Friday, May 23, 2014

Joao Plata's and RSL's (Unsustainable) Efficiency

Joao Plata, the dimunitive (5 ft 2 in) Real Salt Lake forward, has absolutely put his stamp on this MLS season.  He has scored or assisted on nine of RSL's 23 goals, many of them in crucial spots, and has helped his club to an undefeated start through 11 games.  Most impressive?  Plata has created those nine goals in only 557 minutes of play, an absurdly efficient rate which would place him fully mid-table in MLS in goal creation/90 compared to other teams.

Plata's goals created per touch is best in the league, but what is truly remarkable is that he has achieved this absurd output while not turning the ball over nearly as much as the other players high on the list (Dwyer, Wright-Phillips, etc.).

It has not just been Plata contributing to RSL's success.  The entire team has been ruthless in front of goal.  Their conversion rate (goals/shots) on shots in the "danger zone" (defined here) of approximately 27% is not only the best in MLS this season, it is the best when compared to the 78 teams in the "Big 4" leagues of Europe (EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A).  A team previously profiled here, the Crew, incidentally are last.

But how sustainable is this?  Most of the soccer analytic community seems to agree that conversion rates tend to regress to the mean, and RSL (and Plata) are certainly due for that.  But in the mean time it is fun, as a fan, to see a player and team in such a fine run of form.

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