Selected D.C. United Numbers from the loss to Toronto FC

Let us examine the D.C. United game using soccer statistics. I'll be using selective statistics that I find potentially very interesting largely taken from the chapters of The Number Game: why everything you know about soccer is wrong by Chris Anderson & David Sally and Soccernomics by Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski.

I know not all statistics are useful for soccer. But empirical evidence shows selected statistics are predictive of results, goals, and player value. I will entertain the notion of doing more complicated analyses or examining additional statistics provided the data are available. I am using data from and

Hopefully these numbers provide useful game insight and predictive utility.

The Weakest Link

Soccer is a team game. According to Anderson and Sally the worst player is more determinant of a team's performance than the best player; hence my focus on the weakest link in a chain. I'll be using player index ratings from WhoScored* and Castrol**. I am not thrilled about using indices where the calculation details are vague but those two are both established and I don't see enough available data available to calculate my own. *An explanation for WhoScored's ratings can be found here **If and when the Castrol Index values are published I'll add them in.


WhoScored rating vs. tor 3-22

WhoScored rating vs. clb 3-8

Davy Arnaud



Bobby Boswell



Nick DeLeon



Conor Doyle



Fabian Espindola



Cristian Fernandez



Sean Franklin



Bill Hamid



Eddie Johnson



Perry Kitchen



Lewis Neal


Jeff Parke



Kyle Porter



Luis Silva




Bill Hamid stands out (almost on his head); both in this game and in comparison to his Columbus performance. Noticeable drops were from Fernandez and Franklin probably because they didn't get into the attack like they did in the last game. Kitchen, Parke improved a fair bit while everyone else stayed about the same respective to their previous rating. Espindola is still lagging behind the team average (pssst pass the ball or don't get caught in possession).

In comparison Toronto had 6 players above a 7 on the index 2 of whom were above an 8 and no one went below 6. Toronto averaged 7.18 while DC united averaged 6.41.


Controlling the game and how that control is achieved is quite predictive of league points. The overall possession statistic is, as we know, not useful for determining what happened. However, having possession is generally important. As a consequence turnovers are indicate how well a team controlled the game. Statistically, the turnover ratio (# DCU turnovers/ (#DCU turnovers + #Opp. turnovers) ) is a good number to examine. Passing data is informative. The sheer raw number of passes (more is better) is basic number to compare the two teams. The type of passes (Longball to Short Ratio LSR = Longballs/(longballs + shortballs); lower number is better) and passing completion percentage correlate (not cause) with the overall number of points a team earns.

Possession: 63% (black of top bar, red being Toronto 37%)

Total passes: 466 vs 265

LSR = .13

Turnovers: 56%


DC United lost. DCU had far more of the ball this game than Toronto and even in comparison to Columbus (DC - 53%). Yet, their LSR was good, again (.10 seems to be an ideal). However, their turnover percentage went up by 8%. That sucks. Once again the team had more of the ball but did nothing with it. Actually, they did do something with it. They gave it away much more.

*I would also point out that the above statistics are correlated with league points earned but that is for an entire season (with European data too - may not apply in MLS) and not necessarily predictive of individual games.

Who's on First?

Scoring two goals is the best predictor of winning points. Scoring a third goal only slightly improves a team's odds above two goals of earning a draw or win. Since, goals were so rare for DC United last year I'm also looking at what predicts goals. An average of 9 shots per game is what it takes to score a goal. Can DC United manage 9 shots per game? A new (maybe just popular) statistic that predicts points is the Total Shots Ratio TSR = Total shots for/(Total shots for + total shots against). TSR is an indirect indicator (as a latent or an emergent variable - I'm not sure) assessment of team strength. The best English clubs have TSR's around .60.

DC United: 6 Shots (2 on goal)

0 Goals

TSR = .30


Far fewer shots than the last game (6 v 11). And DC United gave up more shots than last time (14 by Toronto vs 11 from Columbus). Again enough shots were taken for 3 goals so DC should be lucky that they only gave up 1. EVERYONE PAT YOURSELF ON YOUR BACK! However, DC did much worse on the TSR this time. Dropping by .25 to .30. Statistically, regarding the offense DC United did much worse than their home opener. That sucks.

Change We Can Believe In

When behind the best times to substitute a player are first by the 58th, second by 73rd, and finally the 79th minute. MLS and national team coaches adhere to those substitution times more than any other league coach in the world. As a consequence of substituting by those times MLS coaches salvage or gain more points (i.e. score game tying or winning goals) than other teams across the world. The weakest link also re-appears here as the weakest link should be the first player substituted regardless of position.

Subs came in at 66th, 80th.


The first goal wasn't until the 60th minute so it's hard to say the 66th minute sub was too late although it does mean it was reactionary. Also the sub was Porter. His rating was below the team average (although not less than Arnaud). Doyle came on in the 80th (probably too late) and produced a performance (as measured by below the team average. So once again the DC United subs did not impact the game in a positive way for the team. That sucks.


By the most important selected number DC United improved from last week. Only giving up 1 goal instead of 3. However, their attack was statistically worse. Their turnover percentage was much worse. On the positive side there were some improvements by individual players and the number of passes went dramatically up. Individual improvement is good. The team needs more of that, especially from the midfield (Arnuad, Silva) and forwards (both Espindola and Johnson). The improvement in the number of passes is probably due to Toronto conceding possession and not anything DC United did. So that's scary. They scoreline might look to be an improvement but I would say in many key areas this was a worse performance.

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