Tyson's Corner

Tyson Wahl, Opta Action

Originally slated as a role player, Tyson Wahl has now started 14 of 15 Crew games this year. Here is a closer look at his impact and role on this year’s Columbus Crew season.

When the Columbus Crew signed Tyson Wahl back in early January of this year club Technical Director Brian Bliss said:

“Tyson’s signing gives us depth and experience at multiple defensive positions. As a naturally left-footed player, he can play left back and centre back, which are two areas where we’re in need of versatility.” - Crew signs defender Tyson Wahl (Jan 3, 2013. TheCrew.com)

At the time of Wahl’s signing most believed it was a depth signing that will likely play in a supporting Left Back role behind a yet to be named signing, just as Bliss said. That sentiment was confirmed when the Crew announced the signing of natural Left Back Augustin Viana a couple weeks later on January 28th.

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Once the regular season opened up the starting lineup saw both Wahl (at LB) and Viana (at CDM) starting together. These two played in these roles until Viana got hurt week eight. From the beginning this pairing raised the eyebrows of close watchers of the club and begged the question:

Did Wahl have specific tools and skills needed in Robert Warzycha’s 4-2-3-1 line up where outside fullbacks provided width and overlapping play?

Taking a look at Wahl’s extensive career in Major League Soccer suggests that he is a solid defender but is limited in attack. Add it all up and you get 8076 total minutes spread across five different teams. One goal and five assists.

Contrary to his traditional role as a defender the Crew have thrust him into a fullback role. In fact, through the first 15 Crew matches Tyson Wahl has found himself starting 14 as a player getting forward and joining into the attack. He’s also been called upon to take on some of the free kick duties inside the opponents half despite the fact he has never really done so in his seven year career.

SHRINKING ROLE

Through the first five games of the season Tyson Wahl was amongst the most involved players on the Crew. In fact, according to Opta, he averaged the second most touches of all team players.

Gameweek : Number of touches (Rank on Team)

1 : 79 (4th most)

2 : 96 (3rd)

3 : 111 (2nd)

4 : 93 (2nd)

5 : 115 (1st)

What does this mean? Opta tracks each time a player touches the ball, good or bad. Things like: Successful pass, Unsuccessful, Tackled and Possession lost, Header, Successful cross, Throw In Successful, Blocked cross, Recovery... it’s all recorded.

While the subjectivity of these types of actions could be argued, the fact that the player did complete the actions is solid. With that you can deduce how involved a particular player was by adding all the actions up. Doing so could be a simple way of calculating a player’s involvement.

You can see above that through the first third of Crew matches that Tyson Wahl was heavily involved. In fact, he averaged 2nd (2.4) on the team is involvement. Things started to change, however, in the second third.

Gameweek : Number of touches (Rank on Team)

6 : 85 (3rd)

7 : 81 (5th)

8 : 66 (7th)*

9 : 75 (7th)

10 : 100 (3rd)*

Wahl’s involvement drops to 5th overall on the team during the this group of games. In the first 5 games he averaged 99 touches. This next group of five it dropped 17 touches all the way down to 81. Works out to be an 18% drop in Opta actions.

Things further change. During the most reason five games his role has been further diminished.

Gameweek : Number of touches (Rank on Team)

11 : 70 (7th)

12 : 70 (6th)

13 : 83 (4th)

14 : 50 (9th)*

15 : 53 (9th)

This works out to be an average of 65 touches (or actions) a game. Down a full 33 a game (34%) from the first five games with his average rank in touches going to 7th. This is statistically significant and suggests a major change in either coaching philosophy or teammate mentality. Casual observation of play on the pitch suggests that it is the players not going to his side when in opponents attacking half.

WAHL’S SMALLER ROLE, DOES IT HELP?

In games where Tyson Wahl earns 83 to 155 Opta Actions (lots of involvement) the team has 1 Win, 4 Draws and 2 losses. Contrastingly; when he only gets 50 to 82 Actions the team has 4 Wins, 3 Draws and only 1 Loss.

1.00 Points per Game, Heavy Involvement

1.88 Points per Game, Lesser Involvement

What this suggests is that the less Wahl is on the ball, the better the team does. While there doesn’t appear the Crew have changed their basic tactical philosophies this does show that there has been a shift (be it coach mandated or player decision) away from involving this player’s on the ball activity.

Wahl has started all but one Crew match. All of his starts have been at Left Back. He has faced an average opponent difficulty of 10.6 on the combined league table (team average is 11.2).

FINAL THOUGHTS, VIANA

There is no exact way to measure a player’s full involvement in a match. Opta’s on the ball stats are only one way to measure what a player does on the pitch. Please keep in mind that most of what a player (in particular, a defender) does is away from the ball. This post is an exploration of a player’s touches (actions) based on observation and recorded statistics available to the public via “chalkboard” on MLSsoccer.com.



Augustin Viana seems to be getting back into match shape. Last weekend he saw 35 minutes of actions against Montreal in Reserve League action. He looked aggressive and ready to go. It seems likely that he will play in his natural Left Back spot as soon as he is healthy. When healthy, not sure why he was not playing there since the start of the year.

*Games where he played less than 70 minutes. Full 90 in ten games.


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