Like most US soccer fans, I spent the last couple day grousing about Klinsmann’s Kingston catastrophe, letting my fear of qualification failure lead to anger, anger lead to hate, and hate lead to suffering (of those closest to me, who had to tiptoe around during the dark side of my ravings). Today I sought understanding and perspective in the cold, hard facts of the match in the Opta Chalkboard. This exercise reminded me of one of the team’s achievements on the day I had lost sight of during my weekend doldrums.
Over the course of the game the US defense did an excellent job of limiting the Jamaicans to very speculative opportunities. Here is the Opta Chalkboard’s map of every shot taken by the hosts:
Based on the scale of this graphic the closest attempt was slightly over 30 yards from goal. Also, on closer inspection Opta states that only 9 of the 13 came in the run of play.
For perspective, I consulted the 2011-2012 EPL Opta statistics, provided through the MCFC Analytics initiative from Manchester City’s head of performance analysis, Gavin Fleig. Side note: if you have any interest in studying soccer statistics, follow this link, check out their terms and conditions, and download the data and play with it yourself.
From this data I was able to break down shots faced and outcomes both inside and outside the box, as well as the subset of direct free kicks. I did so for both the full league and Everton, for whom Tim Howard played every available minute, also breaking the data into save percentage and goals per 13 shots, the number Jamaica took.
Not surprisingly, shots inside the box were much more effective, but it is informative to see just how much more. Direct free kicks were a little more likely to score than other shots outside the box, and when I dug deeper I found that only once last season did a Premier League side score twice on direct free kicks in a single match (Manchester United’s 8-2 slaughter of Arsenal on 8/28/11). Klinsmann’s greatest defensive adjustment for Tuesday may be regression to the mean. If they keep Jamaica out of the box again, the odds of a shutout are pretty good.
All of this analysis is done from a bird’s eye view, and since stagnation equals death there we can expect at least a couple of small-scale tweaks in the defensive approach.
For example, as noted in the comments of the last post, the US wall seemed to be ignorant to indicators within Jamaica free kick takers’ run-ups to the likelihood that jumping was the right or wrong approach. At least one personnel change is guaranteed, since Clarence Goodson will be suspended for yellow card accumulation, and Klinsmann stated today that Carlos Bocanegra will take his place and captain the team. Whoever lines up in the back tomorrow night, we should all hope they are as successful as Friday night’s crew in limiting the quality of Jamaican shots.
Inventive and important adjustments look to be much more necessary further up the field, though.
(Editor’s note: Well said on that last statement Steve. :>)