OptaHunt: 2011's Offensive "Strikers"

Join me in welcoming our newest writer Steve Fenn who will be providing statistical analysis for us all season. Enjoy!

Welcome to OptaHunt, where I will be using statistics to analyze FC Dallas, and occasionally their opponents or MLS in general. I aim to publish an article on at least the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month. Hopefully I get more efficient in time and will write more regularly. Sometime soon I'll write a mission statement laying out my general thoughts on soccer statistics; their strengths, weaknesses, and recommended resources for advanced metrics and analysis. Oh, and I'll be re-tweeting any interesting things I come across on @OptaHunt.

For today, I've collected various insights from @OptaJack that give perspective to FC Dallas' incompetent strikeforce of 2011.

OptaJack 39.5% - FCDallas has the worst shooting accuracy in MLS, hitting the target with just 39.5% of it shots. Awry. 26 Oct

OptaJack 72% - Excl. crosses, New York has the 2nd best passing accuracy in the opponents' half (72%) - FCDallas ranks 17th (64%). Vision. 26 Oct

Obviously, the first stat speaks to the general inaccuracy of the every FC Dallas player's shooting, but I think both of these figures are partially the result of FC Dallas running out forwards that were largely incapable or unwilling to hold up the ball and distribute. Everyone was stuck trying to force low percentage passes and shots because there was no one to anchor the attack.

17 - FC Dallas saw 17 different players directly assist a goal for them in MLS this season; more than any other side. Promising. 20 Dec

Opta labeled this promising, and on the surface, it's nice that 17 got at least 1 assist, but Castillo was the only "forward" with more than one (he had 3, but I'd wager a couple were when he was playing on the wing). No single player had more than 4 (Jacobsen led, averaging an assist every 370 minutes). Without a reliable forward, the club did what was needed to score, but I think a more focused attack with a reliable target would have been preferable.

67% - has seen 67% of its away goals scored by midfielders, the highest % by any team in . Wingers. 14 Sep

Before 9/14, FC Dallas had scored 18 goals in 15 away matches. So, according to Opta, 12 were from midfielders. George John and Ugo Ihemelu were the only defenders to score during those games, accounting for 3 combined. Which means that forwards scored as much as defenders in those games with just 3 goals (2 from Maicon Santos, and 1 from either Marvin or Jackson doing their best impression of a striker).

After the jump we'll look at the 3 "strikers" that left (we won't bother discussing Uncle Miltie, who wasn't really around long enough last season to be worth analyzing)

9 - FC Dallas’ Maicon Santos attempted 9 shots in their 3-2 win at SKC in August; the most by a single player in 2011. Eager. 27 Dec

Santos did manage to score on an 89th minute header in that game, but as his chalkboard shot chartt shows, he was only on target twice, and many of his shots were from angles and distances that were unlikely to succeed.

In his time with Dallas, Maicon Santos scored on only 5% of his shots, and hit the target only 27.5% of the time (both percentages 13th among Dallas players with 500+ minutes last season). He did create almost 5 shots per 90 minutes (best on the team), but if he's wasting them so often, who cares?

An Opta insight from Climbing the Ladder:

A big chance is defined as "a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score." In practice, it’s not that easy. Only 41 percent of big chances ended with goals, though that does include when shots are blocked or fluffed.

Who were the league’s top finishers in those situations? Of those who had at least five big chances... the worst finishers were former FC Dallas winger Marvin Chávez and Columbus rookie Tommy Heinemann, who each finished 0-for-6.

Obviously, you want your strikers to hit a solid number of easy chances presented to him. Granted, this is a horribly small sample size, but it does speak to some of Chavez' failings as a striker. This was the only advanced stat I could find that spoke in any way to Marvin's performance at forward. From my observations, he had other failings up top, notably in distribution and holding up the ball so others could join the attack, but I don't have empirical backup to that observation.

5 - Jackson has hit woodwork 5 times this season, the most by any player in . Doink. 12 Oct

17 - has hit the woodwork 17 times this season, the most by any team in . Unlucky. 22 Oct

A clear consequence of putting non-strikers up top. Jackson took 53 shots last year, scoring a paltry 4, and only getting 16 on target. So, he was just as likely to his the bar as the net. Ladies and gentlemen, your striker for last year's stretch run and playoffs!

The difficulty of evaluating Jackson and Marvin as forwards both through statistics and memory of observations, is that in most cases we blur their accomplishments and failures between the different positions they played. Even given those limitations, I think we can all agree that 2012's strikers have to be better than last season, and the offseason's departures are unlikely to be missed up top.

I wanted to include some statistical analysis of Blas Perez to gauge his likely contributions in replacing these guys. Unfortunately, ESPN's page for Blas had the only stats I could find that went deeper than games and goals, and they looked too good to be trustworthy. There's no way he had only 81 shots in the last three seasons (48 games), with 75% on target, and 50% scored. I'm excited about Blas, but if those numbers were accurate, he'd be making millions in Europe right now. Does anyone know of a reliable resource for FMF statistics that I could use to track down Blas' real numbers in Mexico?

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