The Question I put to you is this; how many goals of Fredy Montero’s 13 are we going to need to replace? I know, I know. Everyone is going to talk about how you “can’t replace Fredy”. I get it, the guy has done so much for the club in just 4 short years and is leaving the lead scorer since it’s near 40 year inception. What he’s done is significant. But the question still remains, in 2013, how do the Sounders replace his contributions and more aptly, how much do they really need to replace?
Now I could spend some time trying to massage you into the idea that full-seasons of Mario Martinez and Steve Zakuani are going to lend more goals and the work rate of David Estrada off the bench–and presumably healthy–could yield Alan Gordon like results. But here is the thing, before you get into any of that, you have to ask “How much did Fredy really contribute?”
This isn’t an “I hate Fredy” post or anything. Anyone that reads this blog regularly knows I have a special place in my soccer heart for the guy. But not all goals are created equal. It’s important–really critical–to realize that a goal in the 89th minute that ties the game and gives a club a point is worth more than a team that already has 3 points with a 2 goal lead in the 80th minute and scores a third goal.
According to data derived from the EPL in the last 10 years a team up by 2 goals at home in the 80th minute won 98% of the time. A team at home in the 89th minute that is down by a goal has a draw percentage of only 4%. It’s obvious that these two goals had far different impacts, not just on the game, but also on the league table.
The question, once again refined, how much impact did Fredy Montero have on the 2012 Sounders? There are a couple people that have been trying to contextualize goal and give them some sort of meaning. Ford Bohrmann has been working on a sort of Weighted Goal Average that is derived from the amount of goals and Expected Points Added. Expected Points Added is something that has kind of floating around a few different sites and I felt could be used here. EPA is basically Win Probability Added (the likelihood a team will win the game) multiplied the amount of expected points the goal brings about. (i.e. if the a goal helps the club take the lead it’s multiplied times 3 points, if it brings the scoreline to a tie it’s multiplied by 1).
I’ve attached a spreadsheet below so you can see how I did this and any corrections and suggestions are welcomed (I just ask that you show me the same amount of courteous that you would ask for and expect in return).
As you can see in three different situations, Montero scored goals to help the Sounders take the lead. There also was two other scoring occasions that he helped bring parity. These are four very important facts, not to mention the 5 other goals that help the club separate the difference late in games.
His 9.46 expected points added is really very good, though it’s hard to say retrospectively how comparable this contribution is and contextually how it ranked with the rest of his peers as I didn’t have time to do it for all of MLS. But, over 9–nearly 10–of the Sounders 56 table points were “contributed”. according to this metric, by Montero goals. Looking around at other similar models we can see that’s similar to the Conor Casey 9.2 and Jeff Cunningham 8.2 contributions from 2009, which were both 1 & 2 respectively in 2009.
For more context I went ahead and put together another spreadsheet for Zakuani during his 2010 season.
You can see that despite the fact he didn’t score the same his goals were nearly as valuable while not quiet living up to all of Montero’s numbers. It’s very plausible that with adding Zakuani back to the mix that you could replace at least half of what Montero did last year and adding Martinez to the mix should easily put you into the positive. Obviously you aren’t just adding Zakuani straight in place of Montero, you’re likely substituting him in place of someone like Brad Evans, but while Evans is a strong player he’s less of an attacker and more a facilitator.
This would work out to more of a Mario/Zakuani swap for Montero/Evans. Overall it might not leave you as strong, but I think it makes you a bit more well rounded and the underratted ability of Mario Martinez to hold up play and to be creative in an effort to work more with Eddie Johnson, could potentially give Johnson more goal scoring opportunities.
I know that a lot of people are really negative about the fact that there hasn’t been any “big” player movement and that the front office hasn’t yet added a Designated Player support the loss of Fredy. But, I’m sure in time we will add on and to be honest unless Mario Martinez takes huge steps forward, if the Sounders are to compete for the Supporter Shield they’ll need someone to help EJ up top.
But, if the Sounders start the season off with the roster as is (and I think I’m in the majority when I say I don’t think that will happen) there is potential for this club to still do better than just tread water. They are still a potential playoff club, though, one that isn’t necessarily as strong as the one that ended last season. That said they are a club that has the pieces to get back into the playoffs and as we all have seen the last 3 years, all you need to do once you get there is get hot and anything can happen.