After washing the taste of dead fish out of my mouth yesterday, I was left with an urge to do something, anything to better understand what happened out there. While reading the match recap, I stumbled on the Chalkboard app at MLSSoccer.com, and started to poke around. There were two things that really stood out to me, GK distribution, and midfield form. The second I know less about than the first, so I figured I would write about Perkins' passing woes.
This point should not come as a surprise to anyone who has watched Perkins boom kicks downfield like he's aiming to give the TA a souvenir, but it's worth noting anyway: Troy Perkins does not have good ball distribution. At. All. Long suspected, this seems pretty clear from a detailed statistical look. Shockingly, however, his service was somehow far worse in the May game, with an astounding 5:24 ratio of successful to unsuccessful passes. He successfully passed the ball once in the entire second half.
In other words: unpleasant. His service Sunday, while improved, also left much to be desired. For the sake of brevity, I will compare his stats to Keller's from the same game, as well as attempt to explain why Perkins was so much worse. For the record, I do realize Keller is one of the league's best, but Perkins was at one point as well, so I think the comparison is valid. Feel free to make the jump for more depressing stats, and perhaps even a mitigating explanation.
The most striking statistical differential between the two GKs is their pass success ratio. Keller put up a respectable 17:14(compared with 18:10 in May), while Perkins put up a significantly more disappointing 13:19. Not good. So why is there a difference? Well, in short, Perkins needs either to learn to develop an outlet, or the Timbers need a RB Perkins trusts. Here is Keller's day:
Notice anything? Keller uses the outlet pass to get the ball to Riley, who then gets it up field. He has a decent midrange ball, but it isn't his favorite weapon, and it is far more likely to end in a turn of possession.
Now Perkins. Here is his day as a distributer, followed by his unsuccessful passes.
Unsurprisingly to anyone who has watched Timbers games, Perkins' strategy seems to be some variation of boot it up field and hope the collection of tiny Timbers midfielders and forwards(fun fact, Alhassan, Nagbe, Perlaza, and Zizzo are all listed at 5'8, and Chara somehow clocks in at 5'7, so you know they stuck these guys on stools) can somehow win the header. Again, to no one's surprise, this is not effective. That said, in Perkins' defense, there is one major mitigating circumstance. Passbacks. Our defense makes a lot of them, and Perkins often has to come out to collect and distribute. This leaves him making a lot of one touch kicks, and it isn't entirely surprising that he would rather get them downfield. Subtract his passes from outside the box, and his ratio isn't quite as bad (13:10). This is crucial. Before condemning Perkins and demanding Gleeson(whose ratio was also somewhat disastrous, though he is far younger and has upside), we should probably figure out why our back line is constantly pressured into making passes back to Perkins that he has to deal with (If you say its because our defense kind of sucks, you get a cookie!).
"So what?" you are likely asking; "this is all obvious," you say. And you are right. Mainly I was curious and wanted to play around with Chalkboard, but I think this does have some utility. What does Keller have that Perkins doesn't, besides top flight and international experience? A connection with his right back. Purdy is by no means a great RB, but his passing completion percentage was higher than Riley's(76% to 72%, includes giveaways as well as bad passes), and done from a far more forward position. I don't know what the root cause is here. Whether it is Perkins not trusting the RB, or him going a little loose cannon(though I lean towards the former, if only because I wouldn't want to piss Spencer off if I were him), something needs to be done.
In sum, Perkins clearly has a problem, but I believe it is fixable. I am a Gleeson fan, and have never been entirely sold on Perkins, but he has the goal stopping skills of an elite MLS GK. If he can fix his distribution, I believe he can become the Timbers' GK of the present and future. But if this is going to happen, GW and Spencer are going to need to sit down and figure out a solution, whether it is signing an experienced veteran RB or talking with Perkins and the defenders about sorting out backpasses(or both!), right now it is up to our FO and players, but I believe they can do it.
PS: If you have any questions, feel free to ask and leave comments about how I can improve, especially if you agree/disagree. I know very little about statistics, so please let me know if I'm doing it all wrong. Hopefully I can get to the midfield form issue later this week as well. And thanks to MLS and Opta for a cool little system. It could use some work(Season long player stats with checkboxes by game would be nice), but they've done an excellent job.