Stats and Musings: Tackles won, errors, aerial duels, conceding, and more

Stats and Musings: Tackles won, errors, aerial duels, conceding, and more


It is a rainy Tuesday in Salt Lake City, and for that reason — or some other reason entirely — a quick look at some interesting statistics seems in order. Or perhaps it's out of order, and the whole system is out of order. I really don't know which. Anyhow, stats. Go.

If you had to guess which teams had the best tackles-won percentages, who would you guess? Where would Real Salt Lake rank in it? It surprised me: Portland Timbers have the best percentage (84 percent). Obviously, percentages are hardly everything, but it goes some way to show what they're going through. RSL isn't too far off, with a tackles-won rate of 81 percent — sixth in the league. But tackles don't win games, so let's move on.

One interesting stat Opta tracks: errors that lead to goals. Now, exactly how this would be measured is hard to say, but I tend to put trust in the statistics in other circumstances, so I'll continue this trend. The team with the worst errors-leading-to-goals to goals? New York Red Bulls, with eight of those. Real Salt Lake is in the "top half" of that table, with five errors leading to goals and 34 goals conceded. Oddly, Portland Timbers are the best off, with only error leading directly to a goal.

But clearly that stat shows something that isn't entirely obvious: The teams that concede more goals through errors are generally conceding less through systemic failures. Errors run contrary to a system, so for Portland to have conceded 50 non-error-caused goals says something, doesn't it? It would seem to me that the fewer goals you concede, and the more of those you concede that don't come naturally (forced by errors) would indicate a stronger system from a defensive perspective. Alas, what do I know?

From our error discussion, lets move on toward something a bit more up in the air: aerial duels. Ha. Ha. Get it? Alright, alright. You haven my sincerest apologies. The team with the lowest ratio of aerial duels lost to won? Chivas USA, with 0.86 duels won for every duel lost. Does this indicate a weakness in the air? It's hard to say, because, like Real Salt Lake (1.01 won:1 lost), they're not competing in as many aerial duels as, say, Sporting KC, who average around 30 aerial duels per match. Good word.

Say what you will about RSL's defending this season, but conceding goals from outside the box hasn't been an issue we've faced this season. Roughly 6 percent of our conceded goals (or, if you will, only 2 of them) have come from outside the box. Worst off? Seattle Sounders, who have conceded 26 percent of their goals from outside the box. This gives us a distinct picture of the manner in which they defend. And people say stats don't mean anything.

Only two teams have seen less goal contribution from their defenders than Real Salt Lake, who sit at 5 percent (only two goals): Chivas USA (also around 5 percent with a single goal from the set) and Montreal Impact, who sit at about 2 percent, with one goal from their 44. The most defender-contribution-heavy team? FC Dallas, who have seen 11 of their 35 goals come from defenders.

Finally, it is interesting to note that RSL sits near the top of the table in final third passing rates, with 63 percent of their passes in the area being successful. But they're near the bottom of the table when looking at the percentage of our successful passes coming in the final third: 19 percent. Chivas USA is near the top, with 26 percent. What exactly does this mean? Given that Chivas USA is the fourth-most-accurate passing team (and complete the fifth-highest average number of passes per match at 331 per), RSL will need to watch out a bit. But for a team that plays in the final third in that way, surely they should be scoring more goals than they are, right? There surely is another factor at play.

Anyhow, that's it for today. 'Til tomorrow.

Photo by Boz. Check out his Flickr photostream for more.