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Selected DC United Numbers for Game 6 vs Columbus & MLS Comparisons [Updated]

Let us examine the DC 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 WhoSocred.com and MLSSoccer.com.

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*. 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 **I’ll look to incorporate the Castrol ratings in the future. They just come out too late for these game-by-game postings and they don’t break down by game.



Season avg. WhoSocred

vs CLB 4-19

vs. NJ 4-12

vs. NE 4-5

vs. CHI 3-29

vs. TOR 3-22

vs. CLB 3-8

Davy Arnaud

6.69

6.7

7.2

7.1

7

6.06

6.1

Bobby Boswell

7.25

6.8

8.4

7.3

7.5

6.64

6.85

Alex Caskey

6.15

6.2

6.1

DNP

DNP

DNP

DNP

Nick DeLeon

6.97

7.1

6.9

7.1

7.7

6.69

6.35

Conor Doyle

5.99

5.8

6

6

6.2

5.99

5.92

Andrew Dykstra

6.90

6

7.8

6.9

DNP

DNP

DNP

Fabian Espindola

7.01

7.4

7.3

7.8

8

5.88

5.68

Cristian Fernandez

6.95

7.2

7.1

7.3

7

6.1

6.98

Sean Franklin

6.85

6.7

6.9

7

6.8

6.67

7.05

Bill Hamid

6.59

DNP

DNP

DNP

6.8

7.17

5.8

Jared Jeffrey

6.00

DNP

6.1

DNP

5.9

DNP

DNP

Eddie Johnson

6.73

7

7.3

6.6

7.4

5.94

6.14

Perry Kitchen

6.75

6.4

6.7

6.8

8

6.79

5.8

Lewis Neal

6.13

6.1

DNP

6.5

6

DNP

5.9

Jeff Parke

7.17

7

7.3

8.6

7.2

6.63

6.3

Kyle Porter

5.99

DNP

DNP

DNP

DNP

6.04

5.93

Chris Rolfe

6.87

6.5

7.1

7

6*

N/A*

6.37*

Luis Silva

6.64

DNP

DNP

DNP

6.7

6.59

6.62

*Chris Rolfe's first three ratings (including the DNP) are from his performances with Chicago.

Inferences

And the best player of the game was Espindola. He was the highest rated player from either team. Doyle was DC United's lowest rated player. Doyle had a 67% pass completion rate and won 0 ariel duels, in comparison Johnson (who qualitatively many said was awful -yet rated a 7) had an 88% passing accuracy and won 77% of his arial duels. Espindola had a 59% passing accuracy and won 50% of his aerials duels (oh, and the goal).

In comparison Columbus only had two players rated at or above 7.0 Columbus averaged 6.43 while DC united averaged 6.63; below DCU’s previous game. I’m fairly certain the Arnor red card is what is dragging the Columbus team rating downThis was not improvement in player ratings over their last game but was the fourth consecutive time the team averaged better than the opposition.

Player Quality Ratings So Far

It’s been 6 games. Time for definitive and final judgements. The best player averages come from Boswell (7.25) and Parke (7.17) followed by Espindola (7.01). It turns out the two old men in the center of defense are doing alright. Which is great. On the other hand they are doing so well because the opposition have so much of the ball and are taking many shots. Which is bad. Other than Espindola, the rest of the attack isn’t doing well. Seattle currently has 7 players averaging a rating above a 7 (Dempsey is above 8). Columbus has 5 players averaging a rating above a 7. Chicago has 7; Kansas City has 7; Toronto has 6 players (Bradley is above 8); Philadelphia has 6 players; Montreal has 6 ; Houston has 5; The Metrostars have 3; New England has 3.

Weakest link players. Doyle is 5th from bottom in the league on his attacking numbers. Jeffrey and Porter are in the bottom 10 of the entire league in overall ratings. (Charlie Davies is 6th from dead last). DC United has 5 players in the bottom half of all the players (Jeffrey, Porter, Doyle, Neal, and Hamid). That's not bad. New England has many players in the bottom half. But most of DC United's players are right in the middle in terms of player ratings.

Boswell is DC United's highest rated player at 32nd overall. Parke is 51st. DCU has 3 players in the top 100.

Not that many terrible players. Not that many very good players. Firmly in the middle of mediocrity.

DC United isn’t looking good in the player ratings for the Eastern Conference. And that not looking good will be reflected in their passing, shooting, and attacking numbers in comparison to the rest of MLS posted below.

KEEP THE BALL!

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.

NEW STAT ADDED. Through ball.I’m getting the number from Whoscored.com. It reflects an attempted pass from one player to another that goes through the opponents defensive line. I’m adding this statistics because the offense is still a concern for this team and so many of the other statistics I examine are about the long term.


Possession: 39% (black part of the pie, yellow being Columbus 61%)

Total passes: 362 vs 563

LSR = .17

Turnovers: 52%

Through Balls = 0

Inferences

The only number in this section DC United did well on is its LSR. Everything else is bad. In fact in comparison to their first match against Columbus DCU performed worse (even on their LSR). Click here for the first match numbers. DC United was out passed, out possessed and it doesn’t get better in the next section.

*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.

SHOOT THE BALL!

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.

NEW STAT ADDED. Big Chances. I’m taking this statistic from mlssoccer.com. The statistic reflect the number of passes that lead to a clear cut scoring chance (usually something inside the box). I am incorporating this stat. for the same reason I added the Through Balls statistic (above).

DC United: 7 Shots (3 on goal)

BIG CHANCES: 0

1 Goals

TSR = .39

Inferences

1 Goal. Yeah! That’s the good number out of the way. Columbus had 11 shots. More than in their first game against DC United. The TSR rating is the same as the NJ game and lower (for DCU) than their first match against Columbus (TSR=.55). DCU did have more shots on goal (I don’t believe Espindola’s sitter is included in that so I guess that’s something).

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 57th, 76th, 85th.

Inferences

Once again the substitutes were not impactful. (That sentence has worked 5 of 6 games so far - Chris Rolfe against NE the only exception). But substitution times only show statistically utility for teams losing. Columbus made two changes at the 62nd and 63rd minutes and a third in the 78th. Those changes helped them gain a point. There substitutes didn't rate highly though (just above a 6 for each).

Summary

DC United was statistically, crushed in this game. And it was worse than that in their first game against Columbus. DC United did get a point on the road. But Columbus has 4 from this two games. Columbus are playing better and getting better results. DC United are not (by these selected numbers doing well or improving). Except they have a 4 game unbeaten streak. Statistically, the Chicago game was their most dominating performance. Everything else has been grinding out results. That worked for about 9 games in the fall of 2012. Up next: the league’s best - Dallas.

DCU v MLS (After 6 Games)


KEEP THE BALL!



DC United averages 48% possession. The league average (excluding DC) is 51% with a standard deviation (SD) of 3.7%. Playing Columbus and NJ is slightly offset by playing Toronto in DC’s possessions numbers but really DC (so far) is not a possession team. Most MLS teams are equivalent on possession. The standouts are Columbus, NJ, and SKC.


DCU averages 414 passes per game while the league average is 435 (SD=46). So, DC United is below average in passes. Columbus and LAG* average above 500 passes per game. Only San Jose* average less than 400 passes per game.


*LAG and SJ numbers are based on 5 games.


Turnovers. DC United averages a Turnovers ratio of .50. The exact same as the rest of the league (SD = .01). There’s very little variation on this on this number. Parity!


SHOOT THE BALL!

DC United averages 1 goal per game. The MLS average is 1.39 (SD=.41). That below goal average might have something to do with with DCU’s average of 10.3 shots per game. MLS shots per game average is 13.38 (SD=1.88). DC United is below average in shots and goals per game.



DCU’s TSR average is .44. As a reminder the TSR is the ratio of shots taken by both teams in a game. So .44 is bad. The league average is .52 with a SD = .06. TSR is used as an indicator of overall attack strength. .60 is considered good. SKC is dominating the this statistic. DCU, RSL, and Vancouver are sucking hind tit.


SUMMARY, Definitive Judgements, and Rank Speculation

Statistically, DC United sucks. They are below average on nearly everything (including most of the stats I didn’t paste charts for above). It’s disappointing to see DCU below most teams in their attacking numbers but they get out possessed and passed. DCU does allow the average amount of shots against but damn HOLD THE BALL and then SHOOT THE BALL. More. Much more.

If these selected numbers are indicators of team performance and predictive in MLS then DC United will not stay in its current Eastern Conference position without dramatic improvement. Staying at these numbers would be an indicative of a poor team and the results that the team is currently grinding out will disappear. They shoot far less than most teams and score fewer goals because of that. And everything goal related is due to Espindola so far. That can't last. So EJ and the midfield need to be doing much better.


Last year I made a post on Jeff Bradley’s idea that 6 games into the season one could fairly well predict the playoffs. Last year: 6 of the 10 playoff teams were in a playoff position after 6 games. 2012 it was 7 of 10; 2011 it was 9 of 10; 2010 it was 6 of 8. Now, I haven’t done the analysis I want to to check on the stability/predictive validity of the 6 game demarcation (yet) but for this year the 10 playoffs teams would be:

East = Columbus, Kansas City, Toronto, DC United, NE/HOU/PHI all tied at 7pts (PHI has the goal scored tie breaker).

West = Dallas, Colorado, Seattle, RSL, VAN/LAG* (tied on pts but LAG only played 5 games so a draw in their next game would put them ahead, a loss and VAN is in on goals scored tie breaker)

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