Sim City: Projecting the Chivas USA 2013 Season (Sort of)

Stephen Dunn

football formations

Using data collected through the partnership between Opta and Major League Soccer, I pieced together a starting lineup based on the players remaining with the club. It's not perfect--far from it (more on that later)--but it does provide a starting point of what we can expect from the roster.

The lineup, shown above, is a 4-4-2 double six. The reasons for this formation are twofold: the formation seemed best fit to the positions the remaining players played on the field and it is a lineup that Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, aka El Chelis, has used extensively in the past.

So how does the projected line-up come out? Quite favorably, actually, especially when contrasted to the average performance of the 2012 Chivas USA squad:

2013* 2012
Goals Scored 1.8 0.7
Attempts on Goal 15 11.6
Shots on Target 6 3.8
Shots off Target 6 4.9
Blocked Shots 3 2.9
Corner Kicks NA 5.0
Fouls 19 12.7
Open Play Crosses 7 18.4
Offsides 1 1.7
Yellow Cards 1 1.5
Second Yellow Cards 0 0
Red Cards 0 0.0
Duels Won NA 40.1
Duels Won % NA 47.7%
Total Passes 286 419.1
Passing Accuaracy % 74.4% 79.9%
Possession NA 50.9%

*Methodology

I took each players statistics, courtesy of Opta, from each of their starts. For example, Ben Zemanski made 22 appearances for Chivas USA last year. However I used only the data accumulated from his 18 starts. Using the players' standard deviations, I then weighted each of the scores to try to encapsulate a complete game. I then summed up the totals and compared them to the team's totals from last year's games.

Now regarding the goals scored, that was a little bit more intensive. It essentially goes like this: looking at data from the past three MLS seasons (2010 to 2012), I found a high positive correlation between shots on target and goals scored. The Pearson R correlation measures correlations between -1 (perfect negative correlation) and 1. With an R value of .672 we can confirm that there is indeed a strong correlation between shots on target and goals scored.

In that sample set, there were 7,672 shots on goal and 2,236 goals scored which works out to just under 30% of shots on goal result in goals scored. So with this lineup averaging six shots on target per match, we are 67% sure that 30% of those shots will go in. 30% of 6 equals 1.8. That's the league average of course; Chivas last year only converted 20% of their shots on target. The good news is even at 20% conversion, that works out to 1.2 goals per game. Not only is that half a goal better, but it averages out to 40 goals over the course of a 34 game season.

Discussion

As I alluded to earlier, there are several very good and legitimate reasons to completely ignore these findings. Here are a few:

  • The group comprises less than 40% of the total minutes played on the field last year. In particular, Bobby Burling (270 minutes) and Tristan Bowen (248 minutes) have a rather small sample size. This model also assumes players play every minute of a 34 game season which is unreasonable on many accounts not the least being Oswaldo Minda's tendency to miss matches due to yellow card accumulation.
  • The centerback referred to as "The Ghost of John Valencia" implies, the team only has one returning central defender. Valencia's play was the closest to the soccer equivalent of the "replacement player."
  • These numbers are only attributable to offense. There are no defensive metrics taken into account.

Finally, there are the "duh" conditions:

  • It's pretty unlikely this group will be playing together this year. While a good many players were shipped out the "official" roster stands at 20 (with Shalrie Joseph, Ante Jazic, and Rauwshan McKenzie on the outs).
  • These numbers are based off of Robin Fraser's tenure and, by the grace of god, should have no real and actual bearing on the actual Chelis Experience.

What do you think? Is it time for me to put down the slide rule? Leave your comments below!

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