Tactical View: Team Passing Statistics

The Crew's passes in the final third are going nowhere (Opta/MLSSoccer.com)

Stats can certainly inform or mislead depending on what is calculated. Baseball has a wealth of stats, football even has some newer ways to classify players and teams, but soccer has defied tabulation. Possession percentages are certainly in vogue, but the correlation to results is limited at best. There is one stat that does infer a little knowledge on how a team is performing, pass completion percentage.

The passing stats aren't foolproof. A team can play safe back passes and keep a 85%+ pass completion percentage with little positive effect. On the reverse, there is a certain baseline that a team should rise above. Last game against Portland the Crew's passing percentage was 69%. That is simply not good enough for a team looking to score.

An offense struggling to complete three passes together will rarely threaten the opposition. Columbus played 468 passes and only completed 323. They were actually best at passing in the midfield, playing shorter passes and trying to keep possession.

The completion percentage in the final third dropped to an abismal 57%. It's true that Portland would put numbers behind the ball, but a number like that shows a lack of sharpness in the final third. Crew attacks are dying out before shots are taken.

The high flying San Jose offense had a 72% passing rating in the final third during their 2-1 loss in Vancouver. Likewise, Seattle completed 70% of their final third passes in route to a 1-0 win against Philadelphia, the Union only completed 52%.

The problems don't end in the final third. The defensive third passing completion percent was only 59%. Andy Gruenebaum's 44% completion rate lead the way, so to speak. His many long punts to midfield created a bunch of 50/50 balls that often gave possession back cheaply. It shows a lack of confidence in the players on defense.

Ideally, the Crew would be able to get the ball to the back line and move the ball forward on the ground or have the ability to pick out a longer pass to spread the field. Right now, none of this is happening.

The Crew offense continues to lack a cutting edge passer, Milovan Mirosevic hasn't been able to make the impact in the final third that Columbus hoped for. Until the team can get some confidence on the ball on the back line and in the final third, good offensive chances will be hard to come by.

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