Becoming familiar with the ins and outs of the MLSsoccer.com MatchCenter Chalkboard, a feature offered after each and every MLS game, may seem like a tedious task to some. Honestly, it’s not difficult, and it can reveal intricate insights about the match and the players. Here's a primer.
First, go to the MatchCenter for any game you’d like to review and select the Chalkboard tab. I’ve selected the Montreal vs. Seattle game from June 16 (shown below):
When you click the tab an image of a full soccer field will load along with several selectable options located on both sides of the pitch. On the left side of the page, you’ll see a list of both teams and all the players listed on the active roster for that particular game. You can select the entire team or you can choose individual players from the same (or different) teams to draw comparisons with. On the right side of the screen you can choose from nearly 50 different actions, gathered by Opta Sports’ live-game analysts.
Next, pick a player. If you hover over a player's name, you'll see a heat map, which shows where on the field he was involved in the action. If you click the checkbox next to his name, you can dive into the actual actions. For example, here is Felipe's heat map (right) and his "Distribution." I have narrowed it down further just to show his successful passes (below).
And what can I see? The heatmap shows that Felipe was deployed very high up in an attacking midfield position, and that he was active on both sides of the field.
The passing matrix shows that he was more active in possession on the left side of the field -- which, not coincidently, is where his goal came from. Also, there are three successful long passes that switch the field of play, actions that any observer of the match could see unbalanced the Seattle defense in the game.
Basically, the heatmap and the matrix are a graphical representation the performance turned in by Felipe, one that got him named to the MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week.
My favorite part of the Chalkboard is a feature rarely noticed, a tool that could extremely benefit journalists when drawing comparisons among both players and teams. It’s the “Share your analysis” button located at the very bottom of the right column.
Say you want to share Montreal midfielder Felipe’s total production against Seattle with a friend, colleague or another soccer fan. A screenshot won’t give the viewer the ability to hover over each action and identify what happened at that particular position on the field. This option on the Chalkboard, however, is extremely user friendly. Just select what you want – and share!
With the “Share your analysis” feature, select your data and click the button. A link will instantly appear that you can send to whoever you want…check it out below!
It's as simple as that.
Total Points – Dwayne De Rosario (89)
With Thierry Henry missing several weeks due to a hamstring injury, DeRo has taken over as the No. 1 player in Fantasy Soccer: Manager. He’s had a weeks of 10, 15 and 20 points, and his most recent point output was the most by a single player thus far in 2012. DeRo has 20+ more points than the next closest midfielder, making him a legitimate threat every week and a player you can build your team around.
Percentage Owned – Jay DeMerit (35.3)
DeMerit has been the most widely selected player in FS: M the entire season. Thirty-five percent of all managers currently have him on their roster. The second-closest player is Kenny Cooper (28 percent). At one point, DeMerit had the highest score of any defender, but lately he’s been slipping. D.C. United players Daniel Woolard and Brandon McDonald, Aurélien Colin, and even teammate Lee Young-Pyo have since leapfrogged DeMerit, so only time will tell if it’s his worldwide fame or his actual production that makes him the most “popular” player in MLS.
Crosses & Key Passes – Graham Zusi (33) & (34)
Zusi has calmed down slightly after a fast start, but his 33 crosses are still seven better than the next closest player. Three successful crosses equals one bonus point, so Zusi could’ve potentially gained an additional 11 points for his efforts thus far. He also leads the league in Key Passes (34) and has seven more than the next closest player in this category as well. Zusi should continue to be one of the most coveted midfielders due to his time on the ball and SKC’s all-out attack style offense.
Big Chances Fluffed – Dominic Oduro (7)
One of the fastest – if not the fastest – players in MLS has been a huge bust in 2012. In the four games in which Oduro has scored, he’s tallied six or more points each time. However, in every other game this season (eight games) he’s managed just two points or less. In his last seven games he’s put up one point or less on six different occasions. Oduro is getting great looks, but he’s missing every single one of them. He leads all players in BCFs and has been deducted seven points total because of it. At this point, he’s more of a risk than anything.
CBI’s – A.J. Soares (123)
My initial pick for Defender of the Year is not having a sophomore slump by any means. His 123 CBIs (clearances, blocks and interceptions combined) leads all players and he’ll likely widen the gap with two games coming up in Week 13. Only three other players have more than 100 CBIs and none of them will be under more pressure than Soares should the rest of the season. He’s an absolute ball shark, but has never really been a threat on set pieces. One can only hope that his recent goal will encourage Jay Heaps to push him up more often.
Recoveries – Osvaldo Alonso (136)
Disregarding goalkeepers, there’s a tight battle for the title of “the best second-ball winner” in MLS. Alonso currently leads Dax McCarty (133) by only three recoveries, but that’s pretty much his only competition. Kyle Beckerman has the third most with 100, and it looks as if his absence due to national team duty will only widen the margin. Alonso has gained 19 bonus points already from recoveries so expect him to keep this all season long.
Transfers In – Nick DeLeon (3,800+)
When David Estrada (3,500+ transfers) started cooling down, DeLeon became all the talk. The D.C. United rookie is currently the most added player with over 3,800 transfers. His value started at $5.5m and quickly made its way to $6.8m. Now that he’s back from injury don’t expect him to return to his previous form. When DeLeon was clicking, DeRo and Salihi were in a slump. Now that they’re back in form, expect DeLeon to take a back seat. He’s still valuable, but not as much as he was back in April.
Dream Team – Kenny Cooper (4)
No one has made the “Dream Team” more times this season than Kenny Cooper, but you have to credit Thierry Henry with helping him reach this point. Coop-dog has scored six or more points on nine different occasions in 2012, making him one of the most consistent forwards in MLS. He continued to put up numbers even when Henry was out, so look for him to only get better now that he’s returned.
Lately, Osvaldo Alonso has been the most-talked-about defensive midfielder in MLS, praised for his outstanding development on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball. This past weekend however, Alonso struggled to get anything going offensively.
When looking at his passes – successful and unsuccessful (image below) – you can see that nearly every attempt to contribute offensively was immediately shutdown by the RSL defense.
Alonso is great at starting the attack, but isn’t the ideal player you want on the ball in the final third. Out of 51 completed passes, he connected with Mauro Rosales the most – 12 times. This is something opposing teams should look to limit going forward.
Because Alonso plays so deep he rarely gets involved in the attack. This is the main reason why he hasn’t scored more than 6 points in Fantasy Soccer: Manager this season. He’s very consistent, but he probably won’t get you that 8-10 point game anytime soon.
One thing we have to credit Alonso for is his ability to keep the game moving. He doesn’t slow down play with meaningless “back passes” – something several other holding midfielders are known for. His defending skills and counter-attacking ability make him exceptionally unique when comparing players at this position. If he can add some offensive qualities to his game, he’ll add even more value to an already potent attacking core.
New York earned their second clean sheet of the season in as many weeks on Saturday with a rookie keeper and a makeshift backline. After grabbing a 1-0 lead just 19 minutes into the game, the Red Bulls had to fight off a barrage of attacks in order to escape with a huge road win. Ironically, it’s the NY defenders that have now become a hot item in Fantasy Soccer: Manager.
Points Breakdown (Week 9)
GK Ryan Meara – 9 points
D Jan Gunnar Solli – 10 points
D Connor Lade – 8 points
D Markus Holgersson – 7 points
D Tyler Ruthven – 7 points
M Brandon Barklage – 6 points
It looks as if New York’s early-season defensive woes could be a thing of the past – at least for now – because if you had any of the guys above in Week 9, your investment paid off. Ryan Meara was tied for third among 'keepers in points scored this past weekend and the rest of the guys didn’t do too shabby either. Brandon Barklage could’ve had nine points, but he’s listed as a midfielder. This only gave him one point for the clean sheet, while Solli (playing midfield) grabbed the full four points. With two games coming up this week most of these guys could be solid pickups, with Meara ($5.0m) and Lade ($4.3m) being exceptional options at a very low price, unless of course, Roy Miller returns.
Let’s take a closer look at the stats and the chalkboards to see how the RBNY defense shut down the MLS Cup 2011 champs.
Possession: LA Galaxy 63% - NY Red Bulls 37%
The Galaxy controlled possession for the entire game, but it wasn’t just meaningless passing in its own half. LA attempted 274 passes in the opposition's half while NY attempted less than half of that (130), with the Galaxy completing 72 percent and the Red Bulls completing 77 percent. In the image below you can see that LA (right) not only flooded the entire half with passes, but they drove the ball into the box repeatedly. New York's possessions are on the left.
Open Play Crosses
LA continuously served the ball into the box hoping that something would come of it. New York only managed four crosses from open play all game, but the Galaxy drove it in eight times that amount (32 crosses). New York (left) connected on just one of their four crosses (25 percent), while LA (right) connected on eight of 24 (33 percent).
Clearances & Interceptions
The defensive statistics were even more staggering. In 90 minutes, the Red Bulls (left) tallied 66 combined clearances and interceptions (28 interceptions and 38 clearances) in the defensive half, while the Galaxy (right) managed just 13 (three interceptions and 10 clearances).
New York were extremely fortunate to have not conceded a goal, but regardless, their confidence has to be growing. Coming up in Week 10, they play the Houston Dynamo at home and the Philadelphia Union away. With both teams struggling, a shutout looks like another possible feat in at least one of the two games, making New York defenders more enticing than they ever have been before.
Last month, I wrote about how defenders are the most consistent scorers in Fantasy Soccer: Manager. Even though they’ll score points for you more regularly (on average) than others, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the most influential in your team's success. The table below shows the number of point leaders by position, with only the highest scoring player from each MLS team being selected. The table does not include stats from Wednesday night's games.
Point leaders by position (limit one player per team)
Goalkeepers – 6
Defenders – 4
Midfielders – 4
Forwards – 6
*New England credited with both a GK and a defender as point leaders due to a tie
As you can see from the table above, 71 players have scored 30 points or more so far this season – but only 25 players have scored 40 points or more. Also to note, Chicago are the only team without a 30-plus point-scorer and there are still 10 teams without a 40-plus point-scorer as well.
Stacking up on players from certain teams may seem like the best option. Sporting KC get shutouts and they score as well, so pick your poison. D.C. United are great at scoring, so load up on their midfielders and forwards. And Vancouver get clean sheets, so stock up on their defenders.
Now, if we take a point leader from every team can we still manage to keep it under the salary cap? And if so, how successful can they be? Let’s try.
GK – Matt Pickens - $6.0m
D – Lee Young-Pyo - $6.8m
D – Aurelien Collin - $7.5m
D – A.J. Soares - $6.5m
M – Landon Donovan - $10.4m
M – Nick DeLeon - $6.7m
M – Kyle Beckerman - $8.5m
M – Gabriel Gómez - $7.5m
F – Thierry Henry - $10.8m
F – Chris Wondolowski $11.7m
F – Blas Pérez $9.6m
Total Money Spent – $92.0m
Total Points Accumulated – 533
Now, this is a dream team! Sure $8M doesn't leave you enough for subs, but tweak your lineup slightly and you can make it work. And with 533 points, not only will you most likely be first place in your league, you’d be tied for seventh in the nation in total points as well.
It just goes to show that no matter what you decide to do – stack up on players from a few teams or spread it out around league – there’s more than just one way to be successful in Fantasy Soccer: Manager.
Tweet your fantasy soccer questions to @Ben_Jata
Toronto FC came out in their normal 4-3-3 lineup against Chicago minus Danny Koevermans and Nick Soolsma. Crossing has been a huge inconsistency for Toronto which makes it even more perplexing as to why they keep doing it. According to @OptaJack, TFC are attempting the most crosses by any team in 2012.
118 - Coming into this week's play, Toronto had attempted the most crosses in MLS 2012 (118). Wide. #MLS #TORvCHI
— OptaJack (@OptaJack) April 21, 2012
Toronto attempted 30 crosses from open play against the Fire, completing just 5 of them. The problem isn’t the number of crosses – it’s who’s taking them. Out of 25 unsuccessful crosses, TFC’s three forwards were responsible for 18 (image below) and 4 of the 5 successful crosses. Koevermans and Johnson are TFC’s best options in the air. So if Johnson is crossing and Koevermans is out, who (from TFC) is going to get on the end of these crosses?
Before this past Saturday’s game against the Chicago Fire, Toronto had conceded ten goals while netting just two. They’ve missed some sitters (6 Big Chances Fluffed) – Ryan Johnson and Danny Koevermans with 3 each – so the opportunities are there. With Koevermans and Soolsma out, Reggie Lambe has stepped up.
Lambe is listed as a midfielder in FS: M for $7.5m. He might not have another game like he did against Chicago anytime soon, but he’s providing a nice spark for a struggling squad. In his last 3 games he’s had 7 key passes (three equals a point), so if he continues getting regular minutes up top, there may be potential value in a TFC striker after all.
With wins over Columbus, Philadelphia and Chicago in 3 of their first 4 games to start the 2012 MLS Season, Colorado seemed to be moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, that all came to a halt this past weekend when RSL ran rampant in the second half, possibly in part to a makeshift formation.
Drew Moor played midfield for the first time since I don’t know when and Tyrone Marshall filled in as if everything was just fine and dandy. Moor played alright – with 87 touches (second most among all players), winning nine of his 13 duels and completing 44 of 59 passes (75 percent). All in all, he was quite active.
Now let’s dig a little deeper and examine some graphics produced by the Opta Chalkboards that show Moor’s presence (in the defensive third), in every game so far this season. Let’s select clearances, blocks and interceptions by Moor in Colorado’s first five games and what Marshall did when he filled in vs RSL.
You can see what Marshall did – or didn’t do – against RSL (he has #34 inside his circles), but can you pick the corresponding image for Moor in that game as well?
If you haven’t guessed which graphic represents Moor’s production from the Real Salt Lake game, it’s the top right. Marshall’s clearances, blocks and interceptions vs RSL are shown in the bottom right image.
Put together the images from both players’ vs RSL and it still doesn’t equal the defensive production Drew Moor has had in any previous game this season. Colorado has to make adjustments soon because Moor’s absence on the backline could prove to be quite costly over time.
(Image below) CBAI’s for Zapata, Marshall, Wynne and Kimura vs RSL
Playing Together? – Larentowicz and Moor’s Positioning vs RSL
As seen in the graphic below, Colorado lined up in a 4-5-1 formation with Drew Moor and Jeff Larentowicz playing as duel holding midfielders.
If this was the plan from Head Coach Oscar Pareja, everything went awry. After playing around with the Opta Chalkboards, you can see that Larentowicz and Moor played much different roles. The image below shows all passes completed by the two midfielders from box-to-box – Larentowicz on the left and Moor on the right.
Larentowicz seemed to play his normal role regardless, but Moor acted as if he was told to play right mid. How do players – that start the game in similar positions – end up with completely different outcomes?
These days, 5-3-2 is usually seen as a sign of respect when facing an opponent far superior in strength (e.g., anyone vs. Barcelona).
But to win in Fantasy Soccer: Manager, perhaps it's best to think that you are playing Messi & Co. each week. The FS:M Dream Team has lined up with five defenders four out of five weeks thus far. Ironically, this formation is producing more points for teams than the 4-3-3 and 3-4-3. I myself have been lined up mostly in a 3-4-3 thinking that midfielders and forwards would get me the most points. Fail.
Player HAWAIIFAN13 proved the benefits of the 5-3-2. In Week 5, he rode the formation to 106 points, the second highest score recorded by a team this year.
So what does this mean for the rest of the 2012? Do the stats suggest taking a completely different approach and start dumping midfielders (and even forwards) for defenders? You be the judge.
Players averaging 5.0 points or more per game (by position)
Defenders – 27
Goalkeepers – 12
Midfielders – 10
Forwards – 8
The numbers above should make your decision a little easier. At this point in the season, there is more security in starting defenders than there is at any other position. Honestly, it’s not even close. Forwards and midfielders can be a huge investment, and so far, most of them aren’t living up to the asking price.
Need help with your squad? Tweet your MLS Fantasy Soccer questions to @Ben_Jata