With the 2013 MLS regular season in the rearview mirror, it's time to take a look at some of the key data points gathered over the last eight months. Let's start with passing.
Passes can be broken down into several different categories. For instance, we can look at:
- Location - own half, opponents' half, defensive third, middle third, final third
- Direction - forward, sideways and backwards
- Length - short, medium, long
Instead of diving into some of the more advanced statistics right off the bat, let's keep it simple. We'll examine passing from a general perspective today and dig a little deeper in the near future.
One of the most important aspects of the passing game is completion rate. Whether it's to a nearby teammate in the middle of the field, a back pass to your goalkeeper or a through ball in the final third, all passes have one of two outcomes: They're either won or lost.
You could argue that defenders have it easier than forwards and attacking midfielders have it harder than holding midfielders when it comes to being pressured on the ball, but that's something we'll visit later on.
For now, here's a breakdown of the individual passing achievements this season with regards to accuracy. In order to eliminate any outliers that might skew the data, players listed in the chart below must have appeared in at least 17 games (half of the regular season) and attempted at least 750 passes.
Based on these qualifications, here are the 50 most accurate passers in MLS in 2013...
|Player||Team||Total Passes||Passes Own Half||Passes Opp. Half||Passing Accuracy|
|1. Osvaldo Alonso||1,498||660||838||88.58|
|2. Nat Borchers||1,004||732||272||87.55|
|3. Ned Grabavoy||1,245||497||748||86.99|
|4. Matteo Ferrari||1,435||1,057||378||86.90|
|5. Matt Hedges||979||748||231||86.52|
|6. Diego Chará||1,605||611||994||86.36|
|7. Alessandro Nesta||1,099||735||364||86.35|
|8. James Riley||984||439||545||86.08|
|9. Jun Marques Davidson||891||418||473||85.75|
|11. Darlington Nagbe||1,395||349||1,046||85.45|
|12. Yordany Álvarez||760||359||401||85.39|
|13. Jonathan Osorio||772||270||502||85.36|
|14. Rafael Baca||1,257||537||720||85.28|
|15. Nathan Sturgis||1,254||529||725||85.17|
|16. Dax McCarty||1,616||809||807||84.96|
|17. Will Johnson||1,452||640||812||84.92|
|18. Keon Daniel||886||330||556||84.76|
|19. Hendry Thomas||1,319||643||676||84.46|
|20. Brad Davis||907||316||591||84.45|
|21. Oriol Rosell||1,614||726||888||84.45|
|22. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado||827||583||244||84.40|
|23. Marcelo Sarvas||1,790||577||1,213||83.63|
|24. Eric Alexander||1,015||346||669||83.35|
|25. Markus Holgersson||1,191||775||416||83.29|
|26. Nick DeLeon||759||289||470||83.27|
|27. Scott Caldwell||980||400||580||83.27|
|28. Jermaine Taylor||966||630||336||83.13|
|29. Javier Morales||1,701||428||1,273||83.13|
|30. Kyle Beckerman||1,813||775||1,038||83.12|
|31. Daniel Woolard||1,056||633||423||82.95|
|32. A.J. DeLaGarza||955||532||423||82.83|
|33. Benny Feilhaber||930||295||635||82.69|
|34. Perry Kitchen||1,465||704||761||82.53|
|35. Patrice Bernier||1,725||912||813||82.43|
|36. Boniek García||929||246||683||82.02|
|37. Jeff Parke||936||577||359||81.94|
|38. Nigel Reo-Coker||1,542||505||1,037||81.91|
|39. Sean Franklin||1,293||456||837||81.83|
|40. Lee Young-Pyo||1,339||535||804||81.48|
|41. Dillon Powers||1,261||422||839||81.44|
|42. Gershon Koffie||994||416||578||81.39|
|43. Davy Arnaud||911||408||503||81.34|
|44. Chad Marshall||822||527||295||81.27|
|45. Amobi Okugo||1,086||643||443||80.85|
|46. Jack Jewsbury||1,079||509||570||80.82|
|47. Michael Harrington||1,529||614||915||80.77|
|48. Brian Carroll||1,478||673||805||80.58|
|49. Robbie Keane||776||124||652||80.54|
|50. Lee Nguyen||1,459||375||1084||80.40|
Coming in at No. 49, Robbie Keane was the only one forward who made the list. In fact, out of the 122 players to have met both qualifiers (17 appearances, 750 pass attempts), only five players classified as forwards (according to MLSsoccer.com) made the cut along with Keane: Mike Magee (No. 87), Chris Wondolowski (No. 94), Thierry Henry (No. 113), Dominic Oduro (No. 116) and Sébastien Le Toux (No. 121)
Coming in at No. 108 was Portland Timbers playmaker Diego Valeri. Regarded by some as a potential candidate for the Volkswagen MLS MVP award, Valeri completed just 73.69 percent of his 1,144 pass attempts over 31 appearances.
If you believe that completing passes is in fact harder in the opponents' half, you'd be interested to know that 78.9 percent of Valeri's total pass attempts came on the attacking side of the field, the fifth-most of all 122 players. However, Valeri also had the second-most unsuccessful passes in that half as well (261).
Here are some other key passing statistics with regards to this select group of players:
- Most passes attempted: Kyle Beckerman - 1,813
- Most passes successful: Kyle Beckerman - 1,507
- Most passes failed: Bobby Boswell - 333
- Best passing accuracy: Osvaldo Alonso - 88.58 percent
Kyle Beckerman has completed 4,751 total passes in the last three years, leading the league in two of the last three seasons. He finished second in 2012 behind New York's Dax McCarty, who completed 1,845 passes in 33 games.
Former Sporting KC winger Kei Kamara led MLS in passes failed in 2012 with 372. That same year, Bobby Boswell finished ninth with 313. This year, Boswell gets the crown.
Osvaldo Alonso is predominantly known as a defensive juggernaut, with a knack for interceptions and tackles that disrupts the opposition's attack. But he rarely seems to get credit for the quality of his passing game.
FYI: The most accurate passer in 2012 was Real Salt Lake center back Nat Borchers, who completed 89.8 percent of his 995 pass attempts.
- Most passes attempted: Matteo Ferrari - 1,057
- Most passes successful: Matteo Ferrari - 978
- Most passes failed: Drew Moor - 90
- Best passing accuracy: Robbie Keane - 95.16 percent
In 2012, midfielder, Dax McCarty, led all players with 1,069 pass attempts in his own half. McCarty's conversion rate on those attempts was 92 percent (34th best that season). Montreal’s Matteo Ferrari converted 92.5 percent of his 1,057 attempts (19th best this season).
Colorado defender, Drew Moor, had the second-most passes failed (92) in his own half last year. This season that number dropped ever so slightly, but he’s still No. 1 on the list regardless.
Last season, Beckerman had a conversion rate of 95.6 percent, the best in MLS (941 attempts). Meanwhile, Keane finished 26th at 92.3 percent (195 attempts).
This year, Beckerman dropped off a little, finishing seventh on the season with a conversion rate of 92.3 percent (775 attempts). Keane, however, increased his conversion rate by nearly 3 percent, although his volume of passes attempted (124) remains rather low.
FYI: Nat Borchers finished second this season with a conversion rate of 95.08 percent (732 attempts).
- Most passes attempted: Javier Morales - 1,273
- Most passes successful: Javier Morales - 1,018
- Most passes failed: Federico Higuain - 263
- Best passing accuracy: Osvaldo Alonso - 85.08 percent
Javier Morales has attempted (2,327) and completed (1,857) more passes in the opponents half than any other MLS player over the last two years. LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho has completed the second-most passes in that same span (1,744).
This year's leaders in passes failed (opp half) were all key focal points of their team's attack going forward and love to distribute the final pass: Federico Higuain (263), Valeri (261) and Morales (255).
Despite the fact that Morales posts similar numbers to both Higuain and Valeri in this regard, his accuracy per attempt is undoubtedly much better: 80 percent completion rate (1,018/1,273) versus 76.7 percent for Higuain (864/1,127) and 71.1 percent for Valeri (641/902).
Although these three players performed remarkably at their position, the award for this year's most-accurate passer in the opponents' half, and most-accurate passer overall goes to Seattle's Alonso. The Honeybadger attempted 1,498 total passes; 838 in the opponents half and 660 in his own half, which was a fairly balanced ration of 55.9 percent and 44.1 percent despite the fact that people classify him as a defensive midfielder.
After seeing this year's passing data, do you think Alonso is underrated as a distributor? Are Morales and Beckerman the best central midfield combination in MLS? Could Valeri perform even better in the attacking half next season? Tell us what you think in the comments below.