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New goalie stats needed for modern era
by Ridge Mahoney, September 19th, 2012 3:10PM

TAGS:  mls


Perusing all the statistical categories by which one can evaluate players, it strikes me that the most specialized position -- goalkeepers -- is being underserved.

Remember a few years ago when MLS introduced the "C/P" stat? Short for "catch/punch," it attempted to quantify the times a keeper snagged or repelled a cross or centering ball and thus defused a scoring opportunity. It was rather roundly ridiculed and no longer is featured as a goalkeeping stat, but I thought it had merit, in concept anyway.

Any time a goalkeeper thwarts a scoring chance without making an actual save, whether by coming off his line to snare a corner kick or clearing a ball with his feet outside the penalty area, he's done much the same thing. And some keepers are much better at it than others.

A few keepers stick to their goal lines and rely on their defenders to clear balls, others are more assertive and regularly intervene more often. These are not officially save situations, since the ball isn't headed toward the frame of the goal, but they can be just as important.

By the same token, if he bobbles a cross or scuffs a clearance or otherwise misplays a ball an opponent can collect, the keeper should be punished statistically. Call it a gaffe or a flub or a bobble or whatever, any time a keeper provides an opponent with possession it wouldn't otherwise have gained, it should be logged and recorded. No need to require the opponent to capitialize on it by actually scoring; in baseball, if a fielder throws or kicks the ball away and thus benefits runners and/or the batter, he's charged with an error.

Most of the modern statistical services included "giveaways" or "passes intercepted" or "duels lost" for field players. Goalkeepers need something similar, as well as positive stats such as "collections" -- though this sounds more like an agency of bruisers rounding up unpaid debts -- and "clearances." In the most egregious instances, a keeper fouls an opponent or commits an offense and is punished by a free kick or penalty kick as well as a yellow or red card. Two weeks ago, RSL goalie Nick Rimando clattered into Houston's Mac Kandji in stoppage time and gave away the penalty kick by which the Dynamo took a vital 1-0 victory. In this situation, no additional stats are necessary. Foul, penalty kick: the dire consequences of Rimando's misplay were quite apparent.

But what if a keeper gives a ball away and provides the opponent an opportunity to score, as Rimando did in the 42nd minute of RSL's Concacaf Champions League match against Tauro FC Tuesday night? Rimando eventually salvaged his giveaway by stopping Rolando Botello's shot, for which he was credited with a save, yet nothing on the stat sheet indicated his culpability.

Make no mistake -- these goalkeeping quirks are scouted and factored into a team's game plan. One of the most vivid examples came in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup, for which in a scouting report of Portugal, the first USA opponent, was included the fact keeper Victor Baia had only recently come back from a long-term injury and should be tested as early and often as possible. His bobbles and fumbles and futile flaps, while not leading directly to a goal, played a major role as the Americans built a 3-0 lead and eventually won, 3-2.

This isn't meant to pick on Rimando, it's only meant to illustrate the nuances of this position. He's one of the best keepers in league history and among the toughest on penalty kicks as well. In the Houston game, prior to the foul on Kandji, he'd stopped an earlier penalty kick, which ran his all-time league best mark to 17 saved (out of 57 attempted).

That's an impressive stat, yet more numbers are needed to evaluate goalkeepers, who by the nature of their position are confronted by more crucial situations than any other player.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: September 19, 2012 at 4:25 p.m.
    I would like to see Plays out of back vs. Punts as a percentage of keeper distribution, to see if the team is intelligently coached or the coach prefers the 50-50 odds from a punt.
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: September 19, 2012 at 6:19 p.m.
    Suggest that Brian Dunseth be selected to put together a stat sheet for keepers, it'll be at least 2,000 pages.
  1. Ron Leedy
    commented on: September 19, 2012 at 7:50 p.m.
    GK definitely should get more stats, published. Like when they punt the ball out of bounds or give a hospital pass to their defender who has their ankles taken out by the opposing forward. On one GK I was coaching I tracked their punches vs grabs and where the punches drove the ball; center or off to the side. Basically, did they put the ball in or out of the "hot" shooting zone.
  1. Kevin Sims
    commented on: September 19, 2012 at 9:23 p.m.
    Great idea ... MLS should commission a group of GK gurus to make a proposal worthy of global acceptance.
  1. Richard Leonard
    commented on: September 20, 2012 at 9:06 a.m.
    We DON"T need MORE stats.Why do we have to "NFL" everything.Just more crap they'll put on TV that mean nothing. My favorite, time of possesion. You could have 52% possesion yet be down 3- nil.
  1. Mark Grody
    commented on: September 20, 2012 at 2:04 p.m.
    Balls won from non-shots could be useful. This could be through balls (especially if outside the penalty area) or crosses. These stats would be better stated as a % of opportunities and, they would be more useful if the team coaches that are using them are also the coaches tracking them (because they would see how the stats relate to what is going on in the games, not just some number crunching down the line.)

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