Chalk Talk - Sturftistics

SEATTLE - JULY 16: Fredy Montero #17 of the Seattle Sounders FC battles Tyrone Marshall #34 of the Colorado Rapids at CenturyLink Field on July 16, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

MLS recently introduced a wonderful new feature called the Chalkboard, brought to you by OptaSports. After every game we will be dissecting a player or two from the Rapids using the Chalkboard from the previous game.

The past few Chalk Talk articles - then again, there haven't been all that many - I've taken a specific player and looked at their performance closely using the chalkboard. After yesterday's debacle of a game I figured that it might be fun to see if the statistical side of the game looked as bad as the product on the field did at times. The turf not helping anybody was pretty much undeniable, really; players and even the referee were slipping around the entire game, Conor Casey wound up with an ankle injury just settling a ball and Jamie Smith was pulled from the starting lineup at the last second, possibly after pulling his hamstring on pre-game warmups on the slippery pitch.

Still, I decided to take a look at both teams performances and how they stack up on the statistical edge of things. Did the statistics look as bad as the players did out there? Find out after the jump!

This obviously wasn't one of the Rapids better games despite the fact that they scored three goals, so I'll be using Seattle's stats as well. Going three games back with both teams - somewhat small sample size but suitably big for our purposes here - I'll be checking how effective the teams were at passing, keeping possession and dribbling, three stats that the turf might have had an effect on as ball possession seemed to be the biggest issue. (In this case I'm not counting the Rapids front line of Folan and Nyassi as an issue, though I probably should have.) Unfortunately - and someone at the bar actually asked me this yesterday hilariously - they don't have 'number of times fell down' as an Optastat. Someone get @Optajack on it right away!

The slash marks indicate Successful/Unsuccessful so if you see 140/42 it means that there were 140 successful whatevers and 42 unsuccessful whatevers. Here's the statistics from yesterdays match for the three stats I've picked out:

RAPIDS STATS:
Passing: 275/106
Lost possessions: 129
Dribbles: 0/8 (Not a damn one!)

SEATTLE STATS:
Passing: 364/177
Lost Possessions: 137
Dribbles: 2/4

As raw numbers, these don't look particularly bad, though the Rapids seem to need work on their dribbling and to the naked eye that seems like a lot of lost possessions. Of course, there is no real data to cross-reference this with so any judgments we make like that will be pretty much guesswork, which is certainly what I did yesterday since I wrote the article right as the game finished! Let's check three more Rapids games going back. The following stats are from - the links will bring you to the chalkboards in question - the 2-1 win against Vancouver, the 1-1 draw away at Kansas City and the 0-0 home draw against Houston.

2-1 Vancouver Win
Passing: 331/118
Lost Possessions: 138
Dribbles: 1/4

1-1 Kansas City Draw
Passing: 271/111
Lost Possessions: 136
Dribbles: 1/12

0-0 Houston Draw
Passing: 328/126
Lost Possessions: 141
Dribbles: 0/5

So the possessions seem to be a null stat after all, as the 129 was actually all right in the context. Dribbling just seems to be a Rapids problem in general as the 0/8 seemed average as well. What is noticeable about these is that with exception to the Kansas City match - one in which they lost one their best and most frequent passers mind you - the Rapids attempted far fewer passes in this match in Seattle than they did in the other three.

How about Seattle though? Four goals they may have scored but they looked like they lost a few edges as the game went along as well. They've also had much better form in the last three games than the Rapids have had and have had a lot more stability in their lineup. The games here are the 3-2 away win at Portland, their 0-0 away draw in Los Angeles and their 2-1 win at home against New England.

3-2 Portland Win
Passing: 314/98
Lost Possessions: 116
Dribbles: 2/4

0-0 Los Angeles Draw
Passing: 276/137
Lost Possessions: 151
Dribbles: 2/0

2-1 New England Win
Passing: 378/140
Lost Possessions: 163
Dribbles: 5/5

A little bit more interesting as the Sounders seemed to have an improvement to at least one stat in every game, most noticeably their dribbling abilities. their passing was well above the 50/50 mix that we saw in the original game in two of the examples, with the third being a fairly boring 0-0 draw. So it looks like the stats, while a bit buggy on both sides, aren't quite as hilarious as that game would have had you believe. Until Opta impliments that 'most times fell down' stat, in which case I'm totally re-doing this for the laugh factors alone! Still, an interesting experiment to run.

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