Evaluating Freddy Adus Impact on Match Outcomes

Evaluating Freddy Adus Impact on Match Outcomes

By Gordon Strachan
Sons of Benjamin West

In the short history of the Philadelphia Union, no other player has been as polarizing for fans and soccer pundits as Freddy Adu. Freddy has at times over his career been an absolute lightning rod for criticism and speculation, and recent reports and commentaries have maintained this trend. For a quick sampling read Philly Soccer Page’s discussion on “Fixing Freddy,” US Soccer Daily’s snapshot of the current marker in Adu’s career timeline, and Kckrs’ description of a twitter beef between Adu and Alexi Lalas, who’d referred to Freddy as having the practicality of a luxury car.

Criticisms about Freddy’s play on the field are often made in the context of his comparatively high salary and higher expectations as a team leader and former wunderkind, which suggests that perhaps the measuring stick being used to evaluate Freddy may be a slightly different size than that for other players. This is understandable given that in a capped league, dollars spent on Freddy impact the level of talent that can be distributed elsewhere on the pitch.

Meeting with the press this week, interim Coach John Hackworth reminded everyone that he will make roster decisions that are best for the success of the team. Judging by the roughly 10 minutes of playing time that Freddy played last Friday against Real Salt Lake, Hackworth may not be convinced that this always involves Adu.

Has Freddy’s form slipped to the point where benching him produces a better net result? In other words, are the Union currently a better team without him? These are important questions not only as the team clings to a glimmer of 2012 playoff hope, but also as it transitions toward developing next season’s on-field product.

Analyzing Freddy’s impact on a game and his overall contributions to the Union can be done in a variety of ways. However, it might be best to start with some simple metrics as a benchmark. Before analyzing what exactly Freddy is doing to influence matches, we sought to get an idea of the Union’s success when he is simply on the field or not on the field. How has his presence influenced the outcome of matches?

Enabling this analysis is the fact that Freddy isn’t always a common feature on the field, being utilized in only 57% of available minutes this year. The table below lists Freddy’s playing time in each game this season in addition to the games’ results. You don’t have to be a statistician to recognize the trend, though the analysis and take-home points are limited by other factors we’ll discuss afterward.

When Freddy plays more than half the game, the Union have 7 wins, 5 losses, and 1 tie.  When Freddy plays half the game or less, the Union have 1 win, 6 losses, 3 ties.

Interestingly, given the nature of the attacking MF’s game, Freddy’s presence on the field hasn’t produced a higher rate of scoring. But, the team has performed better in terms of goal differential, which is -5 when he is off the field and +3 while he is playing. Soccer is a game of ripple effects. Alter your defense and you will inevitably change your ability to attack, and vice-versa. Accordingly, there are several ways an attacking MF can influence goal differential without physically being involved in activities such as blocking a shot or making an assist or placing the ball in the net. An understanding of how Freddy is going about helping his team or whether he is reaching his potential requires a more in-depth and nuanced discussion about the merits of his game, but in this evaluation, we seek to open the question as to whether Freddy’s presence on the field has been associated with greater success for the Union this season. By the simple metric of game results—arguably the most meaningful stat—he has.

Numerous factors beyond Freddy’s presence obviously influence the outcomes above, including a coaching change on June 13, as well as other additions and subtractions to the starting XI in a season marked by turnover and change since day 1.  And, there is more to influencing score and outcome than merely being on the field. For the purposes of simplicity, we sought only to explore a single variable and whether it impacts larger trends and provides an indication of his contribution to the team.

Tonight, the Union face Columbus Crew. If Freddy is once again left off the starting roster, the pertinent questions will be: How does Hackworth evaluate Freddy’s game, his influence on outcomes, and his role going forward?

Gordon Strachan is a founding member of the Sons of Benjamin West (SOBW), a group of supporters based in Delaware County and centered in Swarthmore. On game day they live in the "West" endline (Section 118).

US Presswire photo

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint in a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 2015 first-round pick deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front on a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.