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A Tale of Two Matches - Switchbacks vs. Monarchs

Two stats that paint a picture of what happened to the Monarchs on April 15th and how they can still continue to improve.

With two of the three scheduled matches between the Real Monarchs and regional rival Colorado Spring Switchbacks FC in the books, it is time to take a look at what may have changed from the 2-1 loss at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs to the 5-2 victory at Rio Tinto.

Touch maps

As any who have read my comments and previous articles must surely know by now, one of the statistical reports I like to follow is touch maps. Touch maps are a graphical representation of number and location of each touch of the ball made by a side during the course of a match.

USLSoccer.com includes a complete touch map for each match in their statistical report using data collected by OPTA. Although the squads change sides each half of the match, touch maps are compiled to show only a single alignment. In the image below, the Real Monarchs as the away team are defending the goal on the right (below their name and logo) and attacking the goal of the left.

During the April 15th match at Weidner Field, the Monarchs had 33 touches in the Colorado Springs penalty box and 51 touches in their own penalty box. I personally like to make this a percentage of (touches in other box)/(touches in own box) x 100 or in this case 64.7%.

Real Monarchs Touch Map - 15 April 2017
OPTA and USLSoccer.com

During the match last Saturday, when the Monarchs were the home team, the orientation of the map is reversed with the Monarchs defending the left goal and attacking the right goal. In this rematch the Monarchs had only 17 touches in the Switchbacks penalty area and 53 touches in their own box or 32.1%. This seems to contradict the outcome.

Real Monarchs Touch Map - 20 May 2017
OPTA And USLSoccer.com

Now lets take a look at the Switchbacks touch maps. During their victory on April 15th Colorado Springs had 22 touches in the Monarch’s penalty box and 65 touches in their own box for 33.8%.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Touch Map - 15 April 2017
OPTA and USLSoccer.com

And in the loss last Saturday at Rio Tinto the Colorado Springs Switchbacks had 15 touches in the Monarchs box and 39 in their own box or 38.4%.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Touch Map- 20 May 2017
OPTA and USLSoccer.com

The one outlier is the Monarchs performance in their loss on April 15th. A large number of touches in the attacking box, yet a 2-1 loss in reality. To help understand this, let’s look at another stat displayed on the USLSoccer.com site.

Interceptions

Any one who has watched the Monarchs in action this season know they are at their best when attacking from the left side of the field. In the recent 5-2 victory all five goals came arguably from play on the left hand side.

Interceptions are recorded when a defending player cleanly intercepts and controls a pass from a player on the offensive side. In the April 15th match at Weidner Field the Monarchs had 7 interceptions. Three were by #47 Max Lachowecki, the Monarchs left back, and one by #43 Nick Besler, the central defensive midfielder. Together with James Moberg, a central defensive back, they form the core of the Monarchs defense and have played every minute so far this season.

Interceptions by Real Monarchs - 15 April 2017

Compare this to the interceptions in the May 20th rematch in Rio Tinto. In this match #47 Max Lachowecki also has three interceptions, but #43 Nick Besler has four and many of the interceptions by these two along with the single interception by #55 Sebastian Velasquez are in prime quick counterattack positions with the bulk of the Monarchs forwards still far up the field. As RSL has repeatedly learned this season, turnovers in a bad position can lead to bad results.

Interceptions by Real Monarchs - 20 May 2017
OPTA and USLSoccer.com

But back to the why the Monarchs struggled on April 15th in Colorado Springs. During that match the Switchbacks defense totaled 17 interceptions, including three in their own box. On two of the interceptions came on the positive side of the field and one cost the Monarchs dearly. The interceptions were also predominantly on the Monarchs preferred left hand attacking side. #3 Pascal Eboussi, with five interceptions, did a great job interfering with the left handed attacks. In short, a great effort by the Colorado Springs defense and poor passing control and accuracy by the pressing Monarchs who were seeking to come back from a deficit.

Interceptions by CS Switchbacks - 15 April 2017
OPTA and USLSoccer.com

Conversely on the May 20th rematch, the Switchbacks had 10 interceptions but basically on the non-favored weak right hand side of the Monarch’s attack. In this match there was also only a single interception on the positive side. #3 Patrick Eboussi had only a single interception.

Interceptions by CS Switchbacks - 20 May 2017
OPTA and USLSoccer.com

The Difference Between the Two Matches

While the Monarchs had a strong showing and maintained positive pressure on the Switchbacks goal after quickly falling behind 2-0, it was their own lack of efficiency in passing combined with a stellar defensive effort by Colorado Springs that left them on the wrong side of the score.

In the rematch, despite falling behind again they showed much better passing efficiency and capitalized on their chances on their preferred left hand side.

In coming games look for the Monarchs to develop a stronger right handed attack and hopefully clean up the passing and ball control issues.