Statistical look at the Union midway through the MLS season vs. years past

Evaluating the Philadelphia Union statistically through 15 games

Goal celebration vs. CLB

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

The American sports fan loves to talk statistics.

Baseball fans have RBI, OBP, and RISP.

Hockey fans have plus/minus rating, PIM, and TOI.

Soccer is a little bit harder to quantify. We don't have as many measurables as other sports do, and statistics like possession and passing don't exactly offer up consistent results when analyzed and extrapolated.

The Union have played 15 games this season, which gives us a pretty good sample size of data to look at. We've gone back and compiled some basic statistics for each Philadelphia season through the same number of games and jotted down some observations.

We're just scratching the surface with these numbers.

A couple things to note before you look at the data:

  • The 2010 Union played eight of the first 10 games on the road. The schedule was especially difficult and the skewed numbers reflect that.
  • John Hackworth took over for Peter Nowak prior to the D.C. United game on June 15, 2012. When looking at stats from 2012, keep in mind that Nowak was in charge for 11 games, and Hackworth managed the side for the remaining four games.
  • MLS doesn't have readily-available statistics like strength of schedule or RPI. Obviously the schedule shakes down differently for each season, but keep in mind that MLS only switched to the "unbalanced" format in 2012. In 2010 and 2011, the Union played each team in the league in a home/away structure.

Philadelphia Union teams through 15 Games

Goals Scored

2013: 22

2012: 15

2011: 16

2010: 19

No real surprises here. The 2013 Union has scored more goals through 15 games than any other incarnation of the team.

There's a bit of an aberration related to the 2011 team. That squad had a 6-2 win in Toronto which really makes this stat look better than it is. The reality is that the 2011 team struggled offensively, and had only scored eight goals in the 10 games prior. The game in Chicago on May 21, 2011 was the first time the Union had scored multiple goals in a game that season.

The 2012 squad was similarly challenged on the offensive side of the ball. The team scored seven of those 15 goals once John Hackworth took over the club. Under Peter Nowak, the 2012 squad scored 8 goals in the first 11 games.

Goals Conceded

2013: 24

2012: 18

2011: 12

2010: 27

Even though the 2013 Union team is cruising offensively, the defense hasn't played as well as the backlines from 2012 or 2013.

The 2011 team was built on defense, and only allowed 12 goals through the first 15 games. The backline of Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Jordan Harvey, and Faryd Mondragon compiled 4 shutouts in the first 6 games of the season.

The 2012 defense actually holds the record for the longest shutout streak in team history. That backline had a scoreless run that ended at 407 minutes, starting on March 24th and coming to a close on April 28th.

Goal Differential

2013: -2

2012: -6

2011: +4

2010: -8

We've noted in the past that the 2013 Union is the only team currently in playoff position with a negative goal differential.

The 2011 Union was the only team with a positive goal differential through 15 games.

Home Record:

2013: 3-2-2

2012: 2-4-1

2011: 4-0-4

2010: *3-1-2

Note: 2010 season includes two games at Lincoln Financial Field

Obviously the 2011 squad jumps out here. That team lost just one time at PPL Park in 17 regular season games.

The 2013 Union have improved throughout the season, pulling above the .500 mark with the win against Columbus on 6/5. Still, this team has earned the same number of road points (11) as home points (11) this season.

The 2012 team did not play well at home under Peter Nowak, but the 2010 team did play well. That team was 1-0-1 at Lincoln Financial Field, then went 2-1-1 in the first four games at PPL Park.

Road Record:

2013: 3-3-2

2012: 2-5-1

2011: 2-4-1

2010: 1-7-1

No brainer: the 2013 Union has performed extremely well on the road.

Having earned 11 of 24 possible road points, this most recent squad has had the most success away from PPL Park.

As good as the 2011 team was, it struggled on the road. Despite a season-opening win in Houston, the squad struggled in shutout losses at Los Angeles, Dallas, Vancouver, and Portland. That team had trouble on the West Coast.

As expected, the 2010 Union didn't have much of a chance in this category. The team lost four straight on the road against Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, and Real Salt Lake. The club was 1-5-0 through the first six games.

Points Per Game

2013: 1.47

2012: 0.93

2011: 1.53

2010: 1.00

No real surprises here.

The interesting thing is that the 2010 Union actually had a better PPG rating than the 2012 team. A couple of key home wins put the club over the top of the 2012 team in this category.

Record and Points

2013: 6-5-4, 22 points

2012: 4-9-2, 14 points

2011: 6-4-5, 23 points

2010: 4-8-3, 15 points

Really the only stat that matters.

The 2011 team has the 2013 team beat, but only by a single point.

It's also interesting to see that the 2010 Union had a better mark than the 2012 Union through 15 games.

Conclusions:

You see a 2013 Union squad that is scoring goals and playing well on the road. It's the defensive play and home form that could use some improvement. Also relevant is the fact that the team is 0-3-0 against other playoff-position teams in the Eastern Conference.

Still, this team is in a good spot. The 2011 team had 23 points through 15 games and made it to the playoffs. Points-wise, the 2013 club looks to be on the right path.

As far as the 2012 team, you would have to look at a bigger sample size, or even separate John Hackworth's time from Peter Nowak's tenure.

The 2010 team was understandably disadvantaged through 15 games, which is why the numbers look the way they do.

After taking a look at the numbers what do you think? Leave a message in the comments portion below.

Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@hotmail.com