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Striking Out: Are Real Salt Lake’s forwards struggling to finish?

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A look at the numbers

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

I know this is an RSL blog but I want to talk for a minute about one of my favorite non-RSL players: Chris Wondolowski.

Despite boasting numbers that should identify him as a MLS superhero — 141 goals (2nd all time) and eight consecutive seasons with tallies in the double digits — Wondo’s persona is more Clark Kent, so anonymous that in one of his most notable national team call ups, the kit man spelled his name wrong when sewing it on his jersey. His career goals per 90 (.52) is higher than such notable names as Landon Donovan (.45), Jaime Moreno (.46), and even Jason Kreis (.39), yet despite years of consistent goal scoring, his critics will always deride him for one damning touch in Salvador.

Google Chris Wondolowski and the first suggested result that pops up after his name is “Chris Wondolowski miss”, an ironic twist for someone who has made a career of continually putting the ball in the back of the net.

Another irony is that according to Opta data, the shot had an expected goals value of 0.5, a mere coin flip. His shocking flub was just as expected as not.

On Saturday night, RSL entered the 90th minute having taken 20+ shots, while failing to convert a single one. Some late game heroics from Albert Rusnak salvaged the match, but Salt Lake fans were left wondering: why can’t we finish our chances?

Using data from our friends at americansocceranalysis.com (they’re not really my friends, I’m just trying to speak that into existence) I took a look at the numbers for our prominent attackers. Are Real Salt Lake’s forwards missing easy chances? Or are they, like Wondolowski, falling victim to the availability heuristic?

As a Team

2018 goals scored: 34
2018 xG: 29
Overperforming by +5

Luis Silva

2018 goals scored: 5
2018 xG: 3.18
Overperforming by 1.82

Corey Baird

2018 goals scored: 5
2018 xG: 4.64
Overperforming by .36

Albert Rusnak

2018 goals scored: 5
2018 xG: 5.97
Underperforming by .97

Joao Plata

2018 goals scored: 7
2018 xG: 5.15
Overperforming by 1.85

Jefferson Savarino

2018 goals scored: 3
2018 xG: 3.49
Underperforming by .49

Quick hits

  • As a team RSL is finishing chances at a better than expected rate. When the team is generating high quality chances they are generally putting them in the back of the net.
  • No one is really running hot or cold, Plata is the biggest outlier at +1.85.
  • Historically Joao Plata can be a streaky finisher. During his career best 13 goal campaign in 2014 he outperformed his xG numbers by 6.46. Last season he underperformed his xG total by 6.30 goals
  • Luis Silva’s 11 goal season in 2014 was an outlier as he overperformed by 5.45, almost double his xG mark of 5.55. Throughout his career he has typically been right around even.
  • Even though we are finishing at an above average rate on the season, the finishing against Houston was as bad as it seemed. According to Ben Baer, we should’ve expected double the goals in Texas.

What takeaways do you have from the numbers? Fight with me about Chris Wondolowski in the comments below!