Yesterday on twitter, I had an interesting, albeit brief, conversation with Brian Stern (@sternbc) the founder of Sounder Nation, in which we spoke about the need for more shots to be taken by the Sounders.
I agree with Brian on this subject that the Sounders need to have someone that is going to put shots on goal with the departure of Montero. It wasn’t mentioned very often by many people but Fredy Montero took a high amount of shots and was third in the league–by a wide margin, Robbie Keane was fourth with 94– he also was tied for third in actual shots on goal. The difference between the two implying that a save was made. Fredy made the keepers work.
But there is kind of a caveat with the idea behind the Sounders being in need of someone to step into the role of taking more shots and “working” goal keepers. There is no concrete proof that more shots actually create more goals. That being said, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to take shots at goal.
Looking at the performance of Eddie Johnson last night, I really enjoyed the strike from distance for various reasons. It’s not just that it was a fantastic goal–which it was, but also because it was a precedence we didn’t see much of last year. Eddie Johnson tended–at times–to rather conservative with his touch at times, overlooking opportunities because of various reasons. I felt there were times his attempts to get more space or or looking for teammates often resulted in key turnovers in the attacking third rather than opening , when he should have been testing the keeper instead.
With that you do have to give credit to the fact that despite Montero having 9 assist, Johnson did have 32 key passes that resulted in good attempts for goals and was ranked 10th for forwards returning to MLS this year. So obviously there was some productivity in his being willing to distribute the ball.
But, it’s not about having EJ shoot more often or shoot less. It’s about the better calibre of shots on goals from attackers. Brad Evans missed out on over 8 different “big chances” last year, but was still able to capitalize on 3 others. While people became frustrated with these moments–obviously–what it tells you is that he’s getting in good position to score goals and his teammates are finding him. I’m not prepared to say that
I would love to see Eddie Johnson create more chances. But, I agree with Brian that it isn’t really about Eddie and how many goals he’s going to score so much as it’s about Mario Martinez and more specifically Steve Zakuani, who produced 10 goals in his sophomore season, back in2010. That year brought with it some tough moments to over come and need veteran leadership to step up, instead you had Zak scoring goals. I’m not as worried about “pressure” or situations becoming too “big” for the players on this team.
The boys play consistently in front of 40k every week here in Seattle. We are pretty hard on our guys, and it’s not like New York where we eat our own, but we let them know that there are expectations of trophies at the end of the year. We have standards and they aren’t low. So I can’t imagine that they feel any more pressure this year than last.
But again, what’s important is the quality of shots that the team is making.
Looking at Devin Pleuler’s luck influenced article on guys at the top of the scoring table, we can see that Eddie Johnson slightly “unlucky” based upon performed his overall goal tally from last year and the slope of expected goals.
I’m not sure how Devin exactly determines “quality” of the shot. But I would expect that there is a formula or specific criteria for that. What would be more interesting is to see with guys like Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson under performing their goal tallys and guys like Brad Evans and Steve Zakuani obviously doing the same with their “big chances fluffed” you have to think that there is the potential for some positive regression of “luck” with this team.
If you consider this luck (as presented by the table above) as neutral, bad luck is returned with good luck to bring balance. Obviously there isn’t a perfect means to go about “proving” it but I think it would be naive to think that the talent of these guys would consistently under perform. Especially when you see them do so well in tough situations in the playoffs and among national team performances.
Don’t worry about the Sounders and scoring enough goals. Be more worried about them preventing goals, at least at this point.