FOXBORO, MA - MAY 12: Lee Nguyen #24 of the New England Revolution celebrates with teammate Shalrie Joseph #21 after Joseph scored a goal in the first half against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Gillette Stadium May 12, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images)
Numbers don't always tell the story, and no truer words can be spoken about Saturday night's victory over Vancouver. While the final score indicated a lopsided affair, a quick glance at the stat sheet doesn't seem quite as convincing.
New England scored four goals in a match for the first time since last September, and in the process racked up some pretty impressive numbers in the stat sheets. However, if you're looking for numbers to back up that 4-1 scoreline, you really have to look a little deeper, because the traditional stat sheet doesn't do it justice.
So, according to the numbers, where does this club stand? Are there still areas this squad can improve? If I can indulge in another sports cliché, "the numbers never lie".
I've already said a few times before, that when it comes to statistical analysis, soccer is the sport that the numbers don't completely mirror the result itself. Saturday was a good example of this theory, as you'll see as we break down the main stat sheet:
BREAKING DOWN THE MATCH STAT SHEET
What do we always talk about here in New England until we're blue in the face? Ok, other than a new stadium? Possession. We've always harped on how this team doesn't keep possession. Saturday night the possession stat was lopsided, but with a reason: teams playing from behind tend to have the ball more. It's true, when you're chasing the game, you tend to have more of the ball. So, take Vancouver's 58%-42% edge in possession and take it with a grain of salt. The 'Caps were chasing the match for most of the second half, which throws this stat completely out of whack.
Both sides did well with their possession however, with both clubs over 70% in passing percentage (NER 71.5%, VAN 75%). New England continues to improve in the passing department, which will also tie into the possession stat as well. When the Revs are stringing passes together and knocking the ball all over the field, their talented midfield takes over the match, and that will only lead to more positive results.
The shot stats from the match are a little more telling: New England took twice as many shots (18-9), but only hit the target two more times than Vancouver (7-5). The Revs were pulling the trigger from everywhere on the night (I personally was enjoying Clyde Simms setting off the long range cannon a few times) but what really matters is that they still managed to get a good amount on target. Getting the ball on frame makes good things happen, and I hope it's a sign of things to come.
Something that sticks out to me personally? The Revs didn't win one corner kick. Not one. Seems a bit odd for a team that was so well in front of the match. Not that this team has been particularly strong in that area, but it was certainly a stat that at a quick glance made me shrug a bit. Corner kicks are kind of a flukey thing anyway, so don't read too much into it, it was just one of those oddities that often come about in the beautiful game.
TAKING IT A LITTLE DEEPER
Several Revolution players are making strides towards better play in recent weeks, and their personal numbers are reflecting their quality of play:
Well, Nugyen was pretty obvious, with a couple of goals and an assist, but his 80% pass completion rate spoke volumes to how much he contributed to the match from an offensive standpoint. Nguyen also only lost possession five times all game, proving that while winning possession is key, keeping it is just as important.
Shalrie bossed the midfield like we all know he can, and his stat sheet certainly backs it up: Joseph only lost 5 passes all night, which contributed to his 88% (!!!) pass completion percentage, and the captan also only lost possession 6 times all match while being in the middle of the fray all night. In short, Shalrie really controlled the midfield on Saturday night, and had the impact the Revs needed him to.
Kevin Alston. Yup, that Kevin Alston. I've really enjoyed watching him play the past few weeks, and this victory may have been one of his better performances. He filled the stat sheet up for sure, completing 74% of his passes, and making 10 defensive stops on the night (6 interceptions and 4 clearances). Alston was good with the throw-ins also, going 7 for 11, and his only blemish was his 12 giveaways of possession. Alston played well on Saturday, and I particularly liked the fact that he only committed 2 fouls. We don't need him giving the opposition chances in dangerous places, and limiting his fouls goes a long way in dong that.
THE BAD: N/A
I've got to be honest here: Nobody really had an outright poor game in the stat sheet. Sure, there were singular stats that bugged me, so I guess we'll break those down:
Stephen McCarthy only completed 50% of his passes (9 for 18), and lost possession 9 times (that seems to be a lot for someone in the center of defense) so I'd like to see Macca be a little more cautious with the ball.
Blake Brettschneider may not have filled up the stat sheet, but he did a lot of the little things that help you win games: he won 6 headers, which led to 3 successful flick-ons for teammates to run onto. His passing percentage needs to be better (61%) and I'd like to see him keep possession a little more (lost possession 13 times), but the little hustle play he contributes are something every team needs.
THE JOE FRANCHINO AWARD
Benny Feilhaber OWNED the right flank on Saturday. He filled the stat sheet up with so many gaudy numbers he had to win this award.
First off, Benny completed 40 passes on the night, however he attempted 61, so the percentage needs to be a little bit better. A neat stat that MLS keeps is "key passes". Often times they're recorded as passes that lead to major events. Well, looking at that, Benny had three of them in one match.
Benny contributed huge on both ends of the field, and while he lost possession 24 times, he still won 6 free kicks for the team, and also recovered defensively 10 times. When you add to that his four shots and full 90 minute effort, Feilhaber is easily our Franchino Stat Stud of the week.
There were a lot of positive numbers on Saturday night, and I particularly enjoyed the huge disparity in the number of shots taken. The Revs were clearly on top of the match, and were firing from everywhere.
While you would have liked to see the possession stat be a little closer, it's fully understandable to sit back a bit with a three goal lead. While the match was still in the balance, the Revs had more than their fair share of the ball, and it showed in the final score.
As long as this team continues to attack with pace and precision, they're going to produce. With one of the most talented midfields in the league, the Revs will continue to put up positive stats offensively, and as long as the back four stays disciplined and steady, you might have to keep your schedule open in November.