Photo: Nicolae Stoian
The playoffs are now in full swing and, with the loss to Houston on Sunday, the Philadelphia Union are in need of goals if they are to advance to the Eastern Conference Final. Where have the Union’s goals came from this season? The question arose after I noticed how often the Dynamo scored from crosses this year (as we now well know after Sunday). It was clear that the Dynamo scored most of their goals from crosses, but I honestly had no idea where the Union’s goals came from. As a guess, I thought most probably didn’t come from crosses. The data from the 44 goals for this season are below, spread out in to categories.
The first piece that stands out is the high proportion of goals coming from simple shots. 24 of the total 44 goals this season have come from a shot, inside or outside the box. This means the majority of Philly’s goals are coming from some sort of buildup through the midfield or counter-attack. This may not be surprising for people considering the Union have a number of players that can strike the ball well.
The part that was surprising, at least for me, is the high proportion of goals coming from shots from outside the 18. Eleven of the 24 goals coming from shots have come from a large distance away from goal. Such a large proportion from distance is unexpected. We expect most goals to come from inside the 18 because these are higher percentage shots. The Union, apparently, seem content with settling for a long shot, and the results show it to be a fairly successful strategy for them.
When you have a player like Brad Davis, crossing is likely to be the most common way of scoring for your team. Clearly, the Dynamo are extremely threatening on the flanks. I don’t have the exact number, but I assume that a large fraction of their goals come from out wide. The Union don’t necessarily have a dynamic crosser and passer in their midfield like Houston’s Brad Davis, and thus their scoring from crosses is lacking, with only nine of their 44 goals coming from the wings this season, a small percentage. Looking forward to next season, a midfielder that is able to get wide and serve dangerous balls would be a great pick up for the Union.
The Union also are lacking in the set pieces category with only three goals this season coming from corners. While corners are not necessarily easy to score on, a team should score more than three in a season. This is a huge opportunity wasted that has definitely hurt Philly this season. In addition to corners, the team has only scored three goals from free kicks. Again, we expect the Union to be better in this area.
Finally, I was surprised to see that only one goal has come directly off of a throw in. Williams’ long throw is in some ways more dangerous than a corner; it comes in at a different angle from higher up the sideline and is usually more accurate. This is another huge scoring opportunity that the Union failed to capitalize on. If anyone watches the EPL, Stoke City has a potent threat the long throw of Rory Delap, with at least 36 goals resulting from “the Delap Special” since 2006. If the Union could utilize Wiliams’ throw as well as Stoke utilizes Delap’s, they could have scored a few more goals this year.
This season has been all about shots, especially shots from distance. This is where the majority of the Union’s goals have come from, and where they have found success all year. On the other side, the Union have struggled with set pieces and crosses. Come Thursday though, nobody really cares where the Union’s goals come from, as long as there are a lot of them.