MLS Statistical Analysis

Greetings fellow D.C. United fans. I have a bit of a thing for statistics, and on my old blog I used to do MLS Statistical Analysis, looking at all the MLS teams and trying to figure out why they're winning or losing. The blog has ceased, so I decided I wanted to bring it to you here, and if you like it it's something I can continue to do.

Here's a brief explanation. What you'll see here will be multiple graphics for offense, defense, and goalkeeping. I'll explain what each statistical category is, and do a little bit of analysis for the best and worst teams, but there will be a significant focus on D.C. United (who will be highlighted in the graphics.) Also there will be a player-specific statistical analysis for United. Here we go.

First up is the offense. Below is the data that is used to make up the stats, sorted alphabetically:

GP: Games played / G: Goals / S: Shots / SOG: Shots on Goal


And here's where we get into the real numbers, sorted by PPG:

GPG: Goals Per Game / SPG: Shots Per Game / %SOG = % of shots that are on goal / %S=G: % of shots that are goals / %SOG=G: % of shots on goal that are goals / PPG: Points Per Game


Here are a few notes from these stats:

- The first thing I notice is that, despite the general belief that the West is better than the East, four of the top six and five of the top eight teams in terms of PPG are from the East.

- Three teams are averaging 1.00 GPG or less: Columbus, Chivas and Portland. Only Portland are worse than 12th in terms of PPG.

- Five teams are averaging 1.50 GPG or more: San Jose, New York, Los Angeles, D.C. United and Real Salt Lake. Only Los Angeles find themselves worse than fifth in terms of PPG.
Now we give the stats context by ranking the teams. The top three in each category are blue, and the bottom three are red-ish.


- It's no surprise that the top two teams in terms of PPG are ranked one or two in most categories. New York is managing to score the second most goals per game (1.76) while shooting 13th most (12.29.)

- Chivas are flat out terrible offensively. They're last or second to last in each offensive category mentioned here, yet they're 12th in PPG (1.21.) Generally in situations like this, we'll find out that they have either strong defending or strong goalkeeping to thank for that. There aren't many other ways to explain scoring 0.68 GPG and not being dead last in the standings.

- Los Angeles and their 1.73 GPG aren't doing much for them in the standings. They're no worse than seventh in the categories measured here, third in two of those categories, but they find themselves 11th in PPG (1.36).

- Toronto are third in SPG (13.60,) but they're scoring just 1.20 GPG (12th). As you might expect, the reason they're not scoring is that they're only forcing the goalkeeper into action 32.72% of the time (12th). Shockingly, they're not bottom three in any offensive categories.

- D.C. United are doing fairly well statistically. I did an offensive analysis after 8 games and United have improved in every statistic since then. They're faring worst when it comes to finding the frame with their shots (35.11%, 10th,) but they make up for it by scoring 36.96% of the time when they do find the frame (3rd.) I'd suggest that the team has just gotten better at shooting overall. In the first 8 games, they shot 13.00 times per game, and have only raised that average to 13.10 in the 12 games since. That said, they have raised their GPG from 1.17 to 1.70.

Now we move on to the defense and goalkeeping. The stats abbreviations will mean the same thing, but think of it this way -- instead of D.C. is scoring X goals per game, it's D.C. are allowing X goals per game.


And onward to the numbers:


- Colorado are allowing nearly 2.00 PPG to opponents. That's terrible.

The rankings:


- San Jose and New York, previously noted as ranked one and two in terms of PPG gained, are, unsurprisingly, one and two in PPG allowed. What's interesting is that neither are in even the top five of any defensive category, and New York aren't better than 10th in any defensive category. It looks like they're far more reliant on offense than defense for their success.

- Chicago is a sneakily good defense in terms of numbers, but not particularly good in terms of PPG allowed. They allow a lot of shots, but not a lot of them appear to be going in, or even trouble the goalkeeper. I'm usually pretty hard on Sean Johnson, especially after Olympic qualifying, but when you consider that defensive %SOG=G is basically goalkeeping save percentage, Chicago is looking pretty good.

- Usually a team's rankings in %S=G and %SOG=G are pretty close to eachother. I'm talking a difference of two or three places at most. Colorado have a difference of 7 places between the two. They're allowing a high percentage of shots on goal (41.96%), but a middle of the pack percentage of shots on goal resulting in goals (28.04%.) Matt Pickens is good?

- Chivas appear to explain why they're not dead last in the standings with their offense. They rank second in both %S=G (7.75%) and %SOG=G (24.42%.) I guess Dan Kennedy has a valid reason to be in the All-Star Game.

- Potentially rhetorical question: Why are RSL third in SPG allowed (10.82) but 15th in %SOG=G (33.33%?) The answer probably rhymes with Bimando.

- Our Black and Red are neither terrible nor spectacular defensively. That red 19 there means they are allowing the most shots per game (14.70.) Everywhere else they're in the middle of the pack defensively, save a fifth place standing in %SOG=G. That boils down to one goalkeeper more than the other. Guess which one that is (hint: Hamid.) How does this team improve defensively? More Dudar? Are there any other changes that can be made with this personnel?

Onto the goalkeeping. Here you'll only get one graphic.

GP: Games Played / Sh = Shots faced / Sv = Saves / ShPG = Shots per game / SvPG = Saves per game / Sv% = Save percentage


- Wow, Montreal's goalkeeping is awful. 56.19%?

- Remember when Troy Perkins whined about having been made the scapegoat for D.C. United's 2010 season. 62.75%, dude.

- Kansas City's presence at the top isn't surprising, but Columbus and Colorado is kind of crazy.

- At this point in the season, one game doesn't have a huge impact on the statistics. Still, despite the game at Houston that will not be discussed, D.C. United's goalkeeping as a whole is still pretty stellar. We're going to get into the differences between Hamid and Willis below, when we break down D.C. United as a team...


The top 3 in many categories are in blue, except the goalkeepers and situations where a player (Long Tan, for instance) got a few minutes and shot three times which skews his numbers.) We start with goalkeepers Willis and Hamid have played nearly the same amount of minutes, and they've faced the same amount of shots. Hamid has faced more shots per 90, made more saves per 90, and allows less than a goal per 90. His save percentage is 20 points better than Joe Willis'. Any question about who the better goalkeeper is has been decided easily. Yes, Willis has the Houston game on his resume, but take those goals away and he's still allowed seven more than Hamid.

Chris Pontius and his 0.70 goals per 90 minutes is great, but that he scores better than once per every four shots (26.47%) and better than once for every two shots on goal (56.25%) stands out even more. He's been amazing.

There are many more numbers to break down here (King's 0.45 assists per 90, for one,) but it's gone on long enough already. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: Everything above this line.

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