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By the Numbers: RSL's final third failure

07 August 12:33 pm

By the Numbers: RSL's final third failure

By Sam Stejskal

There’s no doubt that RSL turned in a lackluster offensive performance in last Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Colorado. The team looked tired, disjointed and struggled to create chances throughout, really only getting two good looks at goal in the entire match.

RSL’s biggest struggles came in the attacking third. Despite holding advantages in possession, total number of passes completed and percentage of passes completed across the entire field, RSL was completely outclassed in the final third, attempting and completing a fraction of the passes Colorado attempted and completed in the attacking area. 

Check out the below table for a more detailed look: 

  RSL Colorado
Possession 51.6% 48.4%
Passing stats - Entire field 334/420 293/409
Passing stats - Final third 27/51 76/115

On the surface, this might not make a whole lot of sense - Shouldn't RSL's advantages in possession, total number of passes completed and passing percentage lead to corresponding advantages in final third numbers? 

Well, no. Here's why: After scoring the first - and only - goal of the game in the 38th minute, Colorado - which had the possession advantage at halftime - backed off a bit. They allowed RSL to knock the ball around in the back, which boosted the Claret-and-Cobalt's possession number and improved the team's passing stats across the entire field. But by backing off, Colorado was able to maintain a tighter defensive shape in the final third. That compact shape made it hard for RSL to enter the attacking area (explaining the Utah side's low number of passes attempted in the final third) and, once they got there, made it difficult for the Claret-and-Cobalt to have success (explaining the team's poor passing conversion rate in the final third). 

Don't expect RSL to repeat last Saturday's poor final third performance in this weekend's match at Vancouver. The team wasn't quite right at Colorado, playing its third game in an eight day stretch which saw them make a midweek trip to Costa Rica. The players got a short break this week, taking Monday and Tuesday off before resuming training on Wednesday. That downtime should allow them to be both physically and mentally refreshed for the game at Whitecaps FC, something that should pay dividends at BC Place.