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Is FC Dallas struggling without Fabian Castillo?

Do numbers indicate whether Dallas is better without Fabian?

MLS: FC Dallas at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been about two months since that really fascinating transfer saga involving Fabian Castillo and Turkish club, Trabzonspor. With the loan happening basically happening at the penultimate minute of the transfer deadline, FC Dallas was left without options to find a replacement for Castillo’s services. Dallas had no choice at that point but to fill the open roster spot with their current players, change their tactical style and forge on.

Matt Doyle, aka Armchair Analyst, weighed in a little bit late last night with his weekly column. And Doyle is right about his assessment that 3-2-4 record (league play) isn’t great. In fact, that’s pretty average and pedestrian for a team that’s trying to close things out for the Supporter’s Shield. He’s also right in that Castillo has been hard to replace. In fact, that’s impossible. Outside of Kekutah Manneh, there isn’t another player in the league that could be even drawn up as a like for like comparison. But Manneh at this point is more like Castillo in 2012-2013.

What Doyle didn’t do was compare the numbers more expansively and extensively. His piece did launch at 2:11am ET and he was covering other topics, so that’s to be expected.

Founder and Big D blogger legend Daniel Robertson weighed in with this tweet:

Daniel’s tweet gave us a broader look at Dallas’ results, factoring in goals scored and goals allowed per game. While points per game have dipped, goal scoring has gone up and goals allowed has also dropped in Dallas’ favor. Which points us to that perhaps Dallas is actually better off defensively without Castillo out there and when it’s playoff time, that kind of defensive strength will come in handy.

I also wanted to weigh in and get my hands dirty into the stats. Unfortunately, I’ve only collected stats from league play, so some of this isn’t as detailed as I would hope, but nonetheless, this is the data available at the moment:

FCD with Castillo:

22 games.

12-6-4 record - 1.91 points per game

1.55 goals scored per game

1.36 goals allowed per game

FCD w/out Castillo:

9 games

3-2-4 record - 1.22 points per game 1.44 points per game (Thanks Ben for pointing out that I can’t math.)

1.44 goals scored per game

1.00 goals against per game

The points per game drop is significant and it would be easy to immediately state that Dallas is not better off with Castillo and the loan needs to be terminated immediately. However, let’s look at those numbers a little closer and provide some broader context. First let’s look at how home field advantage factored into this scenario:

FCD w/ Castillo (home/away)

Home: 11

Away: 11

Home: 8-0-3 - 2.45 pgg

Away: 4-6-1 - 1.18 ppg

FCD w/out Castillo (home/away)

Home: 4

Away: 5

Home: 2-1-1 - 1.75 ppg

Away: 1-1-3 - 1.20 ppg

The home loss to Colorado earlier this month certainly put a damper on Dallas’ ppg rate at home during this stretch. But otherwise, Dallas is holding fairly well without the Colombian winger. Also, Dallas did have to play one more away game. A win on Saturday against LA puts Dallas back at 2.00 ppg at home, which makes it look a lot better. And if you remember, road games in this league are insanely difficult. There isn’t a single team in MLS (so far) with a winning road record. Only two teams are on par (Toronto: 6-6-4 and NYCFC: 6-6-3) and Dallas actually has the third best road record in league play this year (5-7-4).

But even when looking at the home/away record, I still think we’d be amiss to not talk about strength of opponents during each stretch. So here’s what the stats say:

FCD w/ Castillo (Opponent averages)

22 games:

9 Wins, 1.26 ppg

FCD w/out Castillo (Opponent averages)

9 games:

11 wins, 1.42 ppg

This is where I think we get better context of what’s happening to Dallas down the stretch. And let’s not forget that Dallas still hasn’t played LA yet and will face them twice next month to close out the season. Basically, in the 9 games that Dallas has played without Castillo, they’ve had a trickier and tougher schedule against stronger opponents.

So Dallas did well with Castillo but against weaker opponents and they’re fairing less well without Castillo but against stronger opposition. The official conclusion is: hard to tell. It’s a bit of a toss up and one you could argue either way. Matt Doyle is right that Dallas’ record hasn’t been too great in league play, but he was wrong to tie that to Castillo’s depature.