What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
If, when the season kicked off, you told me we'd have 15 points from our first 6 matches — tying our best-ever MLS start in 2010 — I don't think I'd have complained. Indeed, despite that loss against Chivas, there's not too much that's got me worried early season, and that's encouraging.
If I were to have my way, we'd have a few more goals, have conceded a few less, and Fabian Espindola would be ahead of Thierry Henry for the league's top scorer. (Seven? Already? Wow.) So while we don't have an individual player leading the league in goals scored, we do have one league leader: Kyle Beckerman, who is leading in fouls committed and is tied in cautions at three.
Kyle's early 17 fouls are interesting because it does lend a little credence to a thought I've had recently: This season, thus far, he's been a bit tackle-happy and hasn't quite looked at his peak. I'm not sure why this is, but it's something he clearly needs to sort out, and if the match against the Rapids is any indication, he's doing so — after all, he had only the single foul against Colorado to his name. He did also have a yellow card for who-knows-what, which is even more perplexing.
One player who's often seemed to lead the league in one category is Fabian Espindola. Offside calls in previous seasons have been a perceived hallmark of his play — so, too, is a refusal to shoot — but both of these seem to be a bit wide of the mark. He's been called for offside once every 67 minutes this season, a slight improvement on last season's once every 63 minutes. Yes, Fabian "Offside" Espindola is not nearly as bad at this as many would take him to be. He may, I think, be our most misunderstood player. To contrast, Paulo Junior has played 140 fewer minutes and has been whistled for offsides the same number of times: seven.
And how about that refusal to shoot? Espindola is sitting fourth in the league for shots taken, with a shot every 23 minutes, and sixth in the league for shots on goal, with one of those every 47 minutes, or about two a match. He's not the most lethal of strikers, we know this, and he can perhaps do better than a 15 percent scoring chance conversion rate, but that will come with form.
Nick Rimando, the crazed animal in goal, is currently sixth in the league in saves with 18 and fifth in the league in save percentages, sitting at 82 percent (when discounting players who have only played one match.) It is a bit worrying to see how many shots on goal we've conceded, but it's always nice knowing we've got somebody entirely reliable in goal for us. In fact, of the top nine players in saves, Nick is tied with Joe Cannon for the lowest goals-against average — 0.67. Jon Busch, clocking in at 10th, is even lower at 0.40, though he has had fewer shots taken at him.
As a side, we're taking a fair number of shots, too. In 540 minutes of action, we've taken 81 shots — third in the league — leaving us with a shot every six minutes. It is no surprise that we've scored the second-most goals, as well, second to New York Red Bulls — though they've taken fewer shots per match than we have. We're also second in the league in offside calls with 17 — 14 of those have come from Espindola and Paulo Jr., which is perhaps no surprise.
However, we're also second in the league in fouls with 73, though we have, of course, played more matches than anybody except Montreal. We've conceded a foul every 7.3 minutes, or about 12 per match, which is less than most sides.
Numbers sometimes mean little, but they do help to paint a picture of the season so far. If we continue some of these trends — but certainly not all (cough, fouls) — we'll be in a good position at the end of the season. It helps sometimes to take a look back and see what others are doing to understand the season, and the picture this paints, while not rosy, is shaping up to be a great start to the season.