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MLS Statistical Analysis 1.15: It's Back

It's close enough to the quarter pole for me to feel justified in looking at numbers. Wanna fight about it?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Life comes at you fast. I kept putting off MLS Statistical Analysis for the first part of the season, and putting it off, and putting it off... until it became the end of the MLS season and I was getting married. This season I'm back and focused and holy crap there are a lot of numbers. For the unfamiliar, what follows are a lot of stats relating to MLS offense, defense, goalkeeping, and D.C. United. I will show you stats, pick out a few standout cases, and also focus on how DCU's stats stand up. This year, there are a couple of new stats for offense and defense, but the D.C. player-specific stats have exploded, so much that it's gone into its own post to come. Without further Freddy Adu, let's get into it.

First up is the offense. Here are the numbers for every team to this point in alphabetical order:

Games Played / Goals / Shots / Shots on Goal / Wins-Draws-Losses / Points

1.15 Odata

It seems a little silly that we're just this far into the season, with an even number of teams, and already one team has played seven games while multiple teams have played four. I'm sure you've noticed that New York and New Jersey appear here. Since New York City FC actually plays in New York, they get to be referred to as New York. Sorry, not sorry. And hey, look at D.C. United being one of three teams with 10 or more points, while also only needing five games to get there.

From these numbers, we get most of these stats, sorted by points per game:

Goals per Game / Shots per Game / % of Shots on Goal / % of Shots = Goal / % of Shots on Goal = Goal / Possession % / Pass Completion % / Points per Game


The first number that stands out to me is Seattle's 8.80 shots per game, which you'll see is last in the league. I know Clint Dempsey has missed two of their five matches, but it's a surprise still that a team with he and Obafemi Martins is not shooting more. This is especially strange when you consider that they are on target 54.55% of the time, which is good for first, nearly 13% ahead of 2nd place New England, and 13.64% of their shots are goals, also 1st.

The only team in MLS averaging more than 1.5 goals per game is the Red Bulls, with 2.0. Teams are scoring just 2.09 goals per game in combined, so a 2.0 GPG number is fairly good, if generally unsustainable.

Orlando is the only team in the league completing over 80% of their passes (82% - what's up, Kaka?), though Montreal gets close with 79.8%. From this you could figure that there's no direct correlation between completing passes and winning, because look at Montreal.

At first glance, United's offensive numbers look pedestrian at best. Being tied for the league lead in PPG while only scoring 1.0 GPG is usually something indicative of good defense or good goalkeeping. Which will it be? In either case, the team needs to put some more goals in, and the returns of Luis Silva and Fabian Espindola will go a long way toward that.

What's next is the ranking of each team in the aforementioned statistics, sorted by PPG. The top three in each category are blue, and the bottom three are red.


Holy crap. Toronto is statistically fantastic, but on the table where it counts they're abysmal. I can't wait to see how their defensive numbers look. They're scoring 1.5 goals per game on just 11.25 shots per game. That's solid efficiency.

Below them is Montreal, who at least can hang their hat on the fact that they have the ball a lot (53.8%) and complete their passes. That's something, right? Right?

There's a lot more intermingling of reds and blues here than usual, and part of that is down to how early in the year it is. For the most part, the reds stay near the bottom and the blues near the top, but you have Toronto way down there, and New England with generally poor numbers hanging out in the middle. They don't shoot much and they don't score much. What's saving them?

For United, the only decent number is their shooting percentage of 36.84%, which is 5th. Otherwise it's a bunch of mid-table to near bottom of the table. I actually figured they'd be worse off on possession than 49.1% and 13th, and the passing number of 73.4% and 16th really isn't surprising given the propensity for playing Jairo Arrieta in the air. Obviously other numbers will favor United, so let's get to the defense. Here are the numbers, which are the same as the offense, but you have to think of them as [team name] has allowed...


Well, they've played more games than teams below them in the actual table, but Philadelphia has allowed the most points to be won against them. On the other end of things, the stingiest lot is the Red Bulls, who are an unfortunate rebound away from being further down on this list.

Vancouver's shots allowed number is alarming, until you realize they've played seven games. Meanwhile, just 12 shots behind them with two games in hand are D.C. United. Oof. That won't be good in the rankings.

All same as the offense, except take out possession and passing % in favor of tackles and interceptions


Here are two teams allowing .50 GPG or less: Houston and Colorado. Colorado's offensive output was nil until they exploded in Dallas this past weekend. You have to figure if either of them were scoring (they're 16th and 17th in offensive GPG respectively), they'd be significantly better off.

And there's Toronto's defense dragging down their offense. Scoring 1.5 GPG doesn't help when you're allowing 2.0 GPG, and as you'll see shortly they're at or right near the bottom in more than half of the stats here.

I'm going to get more into United's defensive numbers shortly, but one thing that sticks out to me is the number of successful tackles. Without looking at the ranking, I can tell it's not going to be very good in comparison with the rest of the league. I thought this number would be much higher.


This is a more clear separation of the blues and reds. One thing that I noticed is that the top three tackling teams are in the top 4 in PPG allowed. Of course, the one outlier is DCU. Also note that DCU and the Red Bulls are succeeding despite allowing a lot of shots, and while the Red Bulls aren't seeing a lot of those on frame (29.31%, 7th), United is seeing a fair amount (36.36%, 13th).

Let's pause for a moment before getting to D.C. to recognize Philadelphia, Portland, and Montreal, who make up the bottom three in SOG=G, which is essentially save percentage, plus any non-goalkeeper saves. Philly and Montreal should be thankful that they rank 5th and 7th in shots per game, else their standing could be much worse, because opponents are finding the target (16th and 13th). Portland, on the other hand allow a fair amount of shots (14th), but the opposing accuracy is not so good (2nd).

United is dead last in shots allowed per game, with 0.65 more than Toronto, and opposition accuracy is moderate. Thankfully, United ranks 3rd and 2nd in %S=G and %SOG=G, which usually means good things for...



These are shots on goal faced and saves, with their per game measurements, plus (and sorted by) save percentage. Note that you want low shots faced (bottom 3 blue) but high saves made (top 3 blue) At the top in save percentage are Houston and Colorado, who are putting up great save numbers but without facing many shots per game. It's still hard to argue with save percentages above 85. Lurking just beneath them are D.C. United and the Galaxy. The Galaxy numbers are impressive when you consider that they're facing a pretty heavy shot volume and they've played two goalkeepers. United obviously have only played Bill Hamid, who has been fantastic as usual. Considering the offensive numbers for the team and the defense's propensity for giving up shooting opportunities, it's not hard to guess where DCU would be without Hamid.

Looking towards the bottom, Toronto have faced the most shots per game and have the most saves per game, but those numbers are going to have to either shrink or get closer together, because it isn't working for them right now. All the way at the end, Porland, Montreal, and Philadelphia are the only teams hanging out with save percentages under 60. They are also the only teams hanging out with save percentages under 65. I am the first to say that goalkeeping numbers are the most questionable of the lot because they don't measure for shot location or difficulty, but these numbers are still eye opening. Portland is actually in the bottom three in shots faced, but they clearly still aren't saving them.

That'll do it for MLS as a whole. Tomorrow, it's DCU's individual player statistics.