Articles

Articles

A Few Takeaways Heading Into the Weekend - College Soccer Coast To Coast

Washington – The I love you, I love you not team in the United Soccer Coaches Poll, has been the bungie cord team to date in the coaches’ rankings.  The Huskies are 5-2-0 with a 3-2 loss in overtime on the road to Denver and a 1-0 loss at Portland.  Washington, currently number fifteen in the CSN Poll and sixteen in the United Soccer Coaches Poll, has the opportunity to perhaps generate a little stability in terms of their standing when they host local rival Seattle, a team that has had their own ups and downs so far this year, on Sunday.  Bragging rights are at stake in this one. 


Wake Forest returns to the scene of the crime when they travel to Historic Riggs Field to face Clemson on Friday night.  Clemson halted Wake Forest’s nine game winning streak when the two teams last faced each other at Riggs Field in 2016.  The Demon Deacons will arrive with a perfect 7-0-0 record and number one ranking.  Clemson enters the contest with a 4-2-1 record that includes losses on the road to Creighton 2-0 and Boston College 3-2.  Clemson has had trouble putting together two good halves this year.  In both of their losses, one of the best backlines in the country was exploited.  Pardon the American football expression but this contest is a goal line stand of sorts for the Clemson defense.  The Tigers are capable of pulling off the upset but only if they put together a full ninety minutes of play. 


Saint Mary’s College is off to a 7-0-0 record during which time they have outscored opponents twenty-five to four.  Junior forwards Jake Rudel (7g, 1a) and Anders Engebretsen (6g, 2a) have powered a very productive attack.  The Gael defense has been solid but was sluggish in their most recent 4-3 win over a UC Riverside team that is 0-7-1.  Saint Mary’s hosts U.C. Santa Barbara on Wednesday and travels to tangle with UC Davis on Saturday.  Both opponents will be difficult to defeat.  This is a good Saint Mary’s team but just how good remains to be seen.


Saint Louis – New head coach Kevin Kalish looks to be putting the swagger back into the step of a program that has been absent from the NCAA Tournament field since 2014.  Kalish, a former All-American as a player at Saint Louis, has deep ties to the program which is a plus.  The Billikens are off to a 3-1-2 record which includes wins over Marquette and Tulsa and ties with Notre Dame and SMU.  The Billikens have faded as the season progressed in recent seasons.  That may not occur under Kalish.  Saint Louis will host rival SIUE under the direction of Mario Sanchez on Friday.  The Cougars five game unbeaten streak was halted when they were upset at home 2-0 by Loyola Chicago last Saturday. It was a disappointing result for a team that had been playing very well on both sides of the ball.  The Saint Louis and SIUE match looks to be among the more hotly contested contests of the weekend.  


Air Force – After opening the season with a 2-1 loss on the road to Virginia Tech, the Falcons have won seven straight including signature wins over Colgate 3-0 and San Francisco 2-1 to improve to 7-1-0.  This is an experienced senior led team that is building on the success they enjoyed last year when they had fourteen wins and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2012 season.  Senior midfielder Tucker Bone (4g, 4a) and senior forward Austin Dening (5g, 1a) power an attack that has produced twenty goals to date while senior back James Sims and junior goalkeeper Andrea Seazzu anchor a defense that has allowed only five.  The Falcons begin WAC play when they travel to Kansas City on Saturday to face UMKC.  Air Force is playing as well together as team as any program in the country.  It remains to be seen whether or not they can sustain their current level of performance in conference play when the margin for error is slim.


North Carolina – The number three ranked Tar Heels are about to run the gauntlet.  It begins this Friday with a contest on the road against Notre Dame in South Bend.  After that their dance card includes Clemson, UNCW, Virginia Tech, ODU, N.C. State, Winthrop, Boston College and Virginia.  A stout UNC defense led by backs Alex Comsia, John Nelson, and Mark Salas and goalkeeper James Pyle has only allowed a total of three goals to date.     


Manhattan – Jasper Power.  Manhattan was once considered an easy win but that began to change last year when they were 9-8-1 overall with a 6-3-1 mark in MAAC play.  The Jaspers secured their first win over a ranked opponent in program history Tuesday night when junior defender Adrien Awana scored with thirty-six seconds remaining in regulation to give Manhattan the edge they needed to upset Fordham 1-0 in the Battle of the Brox.  The win was Manhattan’s first over Fordham since 2004. The Jaspers, who are now 7-1-0, will seek to keep the momentum going when they begin MAAC play on Wednesday, September 27 against Monmouth. 


Georgetown - Georgetown showed some grit when they rebounded from a disappointing 3-2 loss at home to Xavier by upsetting Duke 1-0 in Durham on Tuesday night to improve to 4-2-1.  We are four weeks into the season and the Hoyas have yet to secure back-to-back wins.  They could accomplish that when they host DePaul in a must win Big East contest on Friday.  Georgetown has underachieved to date but the win over Duke could signal a turning point for a team that has to mature quickly with contests against Louisville, Marquette, Butler, Maryland and Villanova on the horizon.


Oregon State – The Beavers, unbeaten in six-straight games, have a chance to pick up a big win when they square off with Portland on Friday.  The current unbeaten streak is the longest Oregon State has had since the 2005 season.  Senior Don Tchilao (3g, 2a) and freshmen Gloire Amanda (3g, 0a) and Sofiane Djeffal (1g, 2a) have been among the difference makers on the offensive side for first year head coach Terry Boss. The Beavers continued success will hinge on their ability to stay focused and put together a full ninety minutes of play.  There is reason for cautious optimism at Oregon State.  


Bradley – Buzzer Beaters.  The Braves are off to 5-0-2 record that includes wins resulting from goals scored with just a few ticks remaining in regulation against Oral Roberts and Purdue Fort Wayne.  Bradley begins MVC play when they travel to face Central Arkansas on Saturday. 


Colgate and Loyola Maryland – These two teams square off on Friday in a Patriot League contest that could have a huge impact on who wins the regular season title.  Colgate won the Patriot League Tournament last year while Loyola Maryland won the regular season title.  Colgate enters the contest with a 4-1-2 record while Loyola Maryland is 3-2-0.  The Colgate attack features nine different players who have scored a single goal.  Junior forward Brian Saramago (4g, 2a) has been the driving force in Loyola Maryland’s attack.  This one could go either way.


Rhode Island – Defense Rules.  The Rams defeated Providence 3-0 on Tuesday to improve to 6-0-0.  Rhode Island has recorded six consecutive shutouts. They will seek to keep their win and shutout streaks alive when they host Brown on Saturday.  The Rams have also displayed a balanced attack that has produced a total of fifteen goals with nine different players finding the back of the net. 


Stanford – The Cardinal have found the back of the net six times in their last three contests after scoring only one time in their first three matches.  Senior Amir Bashti and redshirt freshman Zach Ryan have been among the key contributors.  Stanford has allowed a total of only one goal in their six contests to date.  The Cardinal is undefeated with a 3-0-3 record in the one statistic that makers the most. Stanford hosts Pacific on Thursday in what could be a difficult match before beginning Pac-12 play the following Thursday when they host San Diego State. 



Goalkeepers Are Difference Makers - Five of the Most Intriguing College Soccer Netminders

We are just a few weeks into the 2018 College Soccer Season but it is not too soon to begin to look at the top senior goalkeeper prospects for the 2019 MLS Draft. Last year, three keepers (Eric Dick our of Butler, Jeff Caldwell out of Virginia, Ben Lundgaard out of Virginia Tech) were chosen in the first round and this year’s crop of GKs is just as talented. College Soccer News takes a look at some of the most intriguing pro prospects going forward.


Rashid Nuhu (Fordham) - Arguably the top keeper in the country, Nuhu helped lead a mid-major program, Fordham University, to the NCAA Quarterfinals last year, and will look to have the same impact this season. Nuhu has a great combination of athleticism, distribution from his feet and aerial dominance on crosses, which has brought out comparisons to former UCONN netminder, Andre Blake. Nuhu, from the renown Right to Dream program, will hope to walk the stage in the first round, following in the steps of his former teammates, Ema Twumasi, Edward Opoku and Francis Atuahene.


Dayne St. Clair (Maryland) - St. Clair, a Canadian Youth National Team member, had big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of former Terp, Zach Steffen (Columbus Crew /USMNT), but has performed admirably and will look to bring Maryland back to their national prominence in 2018. St. Clair at 6’4” is the complete package.  He makes tough saves look easy, but also has excellent footwork to go along with it. It’s yet to be seen if MLS will continue signing Canadian players to Generation Adidas and/or senior contracts, but St. Clair would be at the top of the list.


Mike Bernardi (Boston University) - Bernardi, the 2nd-Team All Patriot League honoree last year, had a great summer with the Brooklyn Italians (PDL) and will look to continue his form for the Terriers. Despite his smaller frame, Bernardi’s decision making, ability in 1 v 1 situations, and distribution from the back sets him apart. The goalkeeper position has been in flux for the Terriers, but if the coaching staff wants to make an NCAA tournament run, Bernardi will be in the plans. The Mahopac, New York native has trained with multiple MLS sides and with a solid senior season, should put himself in the mix for the combine.


Colin Miller (Providence) - Possibly the most underrated keeper in the country, Miller has been overshadowed by fellow Big East keepers, JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes) and Eric Dick (Sporting KC), but is poised have an excellent 2018 season. Miller, a RS Senior, has great command of his box, excellent reactions and has improved with his feet each year. Miller, with his large frame, fits the prototypical MLS GK mold and should receive a combine invite come January.


Jimmy Hague (Michigan State) - Hague, the College Soccer News 3rd-Team All American selection, has been the most consistent goalkeeper in the nation the past two seasons. The Spartans’ keeper has superb positioning and timing, which allows him to regularly make world class saves. Hague, a former field player, is comfortable with the ball at his feet and delivers exceptional driven balls to his outside backs. Similar in playing style to 2017 first round draft pick, Eric Dick, expect Hague to be among the top GKs taken.


Offense, Defense and National Championships - A Comparison of the Virginia and Stanford National Championship Teams by Mark Joslyn, Louis Joslyn and Nicholas Joslyn

In the early 1990s, the Virginia Cavaliers claimed four consecutive National Championships.  Virginia, coached by Bruce Arena, amassed an astonishing 84-9-4 record across the 1991-1994 seasons, secured two regular season ACC titles and four straight ACC tournament championships. 

Arena’s Cavaliers were widely considered the best the college game produced and were noted for a sophisticated, entertaining style of play.  Even the often critical Paul Gardner of Soccer America observed favorably in 1993 “A free-flowing, attacking team, with individual soccer talent visible in every position….a joy to watch.”  (Woitalla 2014).

 

 

Presently, another program dominates college soccer.  Under the direction of head coach Jeremy Gunn, Stanford won the last three National Championships accumulating an overall record of 52-7-10. The Cardinals captured four straight Pac-12 championships and set school records in 2017 for wins (19), shutouts (16), loses (2) and fewest goals allowed (9).

 

 

While Gunn’s Cardinals are extraordinarily successful, and once again serious contenders to repeat as national champions, their style of play does not inspire the same admiration as Virginia. Unlike the 90s Virginia teams, the Cardinals are sometimes criticized for rugged play (Warshaw 2016), reliance on set-pieces (Moore-Bloom 2018), and for preferring a more direct, counter-attacking game (AP 2016).        

Despite enjoying similar successes, Stanford and Virginia approached the game much differently.  We thus sought a closer, statistical examination of the two programs.  How do they compare across the championship years?  How truly dominant was Virginia?  Is Stanford of equal measure?   

Season Performance Measures

Table 1 compares the teams on four performance metrics.[1]  First, let’s consider season goal differential.  Stanford improved differentials each championship season, achieving a high of nearly 40 goals better than its competition in 2017. Virginia improved as well yet sustained considerably higher differentials than Stanford.  In fact, Virginia’s lowest differential (+48) surpassed Stanford’s highest by 9 goals.  For both teams, goal differentials are outstanding, few Division 1 teams can generate these numbers for one season let alone consecutive years.  Virginia however is exceptional.        

Table 1.  Stanford and Virginia Comparison of Season Performance Metrics 

                                                                           Stanford                                 Virginia

Metrics

2015

2016

2017

1992

1993

1994

Goal Differential

+24

+28

+39

+48

+50

+51

Total Shots Ratio

.57

.61

.63

.68

.68

.72

Shot Efficiency

.12

.10

.12

.18

.14

.18

Opposition Shot Efficiency

.06

.06

.04

.14

.08

.16

Source:Men’s soccer web sites for both programs.

Virginia’s stellar attack is also evident when comparing total shot ratios. Total shots ratio (TSR) quantifies how frequently a team shoots compared to its opponents.A ratio of 0.50 indicates a team conceded as many shots as it took, and a value over .50 shows the team outshot its opponents. In addition, high TSR teams generally possess the ball more than low TSR teams (Joslyn, Joslyn, Joslyn 2017c).

Ratios in the high 0.50s and low 0.60s are excellent.  In fact across Division 1 teams, Stanford’s ratios are consistently in the top 25 percent.  But Virginia was at another level.  Their ratios would be in the very top percentile today (Joslyn, Joslyn, Joslyn 2017a). 

Moreover Virginia converted their shots to goals with exceptional efficiency.  Shot efficiency (SE) is measured by dividing goals by the number of shots taken.  Though moments of individual brilliance are included, this metric generally reflects the quality of chances a team creates.  The average for Division 1 hovers around 0.10:  One goal for every 10 shots.  On this dimension, Stanford does not exhibit special talent.  Virginia does.  Virginia’s efficiency once more underscores a superior attacking team. 

However, it is a defensive metric, opposition shot efficiency (OSE) that distinguishes Stanford.  An opponent’s shot efficiency of 0.06 placed Stanford in the top 5 percent of Division 1 teams, and the 0.04 achieved in 2017 reflected a remarkable defensive squad.  Stanford in fact held the competition to about half the efficiency level that its own attack produced – compare SE to OSE.  By contrast, Virginia’s opponents enjoyed very high efficiency.  For example,during the 1994 season, for every 10 shots Virginia’s competition created, they hit the back of the net 1.6 times.  A curiously poor stat for a championship team.[2]

In sum, two exceptional programs achieved unprecedented success is distinctive ways.  Virginia excelled on the attack, Stanford on defense.  Virginia scored often, dominating the shots battle and converting shots to goals with extraordinary efficiency.  Stanford cannot match Virginia’s attacking numbers.  But Stanford depends much more on its ability to defend and counter.  Stanford wins by limiting opponents’ quality chances.  They may concede shots but allow precious few goals.  

NCAA Tournament Performance

Table 2 presents the same metrics but for the NCAA tournament games.  Virginia’s offensive prowess extends into tournament play, as does Stanford’s defensive muscle.  Given the intensity of play and quality of competition, the shot efficiency for Virginia is impressive.  In two out of the three years, Virginia’s excellent season shot efficiency actually increased in the tournament.  Consider 1992.  Virginia generated a 0.22 shot efficiency.  This means that for every 5 shots Virginia generated, it scored a goal! 

Table 2.  Performance Metrics for NCAA Soccer Championship Tournament

                                                                            Stanford                                    Virginia

Metrics

2015

2016

2017

1992

1993

1994

Goal Differential

+9

+5

+7

+11

+9

+9

Total Shots Ratio

.55

.54

.59

.69

.63

.60

Shot Efficiency

.18

.09

.10

.22

.17

.16

Opposition Shot Efficiency

.05

0

0

.08

.07

.06

Source:Men’s soccer web sites for both programs.

In addition, Virginia dramatically reduced the shot efficiency of its opponents.  In their 1994 tournament run, the Cavaliers held the competition to 0.06 shot efficiency, a fantastic 0.10 improvement from the season statistic. 

Not to be outdone, Stanford nearly perfected its tournament defense.  Since their 2015 quarter-final against Wake Forest, Stanford has not conceded a goal.  Twelve straight NCAA tournament games - a stretch of 1,214 minutes, 20 seconds (NCAA 2017).  Across the ten 2016 and 2017 tournament games, Stanford’s opponents shot 105 times yet failed to score!  For the same number of tournament games in 1993 and 1994, Virginia’s opposition shot 90 times and scored 6 times. 

Conclusions

Playing entertaining soccer and scoring beautiful goals leaves a lasting impression.  Consecutive shutout victories does not leave that same impression.  How a team wins championships may thus determine its legacy. Virginia produced exceptional attacking numbers.  Stanford produced an impenetrable defense.  Both are outliers, but in different aspects of the game.  Regardless of tactics and style, the teams executed at crucial moments and did so consistently.  Our analyses shows that attacking and defending styles can achieve college soccer’s most coveted title and sustain championship form across multiple seasons.   

The analyses also demonstrates that exceptional teams can improve.  Virginia’s opponents’shot efficiency fell sharply during the tournament and dropped across consecutive championship years. An extraordinary attacking team turned a season long defensive liability into a strength during the post-season.  

Meanwhile Stanford’s strength flourished during 3 championship runs.  Stanford effectively limited its competition’s capacity to turn shots into goals in the 2015 tournament, and then completely closed the door in 2016 and 2017.  It is often repeated that if the other team never scores we cannot lose.  The Stanford experience certainly support this conclusion. 

But can a defensive minded Stanford match Virginia’s four consecutive national championships?  The Cardinals’ tournament runs included 3 overtime victories and 4 penalty shootouts.  Virginia won every 92-94 tournament game in regular time. 

The vagaries of chance may catch Stanford.  We expect Stanford to excel defensively.  But like Virginia, we think Stanford needs to improve on their weakest performance metric in order to keep the streak alive.  If Stanford’s shot efficiency nears its own 2015 number, the likelihood of a four-peat increases considerably. 


References

Associated Press. 2016.  “Stanford soccer going for second straight NCAA title.”  Mercury News.  Dec. 10.https://www.mercurynews.com/2016/12/10/stanford-soccer-going-for-second-straight-ncaa-title/

Joslyn, Louis R., Nicholas J. Joslyn and Mark R. Joslyn.  2017a.  “The Impact of Shots, Shots Against and Total Shots Ratio in College Soccer.  College Soccer News.  February.   https://collegesoccernews.com/index.php/articles/1039-the-impact-of-shots-shots-against-and-total-shots-ratio-in-college-soccer-by-louis-joslyn-nicholas-joslyn-and-mark-joslyn

Joslyn, Louis R., Nicholas J. Joslyn and Mark R. Joslyn.  2017b.   “Under Performance.  Why Some Teams Fall Short of Expectations.”  College Soccer News.  December.   https://collegesoccernews.com/index.php/articles/1136-under-performance-a-look-at-why-some-team-s-bounce-back-and-other-s-don-t-by-louis-nicholas-and-mark-joslyn

Joslyn, Louis R., Nicholas J. Joslyn and Mark R. Joslyn.  2017c.  “What Delivers and Improved Season in Men’s College Soccer?  The Relative Effects of Shots, Attacking and Scoring Efficiency on Year-to-Year Change in Season Win Percentage.  The Sport Journal.   June.  http://thesportjournal.org/article/what-delivers-an-improved-season-in-mens-college-soccer-the-relative-effects-of-shots-attacking-and-defending-scoring-efficiency-on-year-to-year-change-in-season-win-percentage/

Moore-Bloom, Arlo.  2018.  “Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn on why he’s optimistic about the unique American soccer system.”  August 1.  Soccer America.https://www.socceramerica.com/publications/article/79024/stanford-coach-jeremy-gunn-on-why-hes-optimistic.html

NCAA Division 1 Men’s Soccer Championships Record Book. 2017.   http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/stats/m_soccer_champs_records/2017/D1.pdf

Warshaw, Bobby.  2016.  “I want to build an empire”:  How Gunn made Stanford into a superpower.”  FourFourTwo.  December.   https://www.fourfourtwo.com/us/features/jeremy-gunn-stanford-interview-profile-ncaa-college-soccer

Woitalla, Mike.  2014.  “Bruce Arena’s unequaled journey through American soccer.”  Soccer America Daily.  https://www.socceramerica.com/publications/article/61792/bruce-arenas-unequaled-journey-through-american-s.html

[1]   The NCAA does not provide team statistics for the Virginia championship years.  We discovered team stats on Virginia’s men soccer web site but the 1991 championship year was not available.  In addition, the statistics available are less detailed than typically provided today.  We therefore used what was given for Virginia during the 1992, 1993, and 1994 championship years.  

[2]Similarly, Goals against Average (GAA) highlights a distinct Stanford advantage over Virginia.  Stanford’s GAA placed in the top 10 of Division 1 teams for the past three years, ranking second to Indiana in 2017. In 1994, Virginia’s GAA of 1.31 would rank it 109 in 2017. 



Mark R. Joslyn can be reached at the Department of Political Science, 1541 Lilac Lane, 504 Blake Hall, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66044 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.