By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)
Those of you who read ASA regularly know that I am tentative declare to others that I am a “Sounders fan” because of the bias and label that it automatically associates with me and my analysis. Last night, to me, was a wonderful game played by titanic rivals. Extra time happened and things began to take shape and my thought was regardless of the outcome we would yet again be talking about the epic-ness of when the Timbers and Sounder meet in battle.
Instead, the unfortunate injury of Obafemi Martins and three red cards coupled with an ignitable crowd situation has led to a chorus of wannabe Steven A. Smith’s providing their two cents about unruly fans and overly emotional players. This is especially frustrating because for 90 minutes the game was tense (in a good way) and was a lot of fun to watch develop.
Now a dejected Seattle is left to return to league play this weekend in the wake of a serious of deflating situation on top of a disappointing result. They sit atop the table, but their expected goals against (xGA) sits pretty mediocre relative to the rest of their Western Conference competition. They’ve largely been dominant because of their monstrous attack. With the injury of Martins and the assumed suspension for Clint Dempsey (with rumors on the interwebs spanning from a single match to multiple months) our question becomes what type of effect does this have on that attack.
Below you can see a small comparison of data between Martins/Dempsey and their likely replacements of Lamar Neagle and Chad Barrett. The comparison between opportunities and quality is surprisingly close, but understand that Neagle/Barrett probably have the numbers they do due to the hefty xA/90 numbers associated with having both Martins and Dempsey create those types of chances.
While Obafemi Martins xG is only 3.27, his conversion rate for goals/shots is incredibly high (23%) and has been that way since he entered the league. I’m not usually comfortable making the assumption that an individual’s finishing ability might be better than the positional average but I think at this point it’s widely accepted, meaning expected goals probably underrate Martins' contributions and value.*
Barrett and Neagle are both hard workers and they’re going to find ways to score goals, but the quality and volume of their chances created is likely to decrease. This is just the reality of the situation. That said, they’re still two really good options. Sure, the Sounders are about to take a step back with their two big missing pieces, but while everyone is in an uproar about losing two of the league’s top attacking options and how it happened, they’re probably missing the fact that the Sounders have quality depth that can absorb, at least temporarily, the missing production from their designated players.
*Dear Matty Kullowatz or Michael Caley, can we get a weighted expected goals that takes into account career finishing rate? plz/tnk u