News Portland Timbers Sports

End of Season Analysis: 2012 Part I

With last Saturday’s game being the last game of the season I have decided to provide an End of Season Analysis as opposed to my regular match analysis. What follows are some thoughts, statistics, perceptions, analysis and considerations as the off-season begins and PTFC transition to leadership under the direction of Caleb Porter.

As with tradition, and it would be rude not too, I would offer that the typical cup/pint of your favorite bevy, and some eats, may be in order before settling in for the read.

To begin I will start at the end. When the final whistle blew I stood for quite a few minutes to watch the players walk around JELD-WEN holding the sign “To the league’s best fans: We will repay you”. And in thinking about this season there has been one aspect of Timbers soccer that has remained consistent; the support from the fans, and in particular the avid support from the Timbers Army! There remains no question that this City loves soccer!

If I were the team owner of this Franchise I would do everything possible to ensure the best available players are brought to this organization. That is not me advocating that Merritt Paulson break the bank; PTFC already has the 3rd or 4th highest salary packet (three months ago) (now 7th – thanks for the update Mark!) in this league so how that translates to business operations is hard to picture right now.

That being said the front office is surely looking to begin upgrading the team already; and that shopping list of players would not have originated with Gavin Wilkinson; when changes are made those changes will have their roots with Caleb Porter.

So what might those changes be? I’ve been of two minds about this and have seen other pundits in our area become quite animated about who needs to stay or go. For now I’ll just offer up these general thoughts for your consideration:

  1. Situation: Caleb Porter’s college team (the Akron Zips) is very difficult to score against and has one of the lowest goals against averages in competition.
  2. It seems reasonable that Caleb Porter will look to upgrade the back-four. A reasonable place to start is that he will look to add one center-back and one fullback that should have the capability to start immediately.
  3. It also appears reasonable that Caleb Porter will look to upgrade the midfield; there are options available with younger players on the current roster but, again, it would seem reasonable that 2 midfielders may be added to the mix. With at least one of them being able to start immediately. I would also offer that at some time PTFC will look to add a left-footed midfielder.
  4. While some may disagree with this I’m of the opinion that PTFC will look to also add a striker or two who can immediately start or press others; whether that is a traditional #9 is unclear but with Jurgen Klinsman making it a point to bring in a traditional #9 for the USMNT it only makes sense that Caleb Porter (who has the same systematic approach as Klinsman) would do the same thing. One of those new strikers may come from within (Jose Valencia?)
  5. So that stacks up to about 6 possible new additions to the team with perhaps 4 or 5 of them being able to start immediately. In considering that, are there any statistics that might be leveraged to get a possible idea of who may or may not stay with the Timbers next year?
  6. I’m not sure what the solution set is for PTFC in considering their decision making process but here are some statistics for the team, based upon positions, that might have relevance when it comes time to figure out who the ‘core players’ might be versus those that might not be. For the purposes of this blog this is an over-simplification but it may give some a better understanding on what type of work is involved when considering player transactions that not only are intended to strengthen a team but also intended to ensure the player leaving the organization is given the best possible opportunity to succeed elsewhere.
  7. As a caveat; this is strictly data and interpretation of that data; decision making should always include professional judgment to ensure balance. How that ‘feeling’ ways into PTFC decision making is unclear.
  8. This analysis does not consider:a. Games started,

    b. Games played,

    c. Successful passing percentage,

    d. Successful dribble percentage,

    e. Tackles won

    f. Tackles lost

    g. Fouls

    h. What financial room Caleb Porter may have in player transactions

    i. Leadership

    j. NOTE: An interesting statistic tracked in ice hockey is “goals against for players on the ice”; in other words a defensive statistic relative to the players is how many goals are conceded while they are playing. While this may not have value relative to forwards it may be a good statistic to track on midfielders and defenders. I will try to include that in my match analysis for next year.

  9. What this analysis does consider are player salaries, points scored (goals + assists), minutes played, and my own perceptual judgment of the overall strength of one player (through the course of this season) versus other players playing in the same categorical positions (defender, midfielder, and forward).

But before getting into the ratings/statistics my source for salary data was the MLS Players Union: http://www.mlsplayers.org/files/August%201,%202012%20Salary%20Information%20-%20By%20Club.pdf My source for goals scored, assists made and minutes played is the Portland Timbers statistics sheet found at this link: http://www.portlandtimbers.com/stats/season For the purposes of this analysis I have taken liberty to make a judgment call on whether or not a player has been primarily a defender, midfielder, or forward this year. So Rodney Wallace, Darlington Nagbe, Lovel Palmer, and Sal Zizzo were categorized as midfielders while Brent Richards and Mike Fucito were categorized as forwards.

Finally, there are a number of players who have had minimal (if any) time this season on the pitch; for the purposes of this analysis the following (developmental) players are excluded: Chris Taylor, Sebastian Rincon, Charles Renken, Ryan Kawulok, Jose Valencia, Freddie Braun, and Ian Hogg; although Steve Purdy has had minimal time this year he is 27 years old; therefore I have added him to the ‘defenders’ group as I would not expect Steve to be a ‘developmental player’.. NOTE: goal Keepers are also not included in this analysis.

Now for some data elements and analysis:

PTFC carry 8 defenders in the analysis group. Below are their rankings by salary, by cost per minute played and cost per point scored:

1) Salary:

a. Steven Smith $108K (8)

b. Eric Brunner $100K (7)

c. Futty Danso $82K (6)

d. Hanyer Mosquera $75K (5)

e. Kosuke Kimura $71K (4)

f. David Horst $65K (3)

g. AJ Baptiste $60K (2)

h. Steve Purdy $44K (1)

2) Cost per minute played:

a. AJ Baptiste $140/minute (8)

b. Eric Brunner $108/minute (7)

c. Futty Danso $96/minute (6)

d. Steven Smith $57/minute (5)

e. Kosuke Kimura $51/minute (4)

f. Hanyer Mosquera $35/minute (3)

g. David Horst $35/minute (2)

h. Steve Purdy could not calculate (1)

3) Cost per point scored (clarification): For some this category may not have relevance when considering the value of a defender. I agree to some extent but since we are comparing ‘apples to apples’ I have included it and will use it. Bottom line is that Set Pieces win games as do assists from fullbacks who perform overlaps. Therefore I would offer that there is relevance to submitting this data point for your consideration.

a. Eric Brunner $100K/point (8)

b. Futty Danso $82K 0 points (7)

c. Hanyer Mosquera $75K/point (6)

d. David Horst $65K/point (5)

e. AJ Baptiste $60K/point (4)

f. Steven Smith $54K/point (3)

g. Steve Purdy $44K 0 points (2)

h. Kosuke Kimura $35K/point (1)

4) Total points per player; the more points the player has the less ‘statistical value’ the player brings to the organization in this analysis.

a. Eric Brunner (22)

b. Futty Danso (19)

c. Steven Smith (16)

d. Hanyer Mosquera (14)

e. AJ Baptiste (14)

f. David Horst (10)

g. Kosuke Kimura (9)

h. Steve Purdy (4)

5) Finally, there is ‘perceptional judgment’, what I would call a ‘rounding factor’. This is my own assessment of the player based upon overall performance over the year when given an opportunity to play. My numbers reflect an assignment of double points to simulate that ‘perceptional judgment’ can have quite an impact on retaining or releasing players. The more points awarded the less perceptional value I feel or think the player brings to the organization in this analysis.

a. Kosuke Kimura (16)

b. Steve Purdy (14)

c. Futty Danso (12)

d. AJ Baptiste (10)

e. Hanyer Mosquera (8)

f. Steven Smith (6)

g. David Horst (4)

h. Eric Brunner (2)

6) So when adding up all the points here’s how this simplified analysis racks and stacks the players included in this effort:

a. Futty Danso (31) (higher is less stronger)

b. Kosuke Kimura (23)

c. Eric Brunner (24)

d. AJ Baptiste (24)

e. Hanyer Mosquera (22)

f. Steven Smith (22)

g. Steve Purdy (18)

h. David Horst (14) (lower is more stronger)

7) In conclusion: My view, from a very simplified standpoint, is that I would not be surprised if Futty Danso or Kosuke Kimura were traded.

8) Bottom line at the bottom: I sense there is a trend in soccer to try and secure more high quality center-backs above and beyond the norm the last few years. If more teams in Europe begin to run 3 center-back formations, to increase ball control and possession in the midfield, developing center-backs from within may be more likely than acquiring them elsewhere. However shoring up the back-four plays out, it should be reasonable to expect that building the back-four will be a priority for Caleb Porter; his very low defensive goals against with Akron should confirm his focus on defense.

On to the forwards. For this analysis I offer that PTFC are carrying five forwards. The rankings below are by salary, cost per minute played and cost per point scored:

1) Salary:

a. Kris Boyd $1,250M (5)

b. Danny Mwanga $250K (4)

c. Brent Richards $62K (3)

d. Bright Dike $55K (2)

e. Mike Fucito $44K (1)

2) Cost per minute played:

a. Kris Boyd $660/minute (5)

b. Danny Mwanga $337/minute (4)

c. Brent Richards $310/minute (3)

d. Mike Fucito $110/minute (2)

e. Bright Dike $61/minute (1)

3) Cost per point scored:

a. Kris Boyd $156K/point (5)

b. Danny Mwanga $83K/point (4)

c. Brent Richards $62K (0 points) (3)

d. Mike Fucito $44K (0 points) (2)

e. Bright Dike $11K/point (1)

4) Total points per player; the more points the player has the less ‘statistical value’ the player brings to the organization in this analysis.

a. Kris Boyd (15)

b. Danny Mwanga (12)

c. Brent Richards (9)

d. Mike Fucito (5)

e. Bright Dike (4)

5) Finally, there is ‘perceptional judgment’, what I would call a ‘rounding factor’. This is my own assessment of the player based upon overall performance over the year when given an opportunity to play. My numbers reflect an assignment of double points to simulate that ‘perceptional judgment’ can have quite an impact on retaining or releasing players. The more points awarded the less perceptional value I feel or think the player brings to the organization in this analysis.

a. Mike Fucito (10)

b. Brent Richards (8)

c. Danny Mwanga (6)

d. Bright Dike (4)

e. Kris Boyd (2)

6) So when adding up all the points here’s who I sense are the least strongest to most strongest forwards on this team as part of this analysis:

a. Danny Mwanga (18) (higher is less stronger)

b. Brent Richards (17)

c. Kris Boyd (17)

d. Mike Fucito (15)

e. Bright Dike (8) (lower is stronger)

7) In conclusion: My view, from a very simplified standpoint, is that I would not be surprised if any of the current forwards, outside of Bright Dike, are traded.

8) Bottom line at the bottom: To be frank there is a significant gap in salary between the forwards on this team and a wild card not known at this time is what sort of financial flexibility Caleb Porter will have in considering his future transactions. If finances are tight then many decisions may be made solely on salary; if not then other statistics may have added value. However this plays out with the forwards my analysis will NOT match what PTFC is considering in making player decisions about who returns as a forward next year.

9) One additional note: Not included in this mix are Darlington Nagbe and Franck Songo’o. With Darlington now playing for his previous Head Coach and the development of Franck, playing more central and a slightly higher role, there is always a possibility that additional starting forwards may either come from the midfield or other reserve players like Rincon or Valencia.

Now on to the midfield; PTFC carried 9 players who primarily played midfield this year. Below are their rankings by salary, cost per minute played and cost per point scored.

1) Salary:

a. Jack Jewsbury $180K (9)

b. Diego Chara $150K (8)

c. Rodney Wallace $110K (7)

d. Darlington Nagbe $90K (6)

e. Lovel Palmer $85K (5)

f. Sal Zizzo $73K (4)

g. Kalif Alhassan $70K (3)

h. Franck Songo’o $70K (2)

i. Eric Alexander $56K (1)

2) Cost per minute played:

a. Rodney Wallace $89/minute (9)

b. Kalif Alhassan $84/minute (8)

c. Jack Jewsbury $65/minute (7)

d. Lovel Palmer $63/minute (6)

e. Sal Zizzo $62/minute (5)

f. Diego Chara $60/minute (4)

g. Eric Alexander $43/minute (3)

h. Franck Songo’o $40/minute (2)

i. Darlington Nagbe $32/minute (1)

3) Cost per point scored:

a. Diego Chara $150K/ 0 points (9)

b. Lovel Palmer $96K/ 0 points (8)

c. Rodney Wallace $55K/point (7)

d. Jack Jewsbury $25K/point (6)

e. Kalif Alhassan $23K/point (5)

f. Sal Zizzo $14K/point (4)

g. Darlington Nagbe $12K/point (3)

h. Franck Songo’o $11K/point (2)

i. Eric Alexander $9K/point (1)

4) Total points per player; the more points the player has the less ‘statistical value’ the player brings to the organization in this analysis.

a. Rodney Wallace (23)

b. Jack Jewsbury (22)

c. Diego Chara (21)

d. Lovel Palmer (19)

e. Kalif Alhassan (16)

f. Sal Zizzo (13)

g. Darlington Nagbe (10)

h. Franck Songo’o (6)

i. Eric Alexander (5)

5) Finally, there is ‘perceptional judgment’, what I would call a ‘rounding factor’. This is my own assessment of the player based upon overall performance over the year when given an opportunity to play. My numbers reflect an assignment of double points to simulate that ‘perceptional judgment’ can have quite an impact on retaining or releasing players. The more points awarded the less perceptional value I feel or think the player brings to the organization in this analysis.

a. Lovel Palmer (18)

b. Eric Alexander (8)

c. Darlington Nagbe (8)

d. Kalif Alhassan (8)

e. Rodney Wallace (8)

f. Sal Zizzo (8)

g. Jack Jewsbury (6)

h. Franck Songo’o (4)

i. Diego Chara (2)

6) As can be seen above I had a difficult time racking and stacking the strengths of some players versus others; each player brings a slightly different skill set to the mix. So when adding up all the points here’s who I sense are the least strongest to most strongest midfielders on this team as part of this analysis:

a. Lovel Palmer (37) (least strongest)

b. Rodney Wallace (31)

c. Jack Jewsbury (28)

d. Kalif Alhassan (24)

e. Diego Chara (23)

f. Sal Zizzo (21)

g. Darlington Nagbe (18)

h. Eric Alexander (13)

i. Franck Songo’o (10) (most strongest)

7) In conclusion: My view, from a very simplified standpoint, is that I would not be surprised if Lovel Palmer were traded.

8) Bottom line(s) at the bottom:

a. There is a trend in soccer to move towards maximizing the number of midfielders on the pitch who can take on multiple roles given various game conditions.

b. Flexibility is huge and the greater the variety of strengths in the midfield the greater the opportunity for those combined strengths to influence the outcome of a game.

c. As noted in my previous analysis “Budgetary Investments of PTFC Part 1 and 2” midfielders ‘impact’ the outcome of games as much if not more than forwards. If financial flexibility is provided, in addition to the current salary investment, I would offer that Caleb Porter is likely to bring in a highly talented, and expensive, midfielder.

d. If finances are tight (zero balance) then many decisions may be made solely to reduce salary investments in one area and boost salary investments in another area.

In conclusion:

  1. No matter how any of these transactions play out this off-season one thing remains clearly obvious and obviously clear. The salary of a player on PTFC and the minutes played by that player on PTFC are controlled by PTFC.
  2. It would seem reasonable that players who are paid more would play more; if not injured. Was that the case this season?. Simple statistics seem to indicate some players were paid an inordinate sum of money for smaller amounts of time on the pitch compared to others.
  3. If the player is considered to have value to the organization it stands to reason that they would be provided the playing time to add their value in obtaining results. If the results are not achieved then is it reasonable to believe that management did not do a comprehensive job in assessing what value should be attached to that, or those, player(s)?
  4. I am hopeful that next year is a banner year for PTFC and that the fans truly feel and think that Merritt Paulson “has repaid them”.

Here’s a link to my second in this two part series…

You can follow me on twitter at: https://twitter.com/ChrisGluckPTFC

Chris Gluck

Chris Gluck

I have been covering the Portland Timbers and Major League Soccer, as a community blogger/analyst for the Columbian Newspaper, since June, 2012. Since then my involvement in soccer analysis has expanded to include participating in the Regional Emmy Award Winning Soccer City PDX TV Show (Comcast Sports Northwest). My unique analytical approach has been published in Europe and presented at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014. I also appear regularly as a co-host on Rose City Soccer Show and the Yellowcarded Podcast. You can find my work on PossessionwithPurpose.com, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.