The Seattle Sounders Dynamic Formations and the Plus/Minus

Happy Thursday Raving Readers and welcome to the newest feature of the site: the Plus/Minus page. See the button above this post next to “Contact”? On this page you’ll find the constantly update spreadsheet of the plus/minus statistical study I’ll be conducting this season.

I stumbled upon the idea of using this stat after the Toronto game and seeing how much of an impact Marco Pappa made on the game. This study is in the spirit of science. I am not claiming to have a revolutionary stat to unlock the true meaning of soccer. I just want to keep a record of this data. Hopefully, if we keep track of this, maybe, like science, we can extrapolate something by year’s end.

Here is how I am working it. Currently, I don’t keep track of minutes played. I just credit a player with what happened while they were on the pitch. If a player was completely unused in a game, I give them a simple n/a. For example, Evans gets a -2 from the TFC game because Defoe scored both of his goals while Evans was in the lineup. Pineda gets a +1 from the same game because when he subbed in for Brad, we scored our goal.

This is a problem. Statistically, it looks like Pineda outplayed Evans. A bad scientist could extrapolate that if Pineda had started in Evans’s stead, the Sounders would have beat TFC. I am not saying that. I am not even saying the numbers are saying that. Hopefully this the static will decrease as the sample size grows.

The limitations of this amateurish study are many. As I said before, this is originally a hockey stat. The frequent shift switching in hockey, and smaller lineup creates a more tangible correlation of players to goals for and against. In soccer, this stat may be too simple. I could do a better job factoring in minutes played per player.

Acknowledging the problems of the study aside, let’s dig into the data.

Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 TOTAL
Stefan Frei 1 -1 2 2
DeAndre Yedlin 1 -1 2 2
Chad Marshall 1 -1 2 2
Djimi Traore 1 -1 2 2
Dylan Remick 1 -1 2 2
Leo Gonzalez n/a n/a 0 0
Lamar Neagle 0 -1 2 1
Osvaldo Alonso 1 -1 2 2
Brad Evans 1 -2 n/a -1
Marco Pappa 0 -2 n/a -2
Sean Okoli 1 n/a n/a 1
Clint Dempsey 1 -1 n/a 0
Gonzo Pineda n/a 1 2 3
Michael Azira n/a n/a 0 0
Andy Rose n/a n/a 2 2
Cam Weaver n/a n/a 0 0
Chad Barrett 1 0 n/a 1
Kenny Cooper 0 1 2 3
Obafemi Martins 1 -1 2 2
TEAM GD 1 -1 2 2

The team goal differential is +2, so anyone deviating from that is worth noting. The first names that pop out are Kenny Cooper, Gonzalo Pineda and Marco Pappa. Cooper is killing it with a goal above the differential, and he has played in all three games. Is Cooper our MVP after 3 games? Potentially. Pineda is also at +3, having played just over a game and a half. Is he doing more than Cooper considering his limited time? Maybe. There is some survivor correlation static. If you play every minute of every game, Ozzie for example, you are at the team differential.

Marco Pappa’s play is the most jarring. His -2 is four significant figures off the team’s differential. Maybe Sigi took this into account when deciding to play the 4-3-3 last week, that is, get Cooper on the pitch and Pappa off. I am curious to see how much Pappa plays going forward. Is his defensive indifference too much of a liability? Does he contribute too much “goals against” versus his potential to create “goals for.”

Formations have been dynamic this season, as Sigi’s trotted out a new shape for each opponent. Say what you will about his coaching liabilities, but one of Sigi’s strengths is flexibility. The man is not hidebound. Cooper’s signing confused me when the 4-2-3-1 appeared to be our formation. But Cooper rocked on Sunday. Potentially Cooper and Pineda’s play, and Pappa’s, predicted the shift to the 4-3-3. Sigi must be having fun with our deep and disparate roster: Two midfielders unavailable (Evans and Dempsey) and one playing poorly? Ha! Let’s stack the middle with three CDMs and play multiple forwards. It must be refreshing for Sigi to be able to roll out a new formation and lineup every week.

One question comes to mind: if we use the 4-3-3 going forward, where does Deuce play?

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