BULLS RUN: INSIDE THE NUMBERS

By: Lucky Ngamwajasat

Despite some tumultuous moments during the 2015 season, the Red Bulls find themselves in a good position in the Eastern Conference.

New York is in second place with 26 points through 18 games and nine points behind first-place D.C. United with three games in hand. While the Red Bulls’ overall record is just a game over .500 (7-6-5), the advanced analytics predict good things for the second half.

Statistical analysis of an advanced nature has invaded the realm of soccer like it has in other sports such as baseball, basketball and even hockey. Dedicated Twitter accounts, such as @OptaJack and @Whoscored, are revolutionizing the game for fans by providing stats for more than just goals and assists.

But how do they relate to the Red Bulls and how we look at them? Here’s a (rudimentary) breakdown of some of the numbers.

*ALL STATS AND IMAGES COURTESY OF OPTA & WHOSCORED.COM*

The Red Bulls Get a Lot of Quality Shots

rbny_dax_20150716

New York is second in the league with 14.4 shots per game, trailing only the Chicago Fire, but that statistic tells only part of the story. The Red Bulls are getting most of the shots inside the penalty box and they’re testing the opposing goalkeeper on a regular basis. According to whoscored.com, the Red Bulls lead the league in shots on target (5.3).  They also lead the league in average shots in the penalty area (8.1) and tied for the lead in shots in the six-yard box (1.1).

rbny_who-scored-in-box_20150716

So, what does this mean? From the data, we can ascertain that the Red Bulls are getting shots in good areas. They’re tied for second in the league in goals scored (27) and that number will only improve with the shot totals trending in a positive direction.

You Won’t See the Red Bulls Playing a Lot of Long Passes

Most teams that play the long ball or “hoof” are considered somewhat one-dimensional when it comes to their style of play.

Jesse Marsch’s playing philosophy is the antithesis of that. The Red Bulls’ head coach has his team playing an attractive short-passing style that avoids the long hoof to a target man. New York has played the fewest long balls in the league (58) and is third in MLS with the number of short passes played (375).

The Red Bulls Will See More of the Ball in Most Matches

Possession statistics in soccer can be somewhat misleading; just because you have more possession than your opponent, doesn’t mean you’re going to win a match. Some teams thrive on the opposition having the ball and striking quickly via counterattacks.

Nevertheless, it does indicate which team is able to dictate control of the game. Three of Europe’s top leagues – La Liga, Ligue Un and the Bundesliga – were won by teams which led in percentage of ball possession. According to whoscored.com, the Red Bulls are second in Major League Soccer with an average of 54 percent ball possession in matches this season.

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Matt Miazga and Dax McCarty Have Been Stellar

One would think that the Red Bulls’ top scorers – Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam – would be considered the team’s top performers, but according to the advanced stats, that hasn’t been the case.

Matt Miazga has been a rock-solid center back since being inserted into the starting lineup by Marsch. The 20-year-old’s prowess in the air makes him a terrific defender. According to whoscored, his aerial duels won average is best in the league (5.1) and his ability to get clear of the ball in dangerous areas also ranks high (7.6).

Dax McCarty also ranks highly in advanced statistics. According to the OptaJack account, McCarty is the only MLS player to complete at least 890 passes with an 84 percent pass accuracy. He’s also highly proficient in tackles made. According to whoscored, the Red Bulls’ captain is tied for third in average tackles made per game (3.8).

What It All Means

It’s likely fair to say that the Red Bulls’ overall record should be better than what it is. Adjusting to a new coaching staff, injuries and missing personnel due to international commitments have played in factor in dropped points.

Nevertheless, a quick look at the data shows that the team is heading in the right direction. It’s an encouraging sign for the second half of the season.

A LOOK AHEAD: RED BULLS AT ORLANDO CITY SATURDAY

Red Bulls Orlando City SC
7-6-5 (26 Points) Record 6-7-6 (24 Points)
W-1
Streak L-1
2-3-4 (Road) Home/Road Record 3-3-4 (Home)
2nd Conference Position 4th
27  Goals 23
1.50 Goals Per Game 1.21
23 Goals Allowed 24
1.28 Goals Allowed Per Game 1.26
Bradley Wright-Phillips (8) Top Goal Scorer Kaka (9)
Bradley Wright-Phillips (8) Assists Pedro Ribeiro (2)

After last week’s 4-1 demolition of the Revolution, the Red Bulls head back on the road and take on expansion side Orlando City SC. Live coverage of the match gets under way Saturday at 7 PM on MSG.

Any discussion about Orlando City starts and begins with Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, better known as Kaka. A former winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or, the Brazilian legend has taken to life in MLS. He’s scored nine of Orlando’s 23 goals this season and obviously still has something left in the tank at the age of 33.

The man in charge of marking Kaka will be the Red Bulls’ captain, Dax McCarty. A native of Winter Park, FL, McCarty reflected on playing a MLS match 10 minutes from his childhood home.

Dax McCarty reflects on playing a MLS match close to where he grew up and previews Saturday's match against Orlando City SC.