Central Winger: Deconstructing Mexico vs. USMNT World Cup qualifier
Some games, like the recent United States vs. Mexico World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca, are so tense that even long-time fans have a hard time grasping the game objectively.
While spectacles like USA vs. Mexico are more than a simple match, on paper, it is still a game. And with the help of MLSsoccer.com's Opta Chalkboard, we can step back and strip away the emotion and fanfare to grasp the important aspects of this crucial Hexagonal match.
Like every soccer game that came before it, and every game that will follow, this game had significant ebb and flow. While there were far fewer scoring chances on the American side for your heart to ache about, possession came in droves for both teams.
To show this, we have put together a graph that shows the percentage share of match events – that is, any data point that is included on a MLSsoccer.com Opta Chalkboard, ranging from passes and interceptions to fouls and shots – that belonged to a particular team over the game's 97 minutes (using a five-minute rolling average).
Over the course of the match, Mexico slowly gained a significant majority of the game's events reaching a whopping 75 percent as late as the 91st minute. That being said, the Americans stuck around – putting together nice pockets of work in both the first half (35th to 45th minute) and in the second half (70th and 85th minutes). These periods of work undoubtedly slowed down the progress of the Mexicans and perhaps impeded them enough so that they didn't reach a critical mass.
Coincidentally, the dividing line between the Mexican and American event share also correlates exactly to my pulse rate during the same 90-plus minutes.
Alongside event share, the rate of events also fluctuated significantly through the match. This is the total number of events per five minutes, broken down by team.
The game started off at a rocket pace, with the game's highest rate of play transpiring only 15 minutes into the match. The rate of play then fluctuated for the remainder of the first half, only to grow more steady in the second stanza. Without even the slightest break in the action in this cagey affair, this factor alone must have kept viewers glued to the edge of their seat.
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Finally, here is the average pass location over the course of the match, the top being the Mexican side of the pitch and the bottom being the US side of the pitch.
As anyone watching the match would tell you – even without the Opta statistics – this match was predominantly played in the American half. However, just like the match event share and rate of play, this fluctuated too – like every other soccer match.
While the graph drops deep into the visitors' side of the pitch in the final minutes, there were segments of play where the Americans were able to push out of their own zone and maintain possession in the attacking half. Unsurprisingly, these pockets of play also cross-correlate to the segments that the Americans had a majority share of the match events.