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RSL ranked last in MLS in conceding late goals

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Over 70 percent of RSL’s conceded goals have come after the 75th minute.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

In RSL’s final game before the international break, they once again gave up a goal late in the game. If it seems like the team has given up a lot of late goals this season, you would be correct. 71.43% of all RSL goals conceded this year have occurred after the 75th minute of play.

After tweeting out this stat I had one interesting response. This person said that it was to be expected because more goals happen after the 75th minute than any other time period. While I believe this statement to be correct, I had no way to know for sure. And I still believed that the rate that RSL was giving up goals late in matches was still excessive.

I decided to once again dive into the numbers to try to answer these questions that I was having. I looked at every MLS game and built a database to record when every goal was scored. I wanted to see how RSL stacked up against other teams. The numbers ended up being very interesting.

First, my assumption that more goals are scored after the 75th minute proved to be correct. This really makes sense if you think about it. Teams are pressing for goals, with more subs coming onto the field than any other time during this 15 minute window. On average, 25% of all goals this season in MLS have come after the 75th minute.

The assumption that I had about RSL’s conceded rate of 71% was correct. They rank dead last in the league in the percentage of goals they have given up in the final 15 minutes. Actually they are last by a large margin. Seattle is next on the list at 66% and there is only one other team in the league that is even over 50%. Four teams in the league have yet to concede a goal during this time period.

Interestingly RSL is 5th in the league in giving up goals in the second half of matches. That is because they have yet to give up a goal between the 45th and 75th minute of a match. The league wide average for goals in the second half is 58%.

There has been another question in my mind this whole time and this data makes me wonder even more. Does RSL’s lack of substitutes contribute to the goals they are giving up in the final 15 minutes of matches? I recently wrote an article about how few substitute minutes are being used by RSL. The team is last in the league in using substitute minutes. Could these be related? I decided to look at other teams to see what I could learn.

The team that uses the second fewest substitute minutes is Seattle. They are also the team giving up the second most late goals in the league. The team that uses the most substitute minutes is Toronto. They have yet to give up a goal in the final 15 minutes of matches.

It seems like we might be onto something here. But a further look at the numbers might bring that into question. The team that uses the third fewest substitute minutes is Colorado. But unlike RSL and Seattle, they are not giving up goals in the final 15 minutes of play. In fact, they have yet to be scored upon during this time period.

So we can’t say for certain that the lack of RSL subs being used is leading directly to the amount of goals they are giving up. But we do know that RSL is giving up far too many goals in the final 15 minutes compared to the rest of the league. And that is something that will need to change quickly if the team has any hopes of success for the rest of the season.