FOXBORO, MA - MAY 12: Saer Sene #39 of the New England Revolution reacts to a save made by goalkeeper Joe Cannon #1 of the Vancouver Whitecaps at Gillette Stadium May 12, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Sene scored a goal in the first half of the game. (Photo by Gail Oskin/Getty Images)
There's an incredible amount of ways you can break down a match like Saturday night's 2-2 draw with Houston, but we're going to take emotion out of it and stick solely to the numbers in this column!
Without getting overly analytical, the stats from Saturday night actually mirror the physical nature of the match quite well, and while the match ended on level terms, it was plain to see in sheer numbers how much Houston dominated the flow of the game.
In this week's column, it's time to analyze the old debate of physical strength versus technical prowess. New England did all they could to knock the ball around the park while taking a beating in the process. Will the numbers provide us a winner? Or do we need more than just black and white information to really come to a conclusion? After the jump, we dive head first into the stat sheet in this week's Revs by Numbers!
The main stat sheet contains a good amount of indicators that jump off the page at you, so let's start there:
BREAKING DOWN THE MAIN STAT SHEET
POSSESSION. Again, the Revs were playing with lead in this contest on two occasions which leads to seeing a little less of the ball, but a 62-38 disparity is a bit on the high side. New England was getting pushed around for most of the second half, and with all of the lost possession, you could FEEL the equalizer coming.
Houston certainly did a little more with the possession that they had on the night, with a very effective 81% pass completion rate (over 500 total passes to NE's 335, a big gap), while New England suffered in that department at 68%. While the Revs percentage isn't awful, it certainly wasn't enough to be effective. The loss of Clyde Simms was certainly felt the most in the passing and possession department.
The second largest category was obviously the number of fouls committed by both teams. Houston "won" that battle too, with 18 fouls to the Revs 13, and when you couple that with the shot stats for both sides, it's really an indicator of how ugly this one was at times.
Shots, both on target and not, were paltry. The Revs put 5 shots on frame, while Houston managed 3 (which means a 66% conversion rate), and even the total number of attempts were both under 10 for both sides. This truly indicates the nature of the match, as it was bogged down in the midfield for periods of time, and then completely offensively inept in others.
Outside of those few categories, everything else was relatively even. Corner kicks were hardly existent, and the category of "duels won" (signifying 50/50 balls, etc.) were also even. You'd expect a lot of parity in the stat sheet in a draw, but it was pretty interesting to see how two teams took two different approaches to get there.
TAKING IT A LITTLE DEEPER
Luckily, there were several individual performances worth talking about on Saturday night. Here's a look at a few players, both good and bad:
THE GOOD: AJ Soares, Shalrie Joseph
Soares continues to be a stalwart in the center of defense, and his statistical output showed it on Saturday: the 21 successful passes are nice, but it's the 9 headers won and 7 clearances that pop out at you.
Shalrie was every bit the DP on Saturday night, and his most impressive stat was the team-leading 32 successful passes from his center midfield spot. Shalrie limited his number of turnovers (only tackled 7 times for a loss of possession) and also kept his fouls to a minimum. One of my biggest gripes with him is earning that early yellow card which always seems to affect his play, so with his clean disciplinary record on this night, you could see how much he controlled the midfield.
THE BAD: Chris Tierney
Man oh man. I can't seem to figure out Tierney's stat sheet every week. Seriously, 40 (!!!) times he was tackled and lost possession, and he actually had more un-successful passes than completed ones (38 to 28). Do the math, that means Tierney is only completing 42% of his passes. He was also only 5 for 12 on throw-ins also.
Is the match REALLY flowing through him that much? The next nearest player only lost possession 15 times (Ryan Guy). That means Tierney is losing the ball almost three times as much as his next teammate. Earlier in the year I made the argument that maybe he is seeing more of the ball which leads to more opportunities to lose possession, but now the percentages aren't even good.
Does Jay Heaps need to give someone else a run out at LB? Or is this just one of those situations where we are just going to live and die with this player?
THE JOE FRANCHINO AWARD: Saer Sene
A penalty kick goal, a goal from the run of play (that was also recorded as unassisted), only 14 successful passes, tackled 9 times, but added 3 free kicks and sold popcorn after he was subbed (okay, made that part up, but it seemed like he was doing everything else).
To be fair, his pass percentage was good (14/18, 77.7%) so I can't really get on him for that, and after examining his heat map and seeing how many times he tracked back down the left side to play defense, Saer almost certainly put in a full night's work.
New England needs to find a way to get a little more time on the ball, and then keeping it in a much better manner. There's no shortage of opportunities for the Revs when they have such a dynamic midfield paired with Saer Sene. If the Revs can limit the number of turnovers, and perhaps create more "quality" chances, the results would be a little better.
If team are going to attack the New England offensive weapons like Houston did on Saturday by trying to pummel them into submission, it puts that much more emphasis on keeping things fluid and under control. Better passing, more chances on goal, and higher possession will lead to more positive results in the future.
Staying off the referee's sheet is going to be critical as well. You saw how much of a different player Shalrie can be when he's not worried about that second yellow, and if Heaps can get Benny Feilhaber to calm down and not hurt the team, the Revs should continue to trend upward in the Eastern Conference.