Stats Stuff: Best Season v Worst Season?

Question:

San Antonio FC Defender Sebastian Ibeagha played a big part in the success of the 2017 season.

We’ll take the question at face value, and ignore two trophy winning seasons by the San Antonio Scorpions (I personally think their first season was the best pro season in San Antonio soccer history) and just deal with San Antonio FC. When dealing with the current iteration of San Antonio pro-soccer it’s hard to look past the 2017 season, the only season the club has made the playoffs, as the best season the team has had. So what was it that made that season better? There are probably seven different statistics comparing the two seasons that can be pointed to to see how things have changed in two years.

Passing Success Rate: 77% (2017) v 80.6% (2019)

This one is actually better this year, so something must be deeper underneath this, what I’d point to is the passing accuracy across the league has gone up in this time, and as such we’d expect San Antonio’s to increase as well. Beyond that in 2017 the team was new, Coach Darren Powell was only in his second season as a pro Head Coach and as such was only starting to find his style, by 2019 that passing style is imprinted on the side.

Passing Forward: 39.7% v 35.7%

Here is where we see the what may be leading to the differences in the passing rate, while in both instances the team is passing forward more often than in any other direction there’s a notable drop this year. As such passing may be more successful, but it’s less threatening, dropping four percentage points, while the passing success was only up 3.6 percentage points.

Goals Conceded Per Game: 0.8 v 1.6

This season the team has conceded 1.6 goals per game, anything above 1.5 is pretty bad, but this is especially bad when considering it’s twice as bad as the 2017 season when the team kept it below one, an incredible 0.8 goals per game. Of course it’s not much news that the team is conceding more goals in 2019 than it was in 2017.

Clean Sheets: 15 v 4

The natural consequence of conceding more goals is fewer clean sheets but the key here is not that SAFC is getting torn apart in individual matches but rather getting beat consistently. The team is just unable to stop goals coming in. The main reason for this may be in the absence of Diego Restrepo in goal with Matt Cardone probably not as strong as Restrepo, but the defense is clearly not helping much.

Target Rate: 44.3% v 36.8%

A phenomenally telling stat is that the team is just not hitting the target that much this year, while 36.8 percent isn’t completely terrible, above 25 percent isn’t bad, it’s a whole eight percentage points down on the 2017 season. By hitting the target much less than the successful season the team is obviously scoring fewer goals and could perhaps benefit from being more selective.

Penalties Conceded: 5 v 6

Something that has caused a lot of discussion on twitter has been that the team seems to be conceding more penalties and yep, that’s definitely true. Already six penalties conceded in the season is really high with so many matches remaining, with five the total for the entire season in 2017.

Tackle Success Rate: 75.3% v 61.6%

By far the most telling story this season has been how poor the team has been defensively, reflected in some of the above statistics but this statistic is absolutely the clearest answer to this issue. A whole 13 percentage points down on the 2017 season, the tackle success rate has just not been good enough, those missed tackles are leading to more opportunities for opponents and as such for more goals.

2017 was a great year for San Antonio FC, and there’s still some hope for 2019, despite a bad first half there’s still a distant possibility that the team could make the playoffs but these seven stats will need to change first.

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