Wednesday, June 10, 2009

RSL - Victim of the soccer gods?


Real Salt Lake has struggled greatly over the last 6 weeks or so, and has been a disappointment.  They have tried numerous remedies without much success.  What has been the cause of this poor play, and lack of results?

Hypothesis #1: RSL is not getting enough production (goals) from their forwards.

Real Salt Lake has 9 goals on the season from their forwards: Findley (6), Movsisyan (2), and Escalada (1).  That puts them in a 3-way tie for 8th place in number of goals from players listed as forward or midfielder/forward.  The three teams at the top of the Western Conference (Chivas, Houston & Seattle) all have 9 goals or fewer from their forwards.  So the number of goals that they have gotten from their forwards this season is not the problem.

Hypothesis #2: RSL is not getting efficiency from it’s forwards which reduces the opportunity for the rest of the team to score. 

When you look at the 43 forwards in the league who have played at least 300 minutes, 39 of them have scored at least one goal on the season.  Of that group, Findley is 4th in goal frequency and Movsisyan is 29th.  That puts Findley in an elite group and Yura not-so-much. 

When you look at shot frequency in that group, Yura is 4th on the list and Findley is 14th.  Yura clearly is getting the shots off, while not often reaching the intended target as we all know.  Robbie is still in the top half of the group, but not near the league leaders.

Robbie slips even further when it comes to shots on goal, as he ranks 21st out of the 43 forwards.  Meanwhile Yura is 5th on the list.

What this tells us is that Yura is great at getting shots off frequently and by-and-large gets them on goal at an average clip.  However, he is far below average in getting those shots on goal past the keeper.  Conversely, Robbie is only average at getting shots off, and is below average at getting shots on goal but is great at putting his shots on goal into the net.  As a pair, these two are roughly in the middle of the pack as far as strike partners in the league. 

Combine that with the fact that only 56% of the goals for RSL have come from the forwards (ranking them 9th in the league in this category), and it doesn’t appear that the inefficiency of the forwards is the real problem with this team (although it could definitely improve).

Hypothesis #3: It’s the defense, dummy!

Last season, RSL started to develop a reputation for having a stout defense, especially at home.  The team gave up just 39 goals for an average of 1.3 goals per game, tied for 5th best in the league.  This year they have given up the same 1.3 goals per game, but the rest of the league has gotten stingier leaving them at 9th best in the league.  This could be part of the problem, but clearly not the smoking gun.

Hypothesis #4: Don’t offend the soccer gods.

On April 25th against the New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake accomplished an amazing feat by scoring 6 goals in a single half.  At that point the team had 3 wins versus 2 losses with a point total of 9 and all was well.  Since that point the team has been winless in 7 matches, managing only 2 home draws and a road draw for 3 points.  Clearly the problem here is that the team upset the soccer gods. 

The only solution?  Offering up a sacrifice.