FanPost

Selected Numbers from Game 4 vs. New England

Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport

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.


player

CLB 3-8

TOR 3-22

CHI 3-29

NE 4-5

Davy Arnaud

6.1

6.06

7

7.1

Bobby Boswell

6.85

6.64

7.5

7.3

Nick DeLeon

6.35

6.69

7.7

7.1

Conor Doyle

5.92

5.99

6.2

6

Andrew Dykstra

DNP

DNP

DNP

6.9

Fabian Espindola

5.68

5.88

8

7.8

Cristian Fernandez

6.98

6.1

7

7.3

Sean Franklin

7.05

6.67

6.8

7

Bill Hamid

5.8

7.17

6.8

DNP

Jared Jeffrey

DNP

DNP

5.9

DNP

Eddie Johnson

6.14

5.94

7.4

6.6

Perry Kitchen

5.8

6.79

8

6.8

Lewis Neal

5.9

DNP

6

6.5

Jeff Parke

6.3

6.63

7.2

8.6

Kyle Porter

5.93

6.04

DNP

DNP

Chris Rolfe

6.37*

DNP

6*

7

Luis Silva

6.62

6.59

6.7

DNP

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

Inferences

Jeff Parke. The unexpected highest rated player. He had a 90% passing accuracy and won 83% of his aerial duels. So that puts a defender at the best rating this week. Surprised me. Eddie Johnson and Lewis Neal, however, rated similar to what everyone else did in the first two games. And appropriately so, both were subbed out. Conor Doyle came on and got a 6.0. Which isn’t good but he was on the field for about 7 minutes (including stoppage time). In seven minutes he did nearly as well as Eddie Johnson or Lewis Neal.


In comparison New England only had a single player rated at 7.0 while every other one of their players were below that rating. New England averaged 6.19 while DC united averaged 7.08. That 7.08 is slightly better than the Chicago match for DC United. Once again an improvement in the individual player ratings and the second time the players rated better than their opposition.


Possession

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: 47% (black part of the pie, blue being New England 53%)

Total passes: 431 vs 484

LSR = .16

Turnovers: 48%

Through Balls = 2



Inferences

DC United WON A GAME! DCU had about the same amount of the ball. (I wrote that sentence last week). DCU had much fewer passes. (Something new for this week). DCU had about the same amount of turnovers but fewer than against Chicago (percentage wise). DC United’s LSR went down from last week (.10 seems to be an ideal). 2 through balls might not seem like much (New England had 1) and it’s not. DC United’s high was against Chicago with 4 (against Toronto DCU had 2 through balls and 1 against Columbus). DC United did not statistical dominated the possession, the passes, or anything really. Except one statistic (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.



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.


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: 9 Shots (2 on goal)

BIG CHANCES: 2

2 Goals

TSR = .47


Inferences

And the shots number dropped by 8 from last week. Their TSR went down from .57 against Chicago their season high to their second worst of the season. Not a positive step. New England had 10 shots (only 1 on goal). DCU had 2 big chances. We can all thank Rolfe for converting on 1 and boo Johnson for him not. DCU has had only one Big Chance in their previous 3 games and it was against Chicago. However, here’s the only statistic that matters and the only one DC United dominated in: goals.


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 63rd, 87th.


Inferences

Neal and Johnson were the two worst rated players. They group of fans I was standing by were pretty much infuriated by Johnson and his play. And sarcastically, applauded his late shot that went wide late in the game and were left befuddled by his failed one-on-one with the goal keeper. For once though DC United had something different. A substitute that came on and made a difference. CHRIS ROLFE. Our saviour. Holy shit. Came on and made wonderful forward passes and a wonderful goal.


Summary

DC United did not win this game statistically. But DC United did win the game. In these selected numbers DC United did worse than last week except for Big Chances, Through Balls, LSR, and turnovers. But in terms of play both teams were about equal. Arguably, New England "played" better. Yet, that’s not how soccer works. DC United made that first goal. A spectacular own goal that I liked very much. And did something very very different from last week when they dropped points leading in the 80th minute. DC United secured their win. I can’t tell you how much I loved that 2nd goal. The pass was beautiful and the finish was wonderful. A sub that comes on and makes a difference is a huge change from the previous weeks. As is not conceding goals. But they didn’t dominate even though it might feel that way. Yet, 3 points.

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