In this sporting world filled with overbearing statistics, fantasy sports and the dawn of "SabreMetrics" brought to light by the hit movie "Moneyball", the attention to the numbers in sports has never been higher. While almost anything can be analyzed using pure statistics, the beautiful game is usually a little more difficult to do so given it's free flowing nature on the pitch.
Statistics in soccer aren't as cut-and-dry as "did he get a hit" or "he ran for 85 yards". The approach to soccer stats is a bit more, dare I say, sophisticated. Soccer may be the sport in which stats tell the smallest part of the story, but that small part could turn out to be the difference in deciphering just what went wrong (or right).
So, I'd like to welcome you to the first installment of "Revs by Numbers". A nerdy, mathematical approach to analyzing the action we see on matchday. We're not going to get too crazy, but this will definitely give us another avenue in breaking down the performance of our beloved Revolution.
Throw on your thinking caps and pour another cup of coffee, because after the jump, we let the numbers do the talking in our analysis of the Revs' 1-0 loss to FC Dallas last week!
We'll break things down in two stages: The usual stat sheet we're used to seeing (shots on goal, saves, fouls, etc.) and then we'll spend a little time going a little deeper (and geekier I might add) and get into pass completions, coverage, and other less familiar stats.
BREAKING DOWN THE MATCH STAT SHEET
In a 0-0 match things are often times relatively even and similar. Both squads are either equally bad or good on the night, and Thursday night was no different. Shots on goal were even on 13, and New England had only one more of their efforts on-frame (5-4). Both sides created chances, although less than half on each side were on-goal (38% for the Revs) which speaks volumes to the job New England did defensively on the night.
Add to the shot numbers the numbers of shots New England blocked (5) and corners conceded (5) you can see that FC Dallas spent more than their share of time in the Revs defensive third. New England really did perform well defensively on Thursday night against a faster, more talented team.
What about the stat everyone loves to talk about? Possession. Many seasons now the mantra in Revs Land has been the lack of possession play and passing success. Thursday night quelled a lot of that talk, regardless of the result. New England won the possession percentage battle easily (59%-41%) indicating just how much they dictated play. Coach Heaps was well aware of the speed and creativity of the Dallas attack and you could see from the kick off that the Revs wanted to slow down the play and knock the ball around the park, limiting the counter-attacking opportunities. Mission accomplished, even though it was all undone by a late goal.
Passing is where the difference to me really stood out: on the night, the Revs completed 165 more passes than FC Dallas. That's a huge number. This stat alone should certainly encourage Revs fans going forward, because not only are the Revs sticking to their game plan and philosophy, but it's also working as well. Obviously, passing percentage was in the Revs' favor also, with a 76%-69% edge.
So, when you're getting dominated in the possession passing game, what do you often revert to? Fouls, bad challenges, and tactics designed to disrupt play. FC Dallas committed three times as many fouls than New England (12-4) Thursday night, again indicating the Revs having the better of the run of play.
So what can we take from the main stat sheet? Pretty much what we've all taken already: this was a match New England deserved a result. Almost every major stat was in New England's favor, which only adds to the frustration of the 1-0 loss.
TAKING IT A LITTLE DEEPER
We're going to go a little further into the numbers game, and actually take a look at players individually. Each week we'll give you the good and bad, hopefully shedding a little light onto what went wrong.
THE GOOD: A.J. Soares, Clyde Simms, Lee Nguyen, Shalrie Joseph
Huge games from these four players. A.J. Soares was everywhere along the back line, Simms owned the middle of the field, Lee Nugyen created more opportunities, and Shalrie was the general of the match.
Soares had a whopping 10 clearances, won 6 headers, while only conceding 1 foul. His "heatmap" (marking the position on the field where he made an impact) showed how much he owned the center of the Revs box. I'd like to see a better completion percentage from my CB (22/34 for 64%) but it's not far off from where I'd like it by any means.
Clyde Simms completed 46 passes on the night and only missed on 11 for a pass completion of 80%! Meaning he completes 4 out of every five passes, which shows just how important he is in the middle of the pitch. While Sims did lose the ball 12 times, that is a stat you expect from a player who's in the middle of it all.
Lee Nguyen bested SImms' tally, completing 50/59 passes (85%) and also won 3 fouls in dangerous positions for New England. The left midfielder played well along the flank all night, losing possession 12 times to tackles in 90 minutes, which isn't all that much considering how much of the ball he saw.
Shalrie was easily the stat man of the match. 64 (!!!) completed passes, a percentage of 87%, and only lost the ball 12 times, while winning 4 fouls. Joseph was the general in the midfield we expect him to be all night long.
THE BAD: Flo Lechner
First match jitters is my explanation on this one. Lechner certainly failed the "eye test" when you watched the match, and the numbers backed it up. The right back was only 28/46 passing for 61%, and the tall German also lost possession 18 times. An incredibly high number for your right back, as typically losing possession means opportunities for the opposing side.
Lechner also only won 1 tackle on the night, showing his inefficiency on the defensive end of the field. If you want a REALLY geeky stat that indicates futility? Flo Lechner only completed 3 of his 10 throw ins. A minor stat, but it all counts.
THE JOE FRANCHINO FULL STAT SHEET OF THE WEEK AWARD
This award, named for one of my favorite Revs who was well known for filling up the stat sheet, Mr. Joe Franchino, will be awarded to the player who each week fills up the stat sheet with huge numbers, both good and bad.
Chris Tierney had a huge stat night on both ends of the spectrum: 69 completed passes, but also missed on 31 attempts (69%). Tierney also was tackled and lost possession 35 times, indicating his up and down performance at left back. Tierney did go 10/13 on his throw ins, and also won 6 headers on the night.
So what does it all mean? Well, in the end, you can see New England did their job and won the possession battle, completed their passes, and limited the chances for the FC Dallas attack. Everything pointed towards the Revs gaining a result, it's just that pesky 96th minute goal got in the way.
The numbers never lie, and it's a great indicator that the Revs are staying true to their philosophy and style of play and are seeing some success with it. The passing and possession numbers are improving, and the bad fouls and conceded set pieces are decreasing. Everything is pointing towards a Revs resurgence in Foxboro.