(June 16, 2012 - Source: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images North America)
I began my dissection of the Dallas draw last Sunday, as usual, by gathering statistics together and looking where we’d improved or done well against why we’d conceded and dropped 2 points. Over at NASNPortland, I wrote about the slightly improving partnership of Chara and Jewsbury, something I approached with some trepidation, but the signs were pointing to improvement. The point I wanted to discuss over here, however, was that of our 5 defenders and their small improvements. The crux of my post was going to be of Troy Perkins’ patterns of distribution and the ongoing murmur of discontent towards his ability in that department. I thought he’d performed well in that department against Dallas, and was hopefully he’d improved.
Then, as I was poring over Chalkboards, the news came out that Troy had been traded to Montreal. Twitter was a-flurry of cannon balls and gunpowder, aimed at knocking down the wall built up with Merritt Paulson and Gavin Wilkinson on one side, the Timber Army on the other. After the vocal group ran out gas, questions around whether Perkins ability arose – did his performances on the pitch match those off it?
Then, the question had to be answered. Wilkinson, with that charm offense in full-flow, dealt a typically snide kick to the arse of Perkins as he left the door. After initially singing his praises, Wilkinson called the purchase of Ricketts an “upgrade”, embellishing “…when you sit down and you have staff meetings and you give everyone an active voice and the unanimous decision is this is what’s right for the club, you do what’s right for the club.”
The man revered by some fans as the best GK in the league was obviously not considered that by his employers. The friction caused Incoming #1, Donovan Ricketts, was hardly wrenched from the clutches of Montreal. Mountroyalsoccer.com surmised Rickett’s season and subsequent departure as“[his]‘ constant poor ball handling, lack of communication and ineffective set piece defense set up. It was clear during games that newcomer and defensive legend Alessandro Nesta had trust issues with the goalkeeper.”Not the type of comment to inspire fans of his new club…
With Wilkinson and his coaching staff calling Rickett’s an upgrade, whilst Impact were smugly welcoming Perkins with open arms, the debate raged on – who got the better deal? Ultimately, time will only be able to tell us, but let’s give it a pop…
The Bit With All The Stats
The first thing I did to try and compare the two was to look at the obvious – goals conceded, saves made, clean sheets, and then I brought together some individual game stats (the last 10 games they each played – minus our win at SJ where I still can’t access the game data on mlssoccer.com) around distribution, saves, catches, punches and drops made by the two.
Firstly, both players were each teams first-choice keepers. Perkins has played all 22 of Portland’s games, whilst Ricketts only sat out one of their 25 games played. In those games, Perkins has conceded 35 times and Ricketts has conceded 39 – giving Troy an average of 1.59 goals conceded per game and Donovan an average of 1.63. They’ve both kept 3 clean sheets this season also. Pretty equal. To be honest, it’s a bit harsh to give a ‘keeper the weight of all goals conceded – there’s not a lot they can do sometimes.
Instead, it’s better to look at how “worked” the goalkeepers have been. That being the amount of shots on goal against the amount of saves they’ve made. Weirdly, both GKs have had 104 shots come their way this season. Perkins has saved 66 of those, whilst Ricketts saved 61. Close again, but looking at the percentage of shots saved – Perkins stacks up with 63.5% to Rickett’s 58.7%. When looking at the last 10 games Perkins also comes out on top. He made 11 more saves, 3 more catches and 3 more punches. Over those ten games, Perkins had 50 shots to deal with making 31 saves and conceding 22 goals in the process. If you’re thinking the maths doesn’t add, then own-goals and goal-line clearances are neither shots on goal nor saves. Ricketts, on the other hand, has had 39 shots on his goal in the last 10 games, making 20 saves and conceding 18 goals. Comparatively? Ricketts saved 51.3% of shots that came his way, Perkins saved 62%. Given that Perkins conceded a woeful 22 goals, he (theoretically at least) would’ve prevented an even greater amount than Ricketts would’ve.
The final facet to look at was the recurrent theme of distribution. It’s a tricky thing to work out from statistics, as I didn’t have time to watch every “unsuccessful pass”. Was it a shank, a poor pass? Or, did the recipient of the pass fail in his job? If the latter is the case, the provider of the pass is still chalked up with the failure. With that in mind, I guess you have to make your own inferences on whether Perkins had better targets in Boyd et al. than Ricketts had with Corradi and Wenger.
Initially, the statistics look favourable towards Perkins – he hit 177 successful passes in the last 10 games. Ricketts only hit 157. Unfortunately for Troy, he also hit 145 unsuccessful passes – in the last 10 games. Ricketts in comparison, hit 89 unsuccessful passes. Over the ten games, Troy hits and average success rate of 55% whilst Ricketts hits 63.8%. Neither are massively encouraging, but it’s safe to say that Perkins loses in this battle. He has had the odd game where he hits a much higher success rate than Donovan. In the last game against Dallas, Troy’s pass success rate was 76.7% (23 of 30 passes were successful) and away to Chivas, he hit a rate of 80.8% (21 of 26). This was however offset by the awful 34.8% (16 of 30) in the win against Seattle, and the 38.9% (14 of 36 )away to Colorado. The lowest rate Ricketts has hit was 48.5% (16 of 33) away to Philadelphia Union, his highest being 79.2% (19 of 24). In an average game, you’ll be expected to see Troy hit 18 successful passes and 15 unsuccessful. Ricketts hits 16 successful and 9 of which will be unsuccessful. Make of that what you will.
Chalkboards and images by mlssoccer.com
It’s always going to be difficult to say whether this trade was of benefit or detriment to the Portland Timbers. There’s been no one reason cited as to why Wilkinson wanted rid of Perkins, other than he believes Ricketts will have a bigger hand in mentoring the younger keepers – Gleeson and Bendik – players that Wilkinson obviously feels need to begin coming through the ranks. “I’m still kind of getting my head around it now.” said Gleeson upon his return from Olympic duty with New Zealand, “…we’ll find out more when Ricketts gets in and see how he fits in.”. You can read into that, and you could hear a cautious voice. You could also hear optimism, if you so wish. Ultimately, we’re never going to know what happens behind closed doors.
There have been rumblings around Perkins’ persona (however well he projected himself on-screen) rubbing people up the wrong way. It’s most certainly not out of the question that he and Gavin just didn’t get along. You get the feeling with Wilkinson that he’s struggling, as a Manager, to look after the psychological needs of the modern-day footballer. He may have been the man that crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s when these players originally came to the club, but Manager Gavin has a stronger idea on what type of personality he wants at the club. I’d imagine that those “loose of lip” do not figure highly in what Wilkinson wants.
Statistically, I’m not sure on who’s the better keeper. Certainly in the past 10 games, Troy has been under a lot more pressure, and he’s had a lot more work on. You can see that in the amount of saves he’s had to make and the amount of goals he’s conceded. On the other side of things, Donovan Ricketts looks a more rounded player. He’s not looked fantastic the last 10 games, but his distribution has been better and he has been playing behind a better back four. I hope it’s the right move for Portland, and I hope he has a calming influence on a defence who are prone to the odd lapse in judgement in concentration.
Yes, he may have “got it”, but as many have said before me – players come and go. Troy may not have been at the top of the list in changes required, but if this team is to get off the bottom of the pile, changes are required.
Who’s next in Gavin’s firing line? What are your thoughts on Donovan Ricketts? Or Troy Perkins for that matter?