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Maxi Urruti is Grounded

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Timbers forward Maxi Urruti seems to end up on the ground quite often, but is it any more frequent than other players?

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Every data-gathering need must start somewhere: an idea, a perception, a hypothesis, a notion, even a bias... So how about this one: Maxi Urruti seems to spend a lot of time on the ground.

Below is a list of all the players who saw the field in Portland's 2-1 defeat away to Dallas (excluding goalkeepers). Next to each player is the number of times that player was on the ground as the result of contact with an opposing team's player. We'll call this Grounding Due to Contact, or GDC. The GDC doesn't include when a player hits the turf because they initiated a slide tackle, or slipped due to poor footing. It also doesn't include corners or free kicks when bodies tend to go flying all over the place (although there was only once such instance in the DAL-POR match).

Moises Hernandez - 0
Jair Benitez - 2
Blas Pérez - 5
David Texeira - 1
Mauro Díaz - 5
Fabian Castillo - 2
Zach Loyd - 1
Stephen Keel - 1
Kellyn Acosta - 2
Matt Hedges - 2
Je-Vaughn Watson - 1
Victor Ulloa - 0
31 Michel - 5

Alvas Powell - 3
Will Johnson - 5
Michael Harrington - 0
Darlington Nagbe - 4
Diego Valeri - 5
Frédéric Piquionne - 0
Gastón Fernández - 2
Kalif Alhassan - 1
Jack Jewsbury - 3
Diego Chara - 3
Norberto Paparatto - 1
Maximiliano Urruti - 15
Pa Modou Kah - 0

At a glance, the threshold appears to be 5 (Perez, Diaz, Michel, Johnson, Valeri), but then you get down to Urruti. Urruti's GDC? 15. Fifteen! That's three times as many instances of Urruti having to get up off the dirt, brush off his shorts and shirt, adjust his socks, and grimace in pain, than any other player on (literally) the pitch.

But maybe there's a reason... Maybe he just gets fouled a lot. Maybe, since he played a full 90 minutes for the first time this season, it just seemed like he went to ground more often because he was in the game longer. Below, again, is a list of all the players with their GDC, along with, in parenthesis, the number of times an opponent was whistled for a foul when the player hit the turf, and the resulting percentage.

Moises Hernandez - 0
Jair Benitez - 2(0), 0%;
Blas Pérez - 5(1), 20%
David Texeira - 1(0), 0%
Mauro Díaz - 5(4), 80%
Fabian Castillo - 2(1), 50%
Zach Loyd - 1(0), 0%
Stephen Keel - 1(0), 0%
Kellyn Acosta - 2(1), 50%
Matt Hedges - 2(1), 50%
Je-Vaughn Watson - 1, 0%
Victor Ulloa - 0
Michel - 5(2), 40%

Alvas Powell - 3(0), 0%
Will Johnson - 5(3), 60%
Michael Harrington - 0
Darlington Nagbe - 4(3), 75%
Diego Valeri - 5(3), 60%
Frédéric Piquionne - 0
Gastón Fernández - 2(1), 50%
Kalif Alhassan - 1(1), 100%
Jack Jewsbury - 3(2), 67%
Diego Chara - 3(1), 33%
Norberto Paparatto - 1(0), 0%
Maximiliano Urruti - 15(3), 20%
Pa Modou Kah - 0

Only 20% of the time when Urruti went down was it deemed to have been caused by a foul. But he actually has company as leader in this category, with Dallas forward Blas Perez, whose 1 out of 5 "groundings due to fouls" was as bad as Urruti among players with more than two trips to the turf. The only outlier using this metric is Alvas Powell, who was down 3 times and was apparently never victim of a foul. (But you may recall an elbow to the face that dropped him to his knees--courtesy of the aforementioned Perez--that was missed by referee Sorin Stoica and the eagle-eyed linesman who also spotted Watson and Harrington "striking" each other.)

Finally, perhaps there are others who fall to the turf at the same rate as Urruti? Below is a list which takes into account the number of minutes each person played and shows the average number of minutes between falls.

Moises Hernandez - never
Jair Benitez - once every 45 minutes
Blas Pérez - once every 13 minutes
David Texeira - once every 24 minutes
Mauro Díaz - once every 18 minutes
Fabian Castillo - once every 45 minutes
Zach Loyd - once every 3 minutes
Stephen Keel - once every 90 minutes
Kellyn Acosta - once every 45 minutes
Matt Hedges - once every 45 minutes
Je-Vaughn Watson - once every 40 minutes
Victor Ulloa - never
Michel - once every 18 minutes

Alvas Powell - once every 15 minutes
Will Johnson - once every 18 minutes
Michael Harrington - never
Darlington Nagbe - once every 11 minutes
Diego Valeri - once every 18 minutes
Frédéric Piquionne - never
Gastón Fernández - once every 31 minutes
Kalif Alhassan - once every 28 minutes
Jack Jewsbury - once every 29 minutes
Diego Chara - once every 30 minutes
Norberto Paparatto - once every 90 minutes
Maximiliano Urruti - once every 6 minutes
Pa Modou Kah - never

Once again, Urruti is the runaway leader, playing in the grass once every 6 minutes. (Lloyd is the outlier this time, but he only played for 3 minutes so we can discount his 1 trip to the ground.) Urruti's pace is almost twice as fast as the next person, Nagbe at 11 minutes (but no one is complaining about Nagbe's time spent on the ground--other than the hacking that goes on to get him there).

Timbers coach Caleb Porter said he thinks the refereeing needs to improve, but at the same time Urruti may need to continue to adjust his own perception of what will be deemed a foul. "[Urruti's] definitely getting kicked. But, there are some times when he needs to be a bit stronger and not go to ground, as well. Whether that's an adjustment to the league---I mean, the game's the game---but there is an adjustment certainly for some of these guys with regards to how officials in our league call things. So I think it's a bit of both."