draw for Salt Lake.

Friday, May 23, 2014

2015 Expansion Draft- Poll results

Earlier this week I revisited the question on who RSL should protect in the upcoming expansion draft. I have to say that the results were very interesting. One of the things that I wanted to do in this series of posts was to track how our views would change between now and draft day.

The first poll was conducted in early February. I knew that there would be some changes, but I am somewhat surprised by how much things have changed since then. Before getting into the new results here is a review of poll results from February. The percentage next to the name is the percentage of people that had that particular player on their protection list.

Beckerman (100%)
Beltran (100%)
Schuler (100%)
Rimando (95%)
Gil (95%)
Velasquez (91%)
Garcia (87%)
Morales (79%)
Saborio (70%)
Salcedo (66%)
Plata (50%)

Just looking at this list I knew that Plata's numbers would go up with his great start to the season. But I wondered what else would change. Would Mulholland make the list? Would any other players sneak their way on the list? And who would drop off it? The answers were pretty surprising. Here are the results of the most recent poll.

Plata (100%)
Schuler (100%)
Beckerman (98%)
Rimando (96%)
Beltran (89%)
Gil (81%)
Morales (79%)
Saborio (77%)
Mulholland (61%)
Sandoval (45%)
Grabavoy (44%)

So not only did Mulholland make the list but so did Sandoval and Grabavoy. Those that dropped off were Velasquez (36%), Salcedo (32%), and Garcia (30%). It doesn't necessarily surprise me that these three got less votes this time around. But I am a little surprised with how far Velasquez and Garcia fell from 3 months ago.

Personally I fall into the category of protecting our younger players over some of our aging stars. For the record here were the 11 that I protected.


I will look to conduct this poll at this one more time during the course of the season and prior to the expansion draft itself. It will be very interesting to see if these numbers will continue to change.

Did any of these results surprise you? 

Statting the Opposition- FC Dallas

By Charles Barnard

RSL continues their season tomorrow with a match against FC Dallas. FCD is a team that started incredibly hot at the beginning of the season. But just like they did last season after a fast start, they have come back to earth and have truly been struggling over the past few weeks.

What has caused this slump? Who should RSL fans worry about going into this match? I once again jump into the numbers to try and get a better glimpse of who this FC Dallas team truly is.

  • Dallas has scored 23 goals this season or a goal every 53 minutes.
  • They have also given up 22 goals on the season.
  • FCD has a -3 goal differential on the road.
  • Dallas is scoring 40% of their goals in the first half of matches compared to 60% in the second half of matches.
  • The team is giving up 36% of their goals in the first half of matches and 64% in the second half of matches.
  • Dallas has yet to record a shutout this season.
  • In the 649 minutes that Mauro Diaz has played FCD has scored 17 times or a goal every 38 minutes. In the time that he has not played, Dallas has only scored 5 goals or a goal every 104 minutes.
  • FCD has only scored twice in the 373 minutes that Adam Moffit has played. That comes out to a goal every 186 minutes. He has a +/- of -7. 
  • The team is a +7 when Je-Vaughn Watson is in the match.

It looks like one of the reasons for the teams fast start was they played 5 of their first 7 matches at home. In those first 7 matches they had a record of 5-1-1. Since that time, they have a record of 0-5-1. 

The other key thing that happened was the injury to Diaz. He was having a great start of the season when he went down with an injury. As you can see above since he has been out the FCD offense has slowed way down. Interestingly enough it was in the 8th match of the season that he got hurt and Dallas has not won since.

Not only has their offense been struggling the past six matches but their defense has been poor as well. In their first 7 matches they were giving up a goal every 70 minutes. In their last 6 matches they have been giving up a goal every 45 minutes. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2015 Expansion Draft- Season Update

By Charles Barnard

"Time is marching on. And time......is still marching on"

Above is a quote from the They Might Be Giants song "Older". Time is marching on and everyday we are one day closer to the 2015 expansion draft. When I first wrote about this topic back in February I heard a couple of comments saying the draft was so far away. Why even think about it now? But as we are now a third of the way through the MLS season I am starting to hear more and more people talk about it. Who should we protect? Who do we think will be drafted?

I thought the time was perfect to revisit my look at the draft and conduct a new poll. Things are different now than they were back in February. We have much more information than we did at in the off season. Back at that time only 50% of those that responded to my survey chose to protect Joao Plata. After conducting the survey this time I am guessing that number will go up. Back in early February no one really had any idea who Luke Mulholland was. Knowing what you do now would you add him to your protection list?

I am very excited to see the answers to these questions. This is the exact reason why I started writing these expansion articles to begin with.

As a reminder, here are the rules that I am using for the expansion draft in this poll. Since the official rules have not been released I am somewhat guessing what the rules will be. You can protect 11 players. Home Grown players will be automatically protected so you don't need to worry about protecting players like Jordan Allen. Remember that even though Carlos Salcedo did go to the academy he did not sign as a Home Grown player so he is eligible for the draft. In the past teams had to protect their DP players, but for today's purposes I am not having that rule in place.

This is where you come in. Please go here and fill out who you think the 11 players that should be protected in the draft. Do take age into consideration but don't worry about things like player's contracts as that information is not readily available.  I will post a follow up article in a few days with the results of the poll along with who I chose to protect.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- Colorado

By Charles Barnard

RSL's unbeaten streak continued Saturday night as the team came away with a hard fought 2-1 victory over the Rapids. Going back to last season, RSL has been unbeaten in their last 15 matches (remember MLS Cup was technically a draw). What is more incredible is that in the last 1410 minutes that the team has played they have only been trailing for 71 of those minutes!

It is surprising to think that a third of season has already been completed. One of the hard things at trying to analyze stats in the early part of the season is that your sample size is so small. We are now to a point where the numbers are really starting to mean something. Here are some of the interesting things that I noticed coming out of this match.

  • RSL has scored 23 goals on the season or a goal every 43 minutes. The team is on pace to smash the record for the most goals in a season set last year. In 2013 RSL was scoring a goal every 53 minutes.
  • The team has given up 13 goals on the year or a goal every 76 minutes.
  • RSL has a goal differential of +10. This is by far the best in the league. 
  • RSL's road goal differential is +5. Only two other teams in the league have a positive goal differential and both of those are only at +1. 
  • The team has now scored 13 times in the first half of matches. All of last season they only scored 22 times in the first half and in 2012 they only had 17 goals in the first half.
  • Joao Plata has played 557 minutes. In that time the team has scored 16 times or a goal every 34.8 minutes. In the 433 minutes that he has not played, RSL has only scored 7 times or a goal every 61.8 minutes. 
  • Plata has now taken 18 shots on the year. 72% of those shots have been on goal and an incredible 33% of his shots hit the back of the net. 
  • Cole Grossman has now played 139 minutes. In that time the team has scored 5 times or a goal every 27.8 minutes.
  • RSL has only lost once in the last 17 matches that Chris Schuler has played in.
  • When Schuler has played RSL is giving up a goal every 90 minutes. When he hasn't played they are giving up a goal every 54 minutes.
Prior to the season starting, Coach Cassar said that he really wanted to try and score more goals this season than in the past. Coming off a season where the team set a club record for goals scored I thought this was a little ambitious. Boy was I wrong. Not only is the team scoring at a higher rate than last year, they are scoring at a much higher rate. To go along with this the team's defense has actually slightly improved over last season as well.

It seems a big part of this improved scoring rate has to do with how many goals RSL has scored in the first half of matches. The team has scored at least once in the first 45 minutes of 7 of the first 11 matches this season. RSL has a goal differential of +8 in the first half of matches. Needless to say the chances to lose a match are greatly reduced when you score first. 

One thing the team does need to watch out for is conceding late goals. RSL has now given up 6 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches. The 6 goals accounts for 46% of all goals given up this season by the team.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Statting the Opposition- Colorado

By Wes Brown

Before we kick off the 2014 Rocky Mountain Cup contest on Saturday, we should all take the time to look at the stats for Colorado. The numbers might be surprising.

I’ve been very low on the Rapids since it was announced that Oscar Pareja took the job in Dallas. When he took Hendry Thomas with him, I considered it another blow to the momentum Colorado gained in 2013. The indecision with off season player acquisitions put them at a severe disadvantage compared to their conference rivals, most of which made huge progress for 2014.

Despite my negative opinions of the Rapids heading into the new campaign, they currently sit in fifth place in the West (I predicted them dead last in the league), five points clear of sixth place San Jose. But there are a few stats I’ve noticed that reveal they might not be as good as their record or standing suggests.

Minutes per scored/conceded goal

The first thing that I wanted to take a look at was how often the Rapids were scoring compared to how often they were giving up goals. The Rapids have been scoring every 81.82 minutes, but they have been conceding a goal every 75.00 minutes. This differential in minutes between scored/conceded goals is important to long-term successes because, over time, it’s a good indicator of the winning tendencies of a team. Simply put, scoring more often than you concede puts more points in your coffers. We all know where the most points gets you.

(For reference sake, RSL is currently on pace for a goal every 42.86 minutes, and one conceded every 75.00).

Compounding this issue is Colorado’s uncanny number of PK’s thus far in the season. In their first three games (New York, Portland, and Kansas City), they’ve had the chance to score from the spot five times. They’ve capitalized on all of them. Removing those five PK goals, the Rapids’ have only been scoring every 150 minutes.

Say what you will about penalties, or how you factor them into matches -- the frequency of PKs for Colorado this year indicates to me that they’ve been receiving some sort of favor from the Soccer Gods, whether you recognize their existence or not. It also alerts me to the fact that Colorado hasn’t really found their groove in the attacking third just yet. This leads me to my next point.

Breadth of roster seeing playing time

Colorado currently has only five players on their full roster not having any minutes in 2014: Brenton Griffiths, Davy Armstrong, German Mera, Grant Van De Casteele, and Brian Mullan. Van De Casteele is the only of the five that’s even seen the bench. Note also that all of these players are defensive by nature, Mullan playing fullback in recent years.

All of the Rapids forwards and midfielders have seen game time, most of them substantial (Danny Mwanga is the only player with less than 100 minutes; the average minutes played is 361.8). They have no lack of options up top, even with three forwards on the field. Pablo Mastroeni has changed the forward partnerships up throughout so far, and this tells me they’re still searching for the right combo.

Of the partnerships Mastroeni has used, the three best scoring partnerships with over 100 minutes played (based on minutes per goal scored) are:  Vicente Sanchez/Deshorn Brown (60.00 minutes), Dillon Serna/Brown (62.25 minutes), and Sanchez/Serna (68.50 minutes). This seems straight forward in a 4-3-3 system, having all three players together simultaneously. But these partnerships have only accounted for, respectively, 40%, 28%, and 15% of the time on the field. Moreover, this combo has only started on one occasion -- against LA, a 1-0 win. Otherwise it’s been limited to late game substitutes or tactical adjustments -- at New York and versus San Jose. One would think with the scoring rates of this forward lineup (in one instance a full 15 minutes more frequent than the team is scoring now) that this would be the de facto combination.

This tells me two things:  1). Mastroeni is scrambling to figure out what’s working on offense; and 2) he has no clue how to trust in his guys to perform in a consistent lineup. Either way, he’s fiddling with lineups on Martin Rennie levels.

Times of goals

The Rapids have scored 91.91% of their goals in the second half (that’s only a single goal scored in the first 45). Likewise, they’ve conceded 91.67% of their goals in the second half (again, only one conceded in the first). On top of this, the final 15 minutes have seen five Colorado goals (45.45%), while they’ve given up three (25.00%). But they’ve given up the most immediately after half-time, five between minutes 46 and 60 (41.67%).

By contrast, RSL is fairly balanced across the game, both scoring and conceding. The two instances that stand out, however, is the first 15 and last 15 -- RSL have scored six goals (28.57%) before minute 16, and seven goals (33.33%) in the final quarter hour. They’ve also given up five (45.45%) in that last 15 minutes.

While Colorado might be pretty darn good at scoring at the death, RSL is better at the start and finish. This all could make for a pretty interesting scoring affair, and goals could come frequently.

What to expect

Colorado’s midfield and forward lines are going to be hodgepodge, just like they’ve been the previous 10 games. Who starts up top is a crap shoot, so the only thing to count on with their starting XI is who’s on defense. A Burch/O’Neill/Moor/Piermayr back line is most likely, and it’ll be a good matchup for RSL’s strikers.

If RSL can come out guns blazing like they did against Vancouver or Houston (and like the stats say they can do regularly), we could see a nice cushion heading into the second half. Riding that momentum could mean a couple more Salt Lake goals to begin the next 45, too. How they come out in the early stages is going to set the pace for the remainder of the match. The Rapids could pull a goal or two back late, but RSL playing at home with the stats and crowd on their side equates to (for me) another Seattle-like loss for our neighbors from the other side of the range.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Statistically Speaking- Joao Plata

Photo by Nic Shellabarger
I think it is safe to say that the best offensive player for RSL this season has been Joao Plata. The 22 year old forward has been dominating in the matches he has played in. He was named MLS Player of the Week for his 2 goal performance against Chicago.

I decided to really dive into Plata's numbers to see just how good his season has been. What I found surprised me. His stats paint a picture that shows he has been even better than I thought. It is pretty amazing when comparing his stats from this year to those from last year.

Plata had a respectable 2013 season scoring 4 goals and contributing 8 assists in 1645 minutes of play. That translates to .22 goals and .44 assists per 90 minutes that he played.  This season Plata has been on the field for 394 minutes. In that time he has scored 5 goals and has 2 assists. That translated to 1.14 goals and .46 assists per 90 minutes played.

It is good to see that Plata's assists are staying consistent with last year and his goal scoring has gone through the roof. But how has Plata improved so much from last season? I believe there are two parts to that answer. He has been more aggressive and he has been much more accurate.

Last season Plata took 50 shots over the course of the season. That comes out to 2.7 shots every 90 minutes that he played. This season he has taken 16 shots so far or 3.6 shots for every 90 minutes that he has played. So it is easy to see that he has been more involved in the RSL offense.

The real key is how accurate he has become with his shots. Last season 38% of his shots were on goal and 8% of all shots he took hit the back of the net. Both of these numbers were the lowest among the 5 RSL forwards. This season an incredible 75% of his shots have been on goal and 31% of his shots have hit the back of the net. Both of these are now the highest among the RSL forwards.

The team as a whole is also playing really well when Plata is on the field. RSL as a team have scored 11 times while Plata has been on the pitch or a goal every 35 minutes. When Plata has not played, the team is scoring a goal every 83 minutes. How does that compare to last season? The team scored every 51 minutes when he played last year they scored every 56 minutes when he didn't play.

Plata is also continuing to get other players involved in the attack. To go along with his 2 assists he has also registered 13 key passes (a pass that leads to a shot that wasn't a goal).  This ranks 2nd on the team only behind Javier Morales. This is another area where he has vastly improved over last season as he only had 18 key passes all year. Here is another way to look at it. Every 26 minutes Plata is setting up one of his teammates to take a shot. Last season that number was every 63 minutes.

The all-around improvement of Plata's game is pretty incredible. Not only is he scoring goals at a high pace, he is also getting his teammates involved in the attack. The question now is how long can he keep up producing at this rate?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Fantasy Strategy- The 4 Million Dollar Man

By Nic Shellabarger

Having only $120 million in your pocket to spend sounds like a problem I’d like to have. However, as you get involved as a MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager, you’ll likely find that $120 m is nowhere near enough to buy all of the players you want for your perfect team. A team comprised solely of top shelf players would cost you upwards of $180 million. A few concessions must be made.

The Balancing Act
Salary caps in the MLS strive to keep the pitch equal and the same is true for the initial $120 m allotment for MLS Fantasy managers. As is the case with the pro counterparts, many fantasy managers attempt to create a well-balanced team within the confines of their given budget. Sure, you might splurge and spend $11 m on Thierry Henry, but then you’ll look at saving money elsewhere such as purchasing a low-cost alternative for the forward position when Henry won’t play because of artificial turf. That, or you may have to skimp a bit on another position to make up for the high cost of your handsome French forward.

These accommodations for budget aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The majority of players on MLS teams don’t make a whole lot more than the $36,500 minimum, but they’re still a strong contributing factor for the success of their team. Take Luke Mulholland for example. As a relatively low played member of Real Salt Lake’s team, Mulholland has been a huge contributing factor to their success, making an appearance in all 9 games and contributing 2 goals and an assist to the score sheet.

Mulholland has been a great acquisition for RSL this year providing a very high cost-to-benefit ratio. However, if money weren’t an issue, do you think Real would hesitate to snag Landon Donovan or Tim Cahill to fill that position? I doubt it.
Unfortunately, in the real world and in MLS Fantasy Manager, money is an issue and we must carefully distribute it to get the greatest players and most depth that we can afford with our allotted portion. Or do we?

Loose the Depth
In case you’ve gotten a little too involved with your fantasy team lately, let me remind you (and myself) that this is not the real world. We don’t have to and shouldn’t play by real-world logic.

Depth on the bench is a necessity in the real world as you can’t exactly predict game situations and injuries that you will face in any given match and you have to be prepared to deal with whatever you face. Fantasy soccer is different. There is nothing you can do during a match to adjust for in-game situations. All adjustments must be made prior to the beginning of the match. Because of this, depth becomes an unnecessary option.

Your team is comprised of 18 players and only 11 of them can be used on game day. The other 7 do you absolutely no good. That’s a lot of wasted players and a lot of wasted money. You have no control over how many players are on your team, but you can control to an extent how much you spend on wasted players by purchasing as many $4 m players as possible.

On the conservative end, I would suggest that you have at least three $4 m players. One in each third of the field. This arrangement would still leave you at least one solid backup for each position while freeing up a little bit of money to buy quality players that will actually see time on your virtual pitch.

Unfortunately, conservative measures aren’t likely to make you the hero on game day, so I’d like to suggest something a little more drastic: fill your virtual bench with five $4 m players. That’s right, five players that will never step foot on the field. Five players that will never earn a single point.

Five unusable players seems to create a situation where you only have a single substitute on the bench. If you use that substitute, there’s also a pretty good chance your team’s formation will be forced to change. This is the stuff that a football manager’s nightmares are made of. However, this only sounds like bad news.

The good news is that it’s not true. In MLS Fantasy Manager, you have an additional 2 transfers each week to compensate for players who were injured, disciplined, or just not performing. A little bit of quick, careful math tells us that 2+1=3, and we’re right back up to real-world substitution options with a little bit more money to spend on quality.

A quick word of caution though, this approach will require a bit more foreword planning if you still want to take advantage of double-game weeks and lopsided matchups, so be prepared to put in a little more prep time each week.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Crunching the Numbers- Chicago

By Charles Barnard

Saturday night was like Deja Vu all over again, well sort of. Only this time it much better. RSL came back from a 2-0 deficit in the second half to score 3 times to pull out the victory against Chicago. The team remains undefeated on the season. In fact, RSL has only lost one match since their loss in the US Open Cup final.

Joao Plata continues to lead the RSL attack. As we will see below his stats are pretty unbelievable this season. Especially when you consider that he has only played in half of the total minutes that the team has played this season. Let's dive into the numbers to see how good he really has been this year.

  • RSL has scored 16 goals on the season or a goal every 50.6 minutes. If the team continues at this pace they will surpass the club record for goals scored in a season that they set last year. 
  • The team has given up 10 goals on the season or a goal every 81 minutes. 
  • RSL has now scored 5 goals after the 75th minutes. This equates to 31% of their goals on the season. The team has also given up 5 goals after the 75th minute. 
  • Plata has played 394 minutes this season. In that time RSL is scoring a goal every 35 minutes. In the 416 minutes that he has not played, the team is scoring every 83 minutes.
  • 75% of the shots that Plata has taken this season has been on goal. 31% of the shots he has taken has hit the back of the net. 
  • Plata is creating a scoring chance (shot or pass leading to a shot) every 12 minutes that he plays. 
  • Sebastian Velazquez has played 88 minutes this season. During that time RSL has scored 5 times or a goal every 17.6 minutes.
  • Chris Schuler has played in 16 matches since coming back from injury towards the end of last season. In those matches RSL has a record of 8-1-7. 
  • RSL has not given up a goal in the 111 minutes that Abdoulie Mansally has played this season.

What Plata has done this season has been incredible. He had a respectable season last year but his numbers this year are blowing last year's numbers out of the water. Watch for a spotlight on Plata later this week where I really compare this season's numbers to last.

It is amazing to think that RSL only has one loss with Schuler in the lineup in their last 16 games. For comparison sake, the previous 15 matches that RSL played without Schuler they went 6-6-3. The numbers speak for themselves on how important Schuler is to the team. 

I was surprised to see the stat on Mansally above. He has always been good getting into the attack. The common perception though is that he is not as strong on the defensive side of the ball. But the defense has been good in the limited time he has played this season. With a very strong performance in Chicago with a very good performance in the reserve game prior to that, perhaps Mansally should get more chances for playing time. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

It's All About Creating Chances

Photo by Nic Shellabarger
By Charles Barnard

In the world of soccer analytics, there are many stats that try to determine how a player is doing on the offensive side of the ball. Goals and assists are the most commonly used but there are many others including my own Minutes per Team Goal which looks at how well the team plays when a player is on the field. One stat that has become more prevalent among soccer statisticians is called "chances created".

Chances created takes a look at how many chances on goal a particular player is creating. This stat is a combination of three other stats; shots, assists, and key passes. The first two are pretty self-explanatory but some people might not be familiar with the third. A key pass is a pass that leads to a shot that does not end up as a goal (that would be an assist at that point). By adding up these three stats, you can see how many chances on goal a particular player has created.

I have seen a few articles written this year on who the best players are in the league on creating chances. I thought I would take it a step further and look specifically at RSL to see who is the best on the team at creating chances. To be able to compare players, I also calculated how long it took for a player to create a shot.

Here are my findings.

PlayerMin. PlayedShotsAssistsKey PassesChances CreatedMin per Created Chance

There is a lot of fascinating data here. We can see that Saborio and Morales have created the most shots on the team but for very different reasons. Saborio leads the team in shots taken while only setting up 4 shots for other teammates. Morales has only taken 8 shots this season, but he has set up more shots from his passing than anyone else. Neither of these two things is really unexpected given the nature of play by both players.

The player though that jumps off the charts is Joao Plata. I guess this shouldn't be too surprising given how well he has started the season. I do find it very interesting that he is second on the team in key passes. Not only is he scoring but he is really setting up his teammates as well. What is really impressive is how often he is creating chances. He is among the league leaders when calculating how often players create chances. And with 3 goals and 2 assists on the season he is not just creating chances, he is creating good chances. 

It is also really interesting when comparing the trio of Grabavoy/Mulholland/Gil. You can see by these numbers how involved Mulholland has been when he has been on the field. He is creating chances almost the same pace as Morales. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Gil. I was shocked to see that Gil has only taken 3 shots in almost 400 minutes of play. But he is not necessarily creating opportunities for his teammates either.  

I was also curious to look at the difference between Sandoval and Garcia. Big Dev has been very aggressive in his limited time on the field. Garcia on the other hand does not have as good of numbers as one might expect.

What numbers stand out to you? Is there something that I am missing? This is a stat that I am going to continue to track over the course of the season and will write about from time to time here on the blog.