Chivas USA 2012 Points Per Start Defender Index

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 23: Califf: Leading the backline for the Goats in 2012. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

We're about halfway through the 2012 MLS season, and I figured it was a good time to introduce this year's points per start defender index, something we did several times last season. Zarek Valentin led the rankings of Chivas defenders on a points per start basis last season, a surprising statistic in many respects, but the numbers didn't lie. So with an almost entirely new defense in 2012, who leads the team at the halfway point?

A couple of explanations are in order in case you are unfamiliar with this exercise. I tabulate the stats for defenders who start a match, because defensive substitutions are rare, and typically take place for injury or perhaps tactical reasons. For this reason, John Valencia will not have all his appearances counted, but I think a start is a better indication of how a defender normally features for the team.

Here's the baseline, with the total numbers this season for the club: 16 matches. Record: 5-7-4. Points: 19. Points per match: 1.19
Name Starts Record Points Points per start
Danny Califf 6 2-1-3 9 1.5
Ante Jazic 15 5-6-4 19 1.27
Rauwshan McKenzie 14 5-7-2 17 1.21
James Riley 16 5-7-4 19 1.19
Heath Pearce 10 3-6-1 10 1
John Valencia 3 0-1-2 2 0.67

So, we see that James Riley is the constant on the backline this season, starting every league match so far. As a result, he obviously matches the baseline. The good news is that the other three regular starters are ahead of Riley. Califf leads by some margin, but his sample size is second-smallest on the team, so it may balance out over time. Of course, the team has only lost one match since he's joined the team, so if they keep their losses to a minimum he may lead the way from here on out.

The only two players below Riley is Pearce, who is no longer with the team, and whose numbers are set in stone like amber for Chivas in 2012, and Valencia, who has not seen the field very much, but who has yet to be involved in a league win. Although all defenders make mistakes from time to time, Valencia had a direct role in dropping points in two of those matches, so it makes considerable sense that he is very much a backup at this point (he failed to mark the goalscorers in the San Jose and Seattle matches, both when Chivas had a one-goal lead).

What is clear at this point is that there is an established pecking order, and the current regular starters appear to be the best choices on the roster. Obviously, changes could be required in the second half of the season, for injuries or otherwise.

In order to give the most complete picture possible for all competitions, let's include the U.S. Open Cup matches in the stats (team benchmark: 19 matches. Record: 8-7-4. Points*: 28. Points per start: 1.47)

Name Starts Record Points* Points* per start
Jorge Villafana 2 2-0-0 6 3
Scott Gordon 2 2-0-0 6 3
Danny Califf 7 3-1-3 12 1.71
John Valencia 5 2-1-2 8 1.6
Rauwshan McKenzie 17 8-7-2 26 1.53
James Riley 17 6-7-4 22 1.29
Ante Jazic 15 5-6-4 19 1.27
Heath Pearce 10 3-6-1 10 1

* Although the U.S. Open Cup is a knockout competition and points are not awarded, I am counting wins as 3 points and losses as 0 for the purposes of statistical comparison.

As you can see, Villafana and Gordon lead the standings, but that is misleading because they have only started two USOC games each. Still, of the eight players who have started in defense this year in all competitions for Chivas, the majority of them are above the team benchmark, and the two still on the team who are below the mark, Riley and Jazic, have a combined one start in the Open Cup between them.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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