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D.C. United Statistical Analysis 1.17

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The good, the bad, and the ugly

We’re about one third of the way through the season, so it seems like a good time to look at how D.C. United’s players are performing. It’s no secret that the way the team closed out the 2016 regular season hasn’t carried over to 2017. Injuries to players that were vital to 2016’s stretch run, such as Patrick Mullins, Steve Birnbaum, Nick DeLeon, and Patrick Nyarko have played a big part, but it’s not the only reason for the struggles. Though numbers aren’t everything, comparing the statistics of some players against those of last season can be a window into why a team is struggling, and I’m going to get into a bit of that below.

For each category, the leading number will be filled with red for players with 400 or more minutes, and any leaders with less than 400 minutes will have red numbers with a light shading behind it. This first graphic is focused on shooting and goals.

Categories: Minutes, goals, assists, shots, shots on goal, goals per 90, assists per 90, shots per 90, shots on goal per 90, % of shots on goal, % shots resulting in goals, % of shots on goal resulting in goals

Bill Hamid and Taylor Kemp have each missed just one game, so they’re tied for the lead in minutes. Luciano Acosta is the unexpected leader in goals scored, but he’s already equaled last season’s goal tally. That said, his assists have dropped precipitously, from 0.45 per 90 minutes to 0.12. At this rate, if he plays the same number of minutes as last season (2176,) he’ll end up with under three assists. He had 11 last season. Lamar Neagle and Acosta are tied for the lead in both shots and shots on goal, but Patrick Mullins is the most frequent shooter, with 2.92 per 90 minutes (Alhaji Kamara has one in 14 minutes, so he’s disqualified on sample size.) Jose Ortiz is the most frequently accurate player, with 1.09 shots on goal per 90 minutes.

The arrival of Patrick Mullins was an offensive spark for DCU last season. He has not scored this season in his limited action, playing less than one third of the available minutes. His shots per 90 this season (2.92) is almost identical to last season (2.93), but shots on goal per 90 has dropped from 1.42 to 0.67, which indicates that he’s troubling the goalkeeper far less often this year. With a sample size of just 13 shots, it’s probably too early to jump to conclusions, so that number will be one to watch when Mullins gets back from surgery.

Now we move on to more in-depth offensive numbers.

Categories: Total passes, passes completed, pass completion percentage, key passes, key passes per 90, attempted dribbles, successful dribbles, dribble completion percentage, dribbles completed per 90, offsides, offsides per 90, unsuccessful first touches, times dispossessed, loss of possession per 90 (a combination of the previous two categories)

Taylor Kemp’s presence as the most active passer is no surprise. He was second last year behind Marcelo Sarvas, who has had much less playing time this season. Look at Ian Harkes, leading the team in passes completed and pass completion percentage (there are three players better than 80%, but combined they’ve played less than half of Harkes’s minutes.) Luciano Acosta led the team in key passes last season, but Lloyd Sam leads now. There’s not much reason to be alarmed there though, because Acosta’s key passes per 90 number of 1.98 is nearly identical to last season’s 2.03. An honorable mention here goes to Julian Buescher, who has four key passes in just 144 minutes. Acosta is still the team’s dribble king, and he’s more successful this season (56.14%) than last (47.37%.) Unsurprisingly, Jose Ortiz is the most frequent offside player on the team, even if Lamar Neagle has more overall. Another place that Acosta still leads is in loss of possession, where he’s seen an increase per 90 from 5.58 in 2016 to 6.05. I had been hoping for that number to come down just a bit, but at least the increase is not tremendous. A dishonorable mention here goes to Julian Buescher, who’s been dispossessed 11 times in just 144 minutes.

Now we move on to defending.

Categories: Attempted tackles, successful tackles, tackle completion percentage, successful tackles per 90, interceptions, interceptions per 90, attempted aerials, successful aerials, aerial percentage, successful aerials per 90

In 2016 Marcelo Sarvas was a tackling machine, completing more tackles (100) than any teammate attempted. This season has seen Sarvas’s playing time drop, along with his production. His tackles per 90 dropped from 3.93 to 2.86, and his tackle percentage has fallen off a cliff, from 70.92% to 46.81. He also led the team in 2016 with 3.30 interceptions per 90, but he has 2.47 this season. Thankfully for D.C., someone is doing a reasonable impression of 2016 Marcelo:

At this rate, Jared Jeffrey would complete 0.8 more tackles than 2016 Marcelo in 11 fewer attempts if he played the same amount of minutes. Jeffrey’s 3.96 tackles per 90 is 7th best in MLS (400+ minutes.) Patrick Nyarko is not far behind Jeffrey, with 3.54 tackles per 90. His defensive work should never be overlooked.

Steve Birnbaum retains the crown of the aerial king, attempting and completing more than any teammate. His percentage has improved from 63.95% in 2016 to 74% this season. On the other side of that coin is Bobby Boswell, whose aerial percentage of 57.43% in 2016 has fallen to 40% this season, while his tackles per 90 have dropped from 1.16 to 0.88, and his tackle percentage has dropped to 53.85% from 72.92%.

Lastly is the goalkeepers.

Categories: Minutes, shots faced, saves made, goals allowed, shots faced per 90, saves per 90, goals allowed per 90, save percentage

2017 Bill Hamid is facing 1.66 more shots and making 1.39 more saves per 90 than in 2016. His goals per 90 is up from 1.25 to 1.54, but his save percentage is up from 73.12% to 74.39%. He has made 61 saves, which is nine more than the next closest player (Joe Bendik), in 180 fewer minutes. D.C. as a whole allows 16.1 shots per game, 1.5 more than second place Minnesota. This is all to say that if your team allows a lot of shots, you’re going to concede a lot of goals, even if your goalkeeper is fantastic. Allowing a high number of shots has been a problem for United for a long time, and it’s rearing its ugly head again this season. Bill Hamid is great, but there’s only so much he can do.

While 2017’s on-field results have not been good, there have been some statistical bright spots. This team needs to get healthy, and the results may not come until that happens. What do you like and dislike thus far this season? Is there anyone that, statistically speaking, you feel should be playing more (or playing less)? Let me know in the comments.