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D.C. United Statistical Analysis - 2016

Now that the sting of an early playoff exit has subsided, how did our players perform over the course of the year?

MLS: Chicago Fire at D.C. United Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, D.C. United’s 2016 season was less successful than its 2015 season. Their exit from the 2016 playoffs came earlier than that of 2015, and posteason progression is an understandable metric by which to measure a team’s success. That said, there were a number of statistical positives to take from 2016 that should not be forgotten in the wake of the postseason opening defeat to the Montreal Impact.

What follows are four graphics which feature stats for every player that stepped on the field for DCU this season. The first is centered around shots, goals, and assists; the second is around offensive numbers; the third around defensive numbers; and the fourth is a quick one on goalkeeping. In all but the final graphic, the red highlight is for the leader in the category, provided that he is a field player, and had more than one attempt.

While Lamar Neagle leads in goals scored, Patrick Mullins’s lead in goals per 90 minutes is more notable. DCU’s offensive resurgence coincided with the arrival of Mullins, and that’s reflected here. Luciano Acosta’s 11 assists were good enough to tie for 8th most in MLS (Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo), but he didn’t lead the team in assists per 90, with Julian Buescher besting him. Buescher’s sample size is small, coming in at just under 7 full games, but he comes up a few more times in favorable statistical comparisons with his teammates. Bobby Boswell’s lead in shooting accuracy is surprising, but he’s not nearly as efficient in scoring as Lloyd Sam, who lead the way both in terms of shots resulting in goals, and shots on goal resulting in goals.

I find it surprising that Alhaji Kamara, though in limited action, was third on the team in shots per 90 minutes behind Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola. With both Saborio and Espindola leaving, Kamara right now is the second forward on the team going into next season, so we’ll have a chance to see if he can perform with more frequent action.

Moving on to more in-depth offensive numbers:

It comes as no surprise that Marcelo Sarvas led the team in passes attempted and passes completed. Alhaji Kamara was somewhat of an anomaly since he played less than 200 minutes and completed 85% of his passes, but Nick DeLeon’s 84% was not far behind him. Acosta’s 49 key passes easily led the team, but Julian Buescher’s 2.8 key passes per 90 minutes were more impressive and led the team. Acosta also led the team in dribbles attempted and completed, and his 2.61 completed dribbles per 90 are 1.06 more than anyone else. His propensity to try to beat players with the ball has also meant that he lost the ball more than any player, both on unsuccessful touches (UT) and dispossessions (DISP.) If an agreement is reached to keep Acosta in D.C. going forward, decreasing the frequency with which he takes players on as a means of mitigating his loss of possession may be a necessity.

Alvaro Saborio and Patrick Mullins may have tied with 14 offsides, but Saborio’s came in far fewer minutes.

Let’s move on to defending:

Marcelo Sarvas is obviously a tackling machine, as he logged 52 more attempts and 33 more successful tackles than the next closest players. He also led in interceptions made and interceptions per 90 as the only player with more than 3 per 90 minutes. Steven Birnbaum was again the team’s aerial monster, with 172 attempts and 110 completions lapping the field. He attempted exactly the same number of aerials this year as last, but he won 15 fewer, which saw his success ratio drop from 72.67% to 63.95. Miguel Aguilar played just 90 minutes, so his 4 tackles per 90 minutes comes from a very small sample size. Marcelo Sarvas’s 3.93 tackles per 90 is next in line, followed closely by Julian Buescher’s 3.83. That’s an unexpected number but it’s something promising for next year if Buescher can get more consistent minutes, especially when paired with his assists and key passes.

In another instance of small sample sizes, Jalen Robinson played just 271 minutes, but his pass completion percentage was better than Birnbaum and Bobby Boswell, his tackle success ratio led the team, he had more tackles per 90 than Boswell and Birnbaum, and his interceptions per 90 were second on the team. He needs to get more time at center back next season.

Let’s go to goalkeeping:

There’s not much to say about Bill Hamid. We know he’s great, and facing more shots per 90 than Travis Worra did, but allowing fewer goals just confirms it. That said, Worra’s numbers are adequate enough to serve as the primary backup next year.

It’s hard to know what changes will come in the offseason. Luciano Acosta’s 2017 status is undecided, we don’t know who we’ll lose in the expansion draft, and we don’t know what will happen at the draft. That said, there were some good statistical performances, both expected and unexpected, that have me looking forward to next season. Who did you like in 2016? Who do you want to see more from? Let me know in the comments.