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.

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