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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Look at the Defense

By Charles Barnard

Just one more. All Nick Rimando needs is one more shutout to tie the record for the most shutouts in league history. The problem with this is that RSL's last shutout on the season was back on 5/24. The record will come eventually. The question in my mind though was how has the defense been playing? Were there some players playing better than others?

I thought now would be a good time to statistically take a look at the RSL defense. I have done this in the past but this will be the first time this season really looking at these stats. Who on the team has the best defensive stats? What stats do you even look at for defense?

The primary stat that I use is something that I call Minutes per Conceded Goal (MpCG). Think of it as the opposite of my Minutes per Team Goal stat. I look at how many goals are conceded while a particular player is on the field. Then I take a look at how many goals are conceded while that player is not on the field. This gives me a sense of how well the defense plays while that player is playing.

As a point of reference,  RSL is currently giving up a goal every 69 minutes. This is the highest goal conceding rate for the team since 2007. Here is the breakdown of the defenders.

PlayerMinGoalsMpCGMin not playedGoalsMpCGDifference

There are some interesting numbers to be found here. First was how well the defense played when Rich Balchan was on the field. The team did not give up a goal in the 201 minutes that he played this season. It is unfortunate that his injuries have continued to limit the amount of time that he has played.

This also shows how dominate a defender Chris Schuler is. It takes opponents over twice as long to score when he has been in matches than when he has not played.

This season I have also done something different than in the past. I decided to track these numbers for midfielders and forwards as well. To be honest I wasn't sure what I would find by looking at this information, but it is still pretty interesting to see.

PlayerMinGoalsMpCGMin not playedGoalsMpCGDifference

I was surprised to see that Joao Plata actually had the best MpCG among this group. I am not sure if that is because of the amount of time that he tracks back or if other factors are involved. It is also interesting to see how many more goals that the team gives up when he is not on the field.

Although it is not a surprise, this chart also shows the positive influence that Kyle Beckerman has on the defense. You can also see here how the team struggles defensively when Beckerman is not in the lineup.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Plus and Minus of Things- Midseason Edition

By Charles Barnard

One of the most commonly known team stats in soccer is Goal Differential or the amount of team goals scored minus the amount of team goals conceded. You will see it listed any time you look at a chart of team standings.

One stat that isn't looked at as often is player's plus/minus. This is basically goal differential on the player level. It is a stat that has been used in hockey for a long time and has recently become popular in basketball as well. Player plus/minus is another indicator of how well the team plays while a particular player is on the field. It can also tell you how well the team plays while a player is not on the field as well.

Last season RSL had a very respectable goal differential of +16. Javier Morales had the best player plus/minus at +18. Only two players on the team had a negative plus minus. RSL has finished the past 6 seasons with a positive goal differential.

Going into Wednesday's match, RSL currently has a goal differential of +5.  Below is a list for all RSL players that have played over 100 minutes. The column with the header +/- per 90 takes into account how much a player has played. The thinking behind it is that a player with a good plus/minus in limited minutes played is more impressive than a player with the same plus/minus but having played more minutes. This column shows how much a player's plus/minus is affected every 90 minutes played. The final column (+/- w/o) shows what the team's goal differential is when that player is not on the field.

Min. PlayedPlayer +/-+/- per 90+/- w/o

There is a lot of data above to go through but here are some of the things that stick out to me. Kyle Beckerman's numbers are outstanding. This really shows the positive effect that he has on the team. His +11 is very impressive. I think the things that stands out the most is that when is not playing the team has a goal differential of -6! 

Joao Plata's numbers are also very impressive but with the great season that he is having that is not all that surprising. With such a good plus/minus it makes you wonder how much of a positive effect does Plata have on the defensive side of the ball. That is something I might have to look into further. 

Unlike last season, RSL currently has 6 players that have a negative plus/minus. Carlos Salcedo's numbers can be attributed to coming into a tough spot against San Jose and the team giving up 2 late goals. I do have to say I am somewhat surprised about the other players with a negative plus/minus. Devon Sandoval might be the one that surprised me the most. In only 885 minutes of play last season, Sandoval was +10 (or a +1.01 +/- per 90). Not only has his overall form been off this season but the team's form has also taken a hit while he has been on the field.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Striking Up a Partnership- Midseason Report

By Charles Barnard

The loss of Alvaro Saborio has been a big blow to the offensive attack of RSL. The season started great with the offense scoring goals at a record setting pace and Saborio was a big part of that. While Saborio has been on the field this season, RSL was scoring at a rate of a goal every 45 minutes.  RSL has now played 8 league games without him. In those past 8 games RSL is scoring at a rate of a goal every 120 minutes. 

It is clear to see that no one has truly stepped up to fill Saborio's shoes. I felt that now was an applicable time to really dive in and look at each of RSL's striker stats and to see how well each striker is playing with each other. 

First let's look at how each striker is doing individually. Goals represent the amount of team goals, not the amount of goals the player has scored. MpTG (minutes per team goal) is how often the team scores when a player is either on or off the field. 

PlayerMinGoalsMpTGMin not playedGoalsMpTGDifference

By looking at this it is clear to see how important that both Saborio and Joao Plata has been to the team this season. Looking at the difference you can see how RSL scores much more when these two players have been on the field. 

It is also interesting to see how bad the offense has been with Garcia playing. By this point, everyone knows the slump that Garcia has been in. It has been over a calendar year since he scored his last goal. These numbers also show that the offense as a whole has not been good with Garcia on the field.

While there is a lot of value from individual numbers, I also feel we can learn a lot by looking at how well the team does when a particular partnership is up top. 

MinGoalsMpTGMin not playedGoalsMpTG

There is a lot of data to look at here, but let me point out some of the things that stands out to me. First, the combination of Saborio and Plata this year was killer. The chemistry between those two players has been wonderful. Last season they had a similar MpTG while playing together.

The numbers for Plata/Garcia looks great so far, but those numbers might be a bit deceiving. If you remember Garcia came on late in the Chicago match and RSL played 3 forwards up top. In the handful of minutes that lineup was on the field, RSL scored twice. 

The question continues to be what partnership should start in the absence of Saborio? One pairing that looked great at the end of last season was Findley/Sandoval. But even if Findley was 90 minute fit, that pairing would take Plata off the field. Sandoval/Garcia also played well last season but with both players struggling to find the back of the net that is not ideal either. And finally, I have never been a fan of Plata/Findley together. 

That leaves either continuing with Plata/Sandoval or to give a shot to Plata/Garcia. Which partnership do you think the team should use come Saturday night?