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).

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Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).