The COSC Feed - Mar 9th 2012
The Offseason and Things to Come
Paul Merrit (with assist
Mar 9th 2012

Editorís Forward: COSC are the Colorado Springs Colonials. They are a group of Rapids supporters in the Springs area. A compilation of Bulldogs, Pid Army, Class VI and some independent fans. Paul is a friend of the BSG and one of its original members. Paul has been gracious enough to write this charter article for the BSG. I canít thank him enough for taking on this task for me on behalf of the BSG.

We will be publishing weekly match reports, tailgate reports, soccer bios from fellow Bulldogs and a whole spectrum of Rapids and soccer related content. Look for additional writings from Paul, Richard Terry, Tess Falcone, Sean Manning, your officers old and new including yours truly, and you if youíd like to submit something to share.

Your President,

David Wegner

Authorís Note: If you think I could have come up with even this surface level take on the Rapids offseason and formation change by myself you have sadly overestimated me. Big thanks to Amaury for unfettered access to his powerful footy mind!

Itís been a roller coaster offseason with more tips and turns than... Yea okay thereís nothing very insightful in this sentence. Anyone that even pays our Rapids a passing glance knows that weíve seen quite a bit of upheaval throughout the off season, with the most drastic change (well second most drastic considering that Gary Smith went from sparring with KSE to managing an FA Cup replay against Tottenham in less than a ski season) being a formation swap and a lot of new faces. Weíll get to all of that in a minute, but first some random thoughts as I eagerly await the near panic attack that overwhelms me every time the cannon corner erupts at the end of the national anthem (Why is something so traumatic so easily forgotten?)

Nyassi leaving in between regimes was a blow... Dude was explosive, cheap, and would have been a solid and flexible winger in the 4-3-3. Weíve brought in some serious talent, but I think you have to look at this as a missed opportunity right? Not to mention dude got out of town without putting sharpie to the jersey that was basically ripped off of his back during the home leg of that KC disaster. Somehow Amaury got his hands on it, and it would have been nice to get it signed. Like I said, missed opportunities.

Zapata!!!

Watching 9 minutes of Zepruter Film quality footage of Zapata running riot up the left flank leaves me wanting a bigger sample size. Iím glad heís starting for us back there so Mr. Wynne can move inside where he belongs. That being said, I really hope thereís still room for Anthony Wallace on this squad when he gets healthy. I had heard some rumblings about how bad Wallace was or wasnít hurt but astoundingly enough the Rapids and the requisite blogger types were pretty quiet about it last year. Wallace was one of my favorites during the 2010 campaign and I really thought the team suffered as a whole going forward in the 4-4-2 without his threatening presence running in to the attack from the LB spot. Itís not like dude was Phil Jones or something, but that added little punch can make a big difference in a league like MLS where parity reigns.

Where does Casey fit into all this?

Anyways... the 4-3-3. The quick and dirty rundown from a positional standpoint is more bodies in the attacking third, and the formation lends itself to sharp possession based attacks through the middle of the field with plenty of free flowing support from the wing. What this means for the Rapids is less hoof jobs down the middle of the field to a holding forward and more ground passing and possession as the wingers and attacking players inch forward through a series of 1-2ís (give and goes for those on the front end of the learning curve) and trianglesÖ or something like that. Amaury tells me that itís the only way to go considering how well Oscar ran it during his tenure with FC Dallasí youth team and historically the formation produces more shotsÖ something the Rapids DESPREATELY need. My argument, which was more of a devilís advocate thing I must say, was that the 4-4-2 might still fit the bill considering weíve made some moves at the wing back and midfield spot. The 4-3-3 is Oscar Pís calling card no doubtÖ but to be honest I wonder if we can get better offensively with simple per position upgrades as opposed to a formation change. I took a look at the numbers of what I considered some decent offensive teams in comparison to the Rapids in 2011 and came up with some percentages in an attempt to measure efficiency not only in finishing, but build up play as well. Numbers are kind of interesting but I donít trust them completely. See below...

TeamGoalsAssistsShotsShots on GoalConverted PKGoal PercentageUseful Shot PercentageAssisted Goal Percentage
Sounders560443151633.11%34.09%100.00%
KC5035488159431.45%32.58%76.09%
NYRB5053420153332.68%36.43%112.77%
Rapids4434365138331.88%37.81%82.93%
Galaxy4843395142433.80%35.95%97.73%

Goals Ė Obviously the first thing you want to look at is goals. Our boys had 44 during the campaign, a middle of the pack figure thatís probably a little inflated due to some early season axe jobs over Portland and a DC team that really didnít have it together yet. In comparison the league leading Seattle Sounders had 56 goals, an impressive number even though typing this sentence almost made me throw up in my mouth. To be fair 6 converted PKs did boost that number a bit. Quite honestly though I think thereís nothing to see hereÖ. no one would argue with the fact that we need to score more. More goals puts more asses in the seats and more pints in the terrace, but thereís good teams spread throughout the stats sheet under total goals, making it hard to look at goal count alone as a measure of anything.

Assisted Goal Percentage (Assists/Goals Ė Converted PKs) Ė I wanted a number that reflects build up and midfield play as it relates to scoring goals but Iím not exactly Stephen F#!@^*%g Hawking so I tried to keep it kind of simple. I figured an assisted goal reflects decent midfield play and set up for the final third, and good midfield play would yield a higher ratio of assists to goals. I also subtracted converted PKs out of this figure because no one can assist on a PKÖ Unless you are one of those crazy K-League teams that likes to tap off the penalty to a dude rushing forward while doing a cartwheel or whatever. I will admit itís a somewhat superficial way to come up with a percentage, but if you compare every team the same way it yields something interesting. Teams with boss midfields Like (resisting the puke urge again) Seattleís cadre of South American studs and LA with Donovan and Mr. Spice have pretty impressive percentages here. When you take away PKs the Flounders assisted on every one of their goals last year, an astounding figure if you throw out what the Red Bulls accomplished (?) with their 53 assists on 50 goals. This isnít hockey yoÖ so we are tossing that number. The LA Galaxy graded out to 97%... beastly when you consider they brought in Robbie Keane mid season to weave around and do Keane like things without help from anyone. The Rapids on the other hand graded out at 82%... not bad for an algebra test but kind of shite in comparison to other good offensive teams in the league. This percentage makes sense given we had a lot of goals off low and hard set pieces and a lot of scrambling in front of the net type stuff as well. KC did the worst of the teams I measured, with only 76% percent of their 46 in play goals coming off an assist. KC also happens to run a 4-3-3.

Useful Shot and Goal Percentage (useful shot% = shots/shots on goal and goal% = goals/shots on goal) - Nothing much to see here as we actually graded out pretty decent with the other offensive juggernauts, coming in at 32% versus Galaxyís top 34% on goal percentage, and actually leading all measured with 37.81% of our total shots being on frame. So now the bad newsÖ We finish like everyone else. Taking into account of course that this is the MLS we are talking about and the finishing isnít exactly extraordinary to begin with. We just donít produce enough chances. Our 138 shots on goal left us 4th worst in the league (A mere 7 SOG from the basement) and we were dead last in total shots at 365. So if you were next to me in the terrace last year with a Strongbow in hand screaming SHOOT THE F#!@*%G BALL your casual observation was spot on. In comparison, KCís 4-3-3 produced 488 shots (159 on target). So what am I getting at here? Well KC ran a 4-3-3 for a majority of their season and from what I can see here it produced a lot of shots and a lot of goals but below average shot efficiency and not a lot of assisted goals. Is this a quantity versus quality thing? How much of their offensive success can be attributed to the fact that they have that mutant Bunbury out there out running/jumping everyone? Weíve made some upgrades at the midfield position this offseason. Lord willing and the creek donít rise we arenít going to be subjected to long stretches of defensive minded players like Wells Thompson and Jeff Larentowicz out there pushing forward and playing out of position to get the ball forward. With Mullan back in the fold full time and Castrillion and his creativeness thrown into the mix, whoís to say we donít have the attacking talent in the middle to hold the ball and move forward in a standard 4-4-2? Seattle went mental last year in that same fashion, with a 100% assisted goal percentage and high marks in goal and useful shot percentage.

Personally, I loved what I saw in Hawaii. The 4-3-3 we ran against the Aussies in the consolation match produced a lot of nice moments going forward, but one thing that has to be accounted for in all of this is the fact that thereís going to be a learning curve. Remember that last sentence here in a couple weeks when we go up to Seattle and you see Montero dancing around like an idiot if Pickens is pulling the ball out of the back of the net as our back four tries to figure out what exactly just happened. Of course if Cascio is the real deal and can keep hitting 25 yard laser pointers all season, the formation might not matter anyway ;)

Paul

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