Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chalkboards

For those of you who don't know, MLS has a brilliant feature for those of us with far too much time on our hands or who take our fantasy soccer far too seriously. They're called chalkboards, and I can spend hours analyzing them trying to discover players who are going under the radar and performing at a high level but just missing the final ball. I'm going to use the DC vs. SKC chalkboard ( http://www.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2012-03-10-dc-v-kc/chalkboard ) as my example this week to point out a few things. You can look at the chalkboards for all of the games and make similar comparisons between players as I have below to find which players are more likely to give us attacking returns. I'll surely be going through the chalkboards trying to figure out which player I should choose from teams with several similar options. Is Hassli, Le Toux, or Camilo the right choice in Vancouver? Buddle or Keane? Beltran or Wingert?

Comparing the attacking five
We all knew that SKC was going to be a good attacking team going into the season, we just weren't sure who might be playing the biggest parts. Based on yesterday's game, Convey and Sapong have dropped out of my consideration and if both Kamara and Zusi continue to play like they did yesterday, they'll come close to must own. What I've done for this analysis is to click each of the five attackers for SKC (Bunbury, Convey, Kamara, Sapong, Zusi) and then clicked on various stats from the right side to see how dangerous each player was.

Key passes and assists - These are essentially passes in the final third that create a good chance on goal. These 5 players combined for a total of 7 key passes + assists. Of those 7, 5 were from Zusi and 2 were from Convey. If you watched the game, Zusi was absolutely the creative force driving this team and this particular stat reflects that.

Crosses - The attackers combined for 14 crosses. Convey had 5 (all unsuccessful), Kamara had 1 (unsuccessful), Zusi had 8 (5 successful with one resulting in the goal). Again, Zusi dominates these stats.

Shots - These players had 10 shots between them. Zusi had 3, Sapong had 1, Bunbury had 2, and Kamara had 4. Kamara had the better of this category, but Zusi had his fair share as well.

Passes - This is the key indicator to me that tells us what each player's role is. If we look at Bunbury's and Sapong's passes in the attacking half, almost every single one of them is a pass backward - from this, I glean that their role is simply to hold up the ball for the other guys. Kamara's passes seemed to all be to the side or a drop into the middle. Convey's tended to be crosses. Zusi's, though, mostly seemed to be played forward and into the middle.

Heatmap - If you hover over a player's name you can see where each player spent most of their time. Convey didn't even get into the box, which is shocking for an attacking midfielder. Bunbury spent a lot of time right at the top of the box which gives him a bit of a grace period before he drops off my radar. Zusi was all over field playing in a free role. Kamara had the most time spent in the heart of the box out of any player, but most of his time was out on the right flank.

So, what does all this tell us? Basically, Zusi is given free-reign to roam, collect the ball, and distribute it forward. He's on free kicks and corners which should yield some goals and assists (as we saw yesterday). I'm trying to find a way to bring him into my team in all 3 MLS fantasy games. Kamara was also dangerous and I would say he had the best chances to score and only some great saves by Hamid denied him fantasy returns. Convey was largely disappointing for me, as I was hoping to find a gem playing out of position, but he really played more of a left midfield role than what I expected.

Comparing the outside backs
We can also utilize the chalkboards to rate which outside defenders are more likely to produce attacking returns. Sinovic and Myers are the two players we're looking at.

Heatmap and passes - Based on the heatmap, Myers got further up the line into the attacking third more often. He also had far more passes in the attacking third.

Crosses - Myers had three crosses into the box while Sinovic had none.

Shots, assists, key passes - Neither player had anything register in these categories.

So, what can we get out of this? Myers is far more likely to get an assist than Sinovic and that he has been given more freedom to attack. If you're choosing a defender from SKC, it should be Myers.

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