Player Acquisition: The Tweeners

There is a thing that constantly steals my interest when it comes Major League Soccer. It’s how teams choose to scout and evaluate talent that is already in the league. One thing that has been made quite clear with the financial constraints is that it is difficult to hold on to those players that hover around the $200,000 salary threshold, and yet aren’t stars or obviously consistent difference makers.

Player makers such as Chris Rolfe, Mauro Rosales and Bobby Convey have found new homes in MLS, either in the few months leading up to this season or since the first kick. The names themselves aren’t specific references of importance, but rather examples of what happens in the off-season concerning players in the aforementioned pay range that are just casualties of cap situations in today’s era.

These players we understand to a degree. They are interesting talents with a fair amount of room for critiquing, whether that be due to personality, problems with injuries or just inconsistent displays of performance from week to week. There are always one or two or even three (in this case) of these players that are available come the off-season.

Two of the three players went to clubs with the ability to take chances.

Chivas USA was obviously getting a steal in adding Rosales. Super Mauro, since being added to the roster, has accrued 17 key passes and 3 assists while producing 12 shots on his own. He leads the club in Total Shots Created.

DC United needed anything to help save their season and jump start their offense. The arrival of Rolfe in return for a bit of allocation money was seemingly a worthwhile risk–and his influence on Ben Olsen’s chances of keeping the head coaching job can probably be debated to some extent. Prior to the trade, Olsen and DC United had only produced 1 point through 3 matches. Since the addition of Rolfe, they’re now rolling at nearly 2 points per match.

Now, I’m not saying that Rolfe is truly responsible for the turn around. That idea would represent lazy analysis. In fact, DC United generated 34 shot attempts to its opponents’ 36 in the first three games, and 108 to 112 since, so it’s not like Rolfe’s presence has indicated a stable improvement yet. Frankly, since MLS week 4, it’s been the Fabian Espindola show at RFK, and that is a completely different discussion.

On to Convey, who didn’t go to a team that had to take on a lot of risk. Instead he went to the defending Supporters’ Shield-winning New York Red Bulls. He has been somewhat of middling attacking influence in his time on the pitch for the Bulls, adding 9 key passes and 2 shots in just under 700 minutes over his initial tenure this season.

WhoScored isn’t exactly impressed. They have graded his performance so far by issuing him a 6.39 rating which is well below their league average rating for a player—which sits near 6.7. Squawka ranks him 16th on the  roster depth chart which mostly follows up that thinking being that WhoScored placed him 15th overall.

These three players represent teams that have taken advantage of a system available to them in an effort to improve their club. What is intriguing to me at this juncture isn’t necessarily the impact they’ve made upon their current club but how their current clubs targeted them as being upgrades and financially worth their investments.

I’m sure that MLS teams have personnel that help front office types make decisions and help discern player talent and ability that make them right for the acquisition. I am familiar enough with certain clubs to be aware of the individuals that are involved in that process, and much of it seems archaic and awkward in method.

Mauro Rosales may have been less of a risk when it comes to Chivas. In fact it was kind of “duh” type moment that perfectly fell in their lap. The other side of the coin is that Rolfe and Convey were both risks, and heavy ones at that considering their price tags (before New York lapped Convey up, that is).

I would certainly concede that all are substantial talents within the US first division. But how they fit the rosters to which they were added to is a bit interesting.

Some could point to Convey’s addition to New York as an attempt to add competition to the left side and some wide play making, Convey has instead shifted to the back line in the form of a full back. Which begs the question, was that the idea before he was added?

I, as well as many, had thought Luis Silva would be taking over the role of central play maker in Washington after the departure of Dwayne De Rosario. After the stumbles by Silva early on, I thought that Rolfe would take over that role, but instead he looks to be pushed out wide with Nick DeLeon, being featured more frequently in the central attacking role. Was this a decision made before acquiring him, and did the club think he could fill that role any better than some of the more natural wide midfielders who have moved clubs since?

Results-based analysis is often unhelpful, and in these cases, don’t truly tell the story we’re seeking in how MLS teams are valuing these types of players. I’m curious if there are any specific statistical values that teams could point to as to why they made this move–and please, I hope it’s more than the assists or goals totals, or the fact that they’re “winners.” For all the talk about transparency in details for the league, it would be nice to see some of the true thought processes involved in analyzing these talents beyond tired cliches. Especially considering that all these clubs they have access to far better gauges and methods than what most of us have at our disposal.

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How It Happened: Week Two

I’ll be frank: either week two of the MLS season was much less exciting than week one, or I did a poor job of picking games to watch and analyze this week. My bet is that both are true. Anyway, onto the show in which I take a look at three games from the weekend and pick a stat or Opta chalkboard image for each team that tells the story of how they played (last week’s version is here if you missed it):

Sporting Kansas City 1 – 1 FC Dallas

Stat that told the story for Dallas: outpassed 418-213, including 103-41 in the game’s first half hour

A thought occurred to me when watching this game: Sporting Kansas City has to look a lot like a prototype of what Oscar Pareja wants out of his teams. From the formation to the high-pressing, KC has long made their money by manhandling opponents as soon as they get on the ball and not letting them get comfortable. In this game, Sporting came out fired up at home and simply punched Dallas in the mouth (not even completely a figure of speech – this game was brutally physical). The high-pressing from KC’s entire team had FCD out of sorts for most of the first half, particularly the first 30 minutes, when they mustered only 41 completed passes.

But the Hoops managed a road draw against the defending champs, so the game wasn’t completely a story of getting worked over. As the game wore on and Sporting found it difficult to keep up the constant pressure, Dallas was able to grow into the game a bit. They certainly were never dominant, but another very good game from Mauro Diaz and some smart counter-attacks allowed Pareja’s team to stem the tide for the majority of the game. In the end, it was fitting that the slugfest of a game saw just two goals, both from set pieces, but Dallas should feel good about how they played as the game progressed and were able to steal a point.

Stat that told the story for Kansas City: lack of production from forward line: 15 offensive actions in attacking third

kc2

Sporting KC won MLS Cup last year and has unquestionably been one of the league’s best teams for the last few seasons. But few would argue that this success is built on a very strong defense and midfield. The forward line has often been sort of an Achilles’ heel for this squad, especially now that Kei Kamara has moved on. In this game, Graham Zusi was held out so he could stay fresh for CONCACAF Champions League action, and DP forward Claudio Bieler only came on for the last 13 minutes. But the five players who saw time at a forward spot for KC (Bieler, Dom Dwyer, Sal Zizzo, CJ Sapong and Jacob Peterson) combined to register 15 offensive actions in the attacking third. 

To be clear, that ‘offensive actions’ stat that’s illustrated above might have been made up by me just now, but it encompasses successful passes, dribbles, and all shot attempts. Too often on Saturday, and really for the last few years, Kansas City has dominated the game until the last thirty yards of the field, where they lack ideas. Getting Zusi back will likely help, as would playing Claudio Bieler for a full 90 minutes, but Sporting will need some more creativity and production from their forwards if they hope to lift another trophy this season.

Chivas USA 1 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Stat that told the story for Vancouver: only 53 passes in the offensive third (23 of which were after Kekuta Manneh came on in the 60th minute)

I tuned in for the Chivas-Vancouver matchup excited to see an offensive battle between two sides that combined for 7 goals in week one. Instead, I saw an early red card to the Goats’ Agustin Pelletieri followed by a lot of dull possession for Vancouver against a surprisingly organized team in red and white stripes. After looking so deadly in attack against New York, the Whitecaps looked completely lost for ideas on Sunday, with the only forays into the offensive third seeming to come from chips over the top from the superb Pedro Morales. That all changed when Kekuta Manneh came on, as he attacked the Chivas defense with and without the ball, causing fits for Eric Avila and eventually scoring the equalizer for the ‘Caps. Still, after playing 87 minutes against 10 men, Vancouver has to be rightfully disappointed at only earning a point.

Stat that told the story for Chivas: Mauro Rosales turning back the clock: 151 actions

chv2

The Seattle Sounders traded Mauro Rosales to Chivas this offseason because he was too expensive and too old to fit into the club’s plans for 2014. Nobody even really argued with the decision, though Rosales is undeniably a classy player and won the league’s Newcomer of the Year award in 2011. So far in 2014, playing in the red and white of the Goat Zombies, Rosales has looked a lot like the 2011 playmaker that Sounders fans knew and loved. Playing down a man, Rosales was everything you could hope from a smart, skilled veteran; he hoofed it up field when in trouble so his team could get organized, he led smart counter-attacks and he kept the ball when possible (with the help of Erick Torres, who also played very well). All in all, he registered 151 actions in Opta’s chalkboard, 12 more than any other player and a whopping 47 more than his nearest teammate. Not bad for a washed-up 33-year-old.

Houston Dynamo 1 – 0 Montreal Impact

Stat that told the story for Montreal: Marco Di Vaio‘s non-existant heat map

mtl2

I’ve watched about 120 minutes of Montreal Impact soccer in the season’s first two weeks, and just about every one of those minutes has been more impressive than I expected from the Impact this season. Despite having zero points from their first two games (both on the road), they’ve actually looked pretty good on the field. Justin Mapp is doing Justin Mapp things (like this awesome run & assist from week 1), Hernan Bernardello and Patrice Bernier are pinging beautiful balls to open up space, and Felipe and Andrew Wenger are getting in pretty good goal-scoring spots. So what’s the reason behind the zero points? Well, not putting chances away against the Dynamo killed Montreal. ASA’s shot numbers had their xGF at 1.15 this week, but there were plenty of other times that they wasted dangerous opportunities (one particular Wenger near-breakaway early in the first half stands out). If All-Star Italian striker Marco Di Vaio wasn’t suspended, I have a hard time believing the Impact gets shutout last week.

Stat that told the story for Houston: 8 fouls conceded in the defensive third

This was another game where what I ended up watching did not line up with the expectations I had going in. After an open, attack-filled opening game with New England, Houston came out and didn’t really do much offensively against Montreal. It was actually sort of a gameplan of old-school Dom Kinnear, as the Dynamo got an early goal thanks to a deflected Will Bruin shot, and then packed it in and made themselves hard to beat. They sat in two organized banks of four so that only the perfect ball from Montreal would be enough to beat them, and when it looked like they might get beaten, they did the professional thing and took a foul. Eight of Houston’s 14 fouls conceded were in their defensive third, and while I can’t offer much perspective on whether that’s a high proportion compared to league average, I can tell you that many of them occurred when Montreal players were breaking away and getting ready to provide a scoring chance.

Agree with my assessments? Think I’m an idiot? I always enjoy feedback. @MLSAtheist or MLSAtheist@gmail.com

ASA Fantasy League Update Round 1: Gotta Have Higuain

MLS Fantasy players, it’s that time of the week to make your transfers–if you haven’t already–and get that starting XI ready for the weekend. Obviously the big winners of the week are basically anyone who owned either Mauro Rosales, Mario Diaz—or to go in a different direction, less ‘M’ related direction—Federico Higuain. Didn’t have any of those picks? Not a big deal, now is a team to reload and get cleaned up. We’ve got round 2 this weekend with some interesting match-ups.

Here is the dream XI for last week:

DreamTeam-week1

And here are the current league standings as of round 1.

# Team   Manager    RD   %AARd    TOT     Team$     Captain    Points
1 Khal Jogo Bazzo 79 1.927 79 119.3 Rosales 12
2 This Stuff Kicks Cris Pannullo 75 1.829 75 120.7 Keane 4
2 Major League Clowns Tom Worville 75 1.829 75 118.8 Higuain 22
4 Bridgeburners FC Chris Gluck 74 1.805 74 120.2 Valeri 4
5 Cal Poly FC Emil Barycki 73 1.780 73 115.2 Higuain 22
6 En Fuego e margolis 70 1.707 70 120.3 Nagbe 6
7 LingeringwithIntent Jason Onorati 69 1.683 69 119.1 Higuain 22
8 The Other Higuain Jacob Beckett 64 1.561 64 119.7 Urruti 4
8 A.S. Trincamp Martin F 64 1.561 64 119.3 Higuian 22
10 DallasTilIDie Benjamin Hester 62 1.512 62 116.6 Keane 4
11 Real Sporting Utd FC Eric J. Walcott 60 1.463 60 118 Valeri 4
12 WOMBATZ Casey Cannon 59 1.439 59 114.6 Higuain 22
13 NotToBeFeared Harrison Crow 53 1.293 53 119.6 Keane 4
14 PasarChino! Jason Poon 48 1.171 48 120.2 Higuain 22
15 Amrodg Mick Lathrop 44 1.073 44 116.2 Martins 4
16 PDX Hoosiers Brad Snook 39 0.951 39 120.2 Nagbe 6
16 Draft Code United Louis Pardillo 39 0.951 39 119.5 Beiler 0
18 PortlandatHeart Forrest Ellis 34 0.829 34 118.7 Valeri 4
19 Tootie Urruti Drew Olsen 33 0.805 33 118.6 Magee 0
20 letskillrobots Bill Vegas 22 0.537 22 117.6 Magee 0
 Averages 56.8 1.385  56.8 118.62 9.4

RD: Round Points

%AARd: Percentage Above Average Round Points

Team$: How much the team spent on their players

A quick thought—and my heart goes out to our own PasarChino! for this one—you gotta start Rimando, buddy! You sat the highest point total in the league. Ouch! As for our crew here at ASA, most of us (Jacob, Drew, Jason, myself and poor Bill) did okay, with the most notable stand out of the bunch being Cris Pannullo and a bit farther down Chris Gluck. We’ll head to the next round and see if those two can distance themselves from the rest of the ASA community.

Again, this is for an undisclosed, not-yet-valued prize that is available to all whom play. It could be a Meatloaf interactive blu-ray, it could be a soccer ball, it could be a scarf of your choosing. Matty might spend a couple hours on Skype teaching you how to use R. Who knows what we’ll come up with. The only promise is that it won’t be terrible. Code to enter is 9593-1668, should you care to join in the fun/recklessness that is fantasy sports.

The three teams that are noticeably absent this round are Columbus Crew, DC United and LA Galaxy. I’m sure this will kind of cause a bit of reshuffling to occur as many, including myself, had been sporting Robbie Keane as their captain, and it will most certainly require some movement along the bench. But this is where you earn the coveted prize. No, not the Sheva, though I’m sure we can come up with an equally inspiring annual trophy name.

I’m sure you all have better advice/thoughts than what I have for MLS fantasy, so I’ll point you towards a couple of sites that have some stats and feed back on last week.

– Mr. Fantasy, Ben Jata, recaps the hap’s with round 1.

Big D Soccer does a nice preview of not just Dallas FC players but also some thoughts on MLS as a whole.

– Sticking with the Texas theme, Dynamo Theory has some fantastic numbers/stuff that deserves recognition for their work. Great job by TraviTheRabbi and I would say give him a follow on twitter but I don’t see any such thing connected to his account, and that makes me a sad panda. Anyways…go read the article here. Solid, solid stuff.

I leave you with the current top-50 hottest players being selected as of 10:30 last night. I’ve equipped you to make some good decisions. Now go forth and conquer. The catch is that only one of you will win. Anyone have any top secrets for how they plan on winning the league? I hear finding people that stop goals and in return score goals are really good to have? Any other methods or suggestions?

Player  Team   Pos   Selected   Price   Round   Total 
Sarkodie HOU DEF 33.9% $6.6 9 9
Remick SEA DEF 33.8% $4.1 8 8
Fagundez NE MID 28.9% $8.0 3 3
Yedlin SEA DEF 26.0% $7.5 7 7
Kennedy CHV GKP 25.6% $4.5 4 4
Fondy CHV FWD 24.9% $4.0 0 0
Rimando RSL GKP 23.3% $6.1 15 15
Magee CHI FWD 21.5% $10.5 0 0
Bruin HOU FWD 21.2% $8.2 15 15
Zusi KC MID 20.6% $11.0 3 3
Plata RSL FWD 20.1% $7.0 9 9
Griffiths COL DEF 19.3% $4.0 0 0
Moor COL DEF 18.6% $7.0 0 0
Collin KC DEF 18.0% $10.0 3 3
Loyd DAL DEF 17.9% $5.5 0 0
Jewsbury POR DEF 17.7% $6.5 2 2
Nagbe POR MID 17.1% $9.5 3 3
Juninho LA MID 17.0% $7.0 3 3
Keane LA FWD 17.0% $10.9 2 2
Cronin SJ MID 17.0% $6.5 0 0
Porter DC MID 16.7% $5.0 1 1
Ricketts POR GKP 16.7% $6.0 5 5
Harrington POR DEF 16.5% $7.5 3 3
Jimenez CLB MID 16.0% $5.5 6 6
Rosales CHV MID 14.7% $7.6 12 12
Hall HOU GKP 14.3% $6.0 8 8
Valeri POR MID 14.1% $10.5 2 2
Wondolowski SJ FWD 13.6% $9.5 0 0
Higuaín CLB FWD 13.5% $10.5 11 11
Burling CHV DEF 12.7% $5.1 9 9
McNamara CHV MID 12.6% $4.6 7 7
Ashe HOU DEF 12.6% $7.1 11 11
Malki MTL MID 12.6% $4.0 0 0
Donovan LA MID 12.5% $11.0 7 7
Moffat DAL MID 12.2% $5.9 0 0
Palmer-Brown KC DEF 11.6% $4.0 0 0
Defoe TOR FWD 11.6% $10.5 0 0
Horst HOU DEF 11.5% $5.6 8 8
Melia CHV GKP 11.1% $3.0 0 0
Parke DC DEF 10.7% $6.9 2 2
Martins SEA FWD 10.7% $9.5 2 2
Bradley TOR MID 10.4% $10.0 0 0
McBean LA FWD 10.0% $5.0 0 0
E. Miller MTL DEF 9.8% $4.5 2 2
MacMath PHI GKP 9.6% $5.0 3 3
Manneh VAN FWD 9.6% $6.5 1 1
Urruti POR FWD 9.4% $7.0 2 2
Messoudi MTL MID 9.0% $4.0 0 0
Henry NY FWD 8.9% $11.0 0 0
Franklin DC DEF 8.8% $7.9 2 2

Season Preview: Chivas USA

Most people would associate Chivas USA with the pinnacle of terribleness within MLS. They’ve accrued all of 56 points combined the last two seasons which barely eclipses the LA Galaxy totals, their evil timeshare neighbor, over the course of just one year. The club from the beginning has sported a feel that was awkward—almost insulting—and it has been a bit of an outcast from the rest of the league.

Despite what we all know about them now, it’s easy to forget that as few as five years ago they were the more dominant LA brand, earning top-three finishes in 2006, 2007 and in 2008. They were lead by the likes of US internationals Brad Guzan, Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein. They boasted the scoring prowess of Ante Razov, one of the premier scoring talents in MLS history, who is still the club’s all-time goal scorer. Despite the recent woes, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they could return to a run of strong form. But it will likely need to be built upon the youth and Academy products they’ve been working to develop, as Chivas USA has been cited as one of the more talent rich organizations at the youth level.

Make no mistake about it; things are just starting to get interesting in the City of Angels.

2013 Finish: 26 points, 9th in the Western Conference, Missed Playoffs
ChivasXI

Player Added Position From Player Lost Position To
Andrew Jean-Baptiste D traded from Portland Timbers Patrick McLain GK Option Declined
Tony Lochhead D Free (Wellington Phoenix) Mario de Luna D End of Loan
Andrew Ribeiro D Free (Harrisburg City Islanders) Jaime Frias D End of Loan
Fejiro Okiomah D Free (Charlotte Eagles) Steve Purdy D Option Declined
Donald Toia D Free (Phoenix FC) Daniel Antunez D Option Declined
Thomas McNamara M SuperDraft (Clemson) Jorge Villafana D traded to Portland
Austin Pelletieri M Free (Racing Club) Edgar Mejia M End of Loan
Mauro Rosales M traded from Seattle Sounders Marvin Iraheta M Option Declined
Adolfo Bautista F Free (Unattached) Josue Soto M Option Declined
Gabriel Farfan M loaned to Chiapas
Jose Manuel Rivera F Option Declined
Tristan Bowen F traded to Seattle
Julio Morales F End of Loan

Roster Churn: 52.24% returning minutes (lowest return rate in MLS)

Okay, we know this team sucks. They’ve sucked each of the last four years. So they’ll suck again this year right? Well… maybe. Or perhaps they’re a team that could catch a couple of early wins and find some teams napping—much like what they did last year—and continue stealing points right up to a fifth-place finish. They’ve injected some talent, and there is the possibility, if the rumors about Luke Moore are true Chivas confirmed Moore has signed for the club yesterday, that they’re not done yet and that’s a very good thing for the club moving forward.

roster-chivasYes, Erik ‘Cubo’ Torres is perhaps the most talented piece on the roster. Yes, he will head back to his native Chivas Guadalajara in June which will pretty much bone the forgotten leftovers of Jorge Vergara. Which is sad because the talent level and parity for MLS is close that it really wouldn’t take much for Chivas to become a club that could quietly sneak into MLS playoff contention.

The Goats off-season was largely productive if you forget about the addition of AdolfoChivasINFO Bautista—who, to me, is a worrisome deal considering the 34-year old didn’t even score a goal last season through his 16 games (international appearances included) and could very well turn out to be a scrub.

Looking specifically to the defense, the club acquired Andrew Jean-Baptiste for pretty much being at the right place at the right time. This is an unequivocal boon for a defense that was just plain bad through the 2013 campaign, posting a league worst expected goals against (xGA) total of 55. This speaks not just to the volume of shots the line-up allowed, but also the quality at which they were fired at Dan Kennedy’s goal. Baptiste isn’t necessarily an earth-shattering piece now, and he’s still raw, but getting him starts and placing him alongside Carlos Bocanegra could cultivate the young 21-year-old’s potential, and he could grow into a top-level central defensive player with the aspirations of being involved with the USMNT.

Recs/90

The midfield has it’s share of questions, as they lacked effectiveness, if not bite, with Oswaldo Minda in central  defense. Recoveries are a good thing and “even have a positive correlation with long term results“. The other side of that is fouls are mostly bad (duh). Yet, I’m not sure that fact was ever explained to Minda. When Minda was able to find his way on to the pitch healthily, he committed a lot of fouls (35) and it limited the helpfulness of the recoveries (95) that he procured. Top central defending midfielders (think in this case of Osvaldo Alonso and Kyle Beckerman) usually boast twice that ratio. What that means is simply that Minda must play more minutes, foul less, and gobble up more free balls if the goal is to lessen the load for the youthful defense.

KP/90We’ve now reached the part of this segment where I try to convince you that Mauro Rosales will help Chivas USA, and that he’s not done yet. In fact, I feel that with his help, Cubo Torres could become more Torres than you could likely handle or imagine—and yet, at the very same time, Rosales could rip what heart is left from the limited Chivas USA faithful. He was 9th in MLS in creating shots (65 total key passes), but in reality he was further up the chain in the per -90 version of the stat, which I prefer as I feel it’s a stat that is better in ratio format.Rosales isn’t just about delivering passes though. The guy still has some pace to him, puts forth a ton of effort, and can score a few goals too. While he doesn’t even average a shot per 90, that wasn’t his role with Seattle. He averaged roughly one goal every 500 minutes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a slight bump in those numbers. With that in mind, he’s getting older, and part of the reason why the Sounders parted ways with him (beyond the issue of his contract) is that he’s declined in each of his three seasons with in the Emerald City. He’s going on 33 years old this season, and after visibly losing a step last year, there is reasonable concern that he might not make 2,000 minutes, let alone a full season. Despite all that, what minutes he manages to get he’ll make an impact for The Goats.Looking at the roster as a whole, there is quite a disparity in age. There are 7 of the 23 individuals on the roster that are over the age of 30. Then on the other side of the coin there are 6 of 23 that are 21 or younger. If—and perhaps a better word is “when”—injury strikes, they could to be forced to throw those young players to the rest of the league. This is obviously going to affect their play, as there is a drop off in not just talent but also experience.I see a situation where they could improve over their season last year. Then again, it could be a situation where we find the team forced to play younger players of lesser quality, getting stuck in the same trend they were last year where they have some interesting players without the supporting cast to take them into contention for a playoff spot. Either way this is a club that, in our pre-season survey, 93% of voters rated as a non-playoff club. That’s the highest percentage of any club, even in the East where there is an extra team left out of the playoffs.This off-season was an improvement—you’ll get no argument from me about that. Major League Soccer purchasing the club and preparing for a rebrand, is again, a good thing not just for the league but the fans that support Chivas. As the organization adds talent and continue to bring in the young players from their once promising academy, the club will only move closer to contention. Finding a new owner that can and will match the dollars that LA Galaxy throw around is another key item on the list.Crowd Sourcing Placement: 9th place in Western Conference; 286 of the 406 9th-place votes (70.44%).*ExpGD is the same as our xGD statistic on the site.

Rosales, not Dempsey, is the clear choice for Seattle’s set-piece crosses

In Seattle’s 2-1 loss to Portland on Saturday, Clint Dempsey took all of the Sounders’ attacking set-pieces in the first half. He was impressive with his free kick shots on goal, clipping the crossbar and forcing Donovan Ricketts into multiple saves. But his corner kicks left much to be desired. Mauro Rosales subbed on in the 63rd minute and took the remainder of the set-piece crosses and created more chances.

With Lamar Neagle suspended for yellow card accumulation and Seattle needing goals in leg two, Rosales seems likely to start. Requisite warning about small sample sizes aside, based off of the results in leg one, the data suggest Sigi Schmidt would be wise to let Rosales take over set-piece crossing duties in the second leg.

Here’s how Dempsey’s nine corners and one free kick cross went in leg one:

DempseyLeg1FKs

3rd minute corner: To the near post, cleared by Diego Chara
6th corner: Near post, cleared by Will Johnson
20th corner: Near post, cleared by Will Johnson
25th corner: Near post, cleared by Chara
32nd corner: Near post, cleared by Chara
38th corner: Top of the six yard box, cleared by Pa-Moudou Kah
38th corner: Top of six, cleared by Kah
39th free kick: Cross from 18 yards out on the wing to the top of the six, cleared by Futty Danso
45th corner: Near post, punched clear by Ricketts

In the second half, Rosales took all three Seattle corners and two free kick crosses:

RosalesLeg1FKs

68th minute corner: To the penalty spot, shot by Djimi Traore, saved by Ricketts
69th corner: Top of six, Headed cross by Dempsey  blocked by Zemanski and eventually caught by Ricketts
82nd free kick: Cross from 38 yards in the center to the penalty spot, cleared by Danso
86th free kick: Cross from 28 yards on the wing to the edge of the penalty box, headed by Shalrie Joseph across the box
87th corner: Penalty spot, Headed shot by Dempsey off of the crossbar and out

In summary: Dempsey had 10 set-piece crosses, none of which reached a Seattle teammate. Rosales had five set-piece crosses, four of which found a teammate in the box, and three of which led to shots.

As you can tell, it was a tale of two halves. In the first, Dempsey’s crosses rarely cleared the first defender, and none found another Sounders player. In the second half, four of Rosales’ five crosses created chances, two off of the head of Dempsey himself.

If Seattle is going to win at Jeld-Wen Field on Thursday, they’ll need to do better with their crosses. Based on their chances in game one, it looks to be in the Sounders’ best interest to allow Rosales to take the free kick crosses in game two. Not only did his crosses create better chances than Dempsey in game one, but Deuce seems to be more dangerous getting on the end of crosses than he is at taking them.