How does Stopper measure goal kicks? As we get ready for an all-Canadian MLS conference show-down, we thought we’d use the break to look back at some Distribution results for David Ousted at the half way mark of the season.

If you look at the chart, you’ll see goal kicks measured as either successful or unsuccessful, with most recent games on the left and older games on the right. What makes a goal kick successful? Since the objective in football is to score goals, and to score goals you need possession of the ball, it follows that a goal kick that leads to continued possession is “positive” and one that turns the ball over is “negative”. Is the player able to receive the ball? Are they able to continue the play? Were they able to make a pass or hold the ball? If so, Stopper considers that a successful goal kick.

Obviously, the skill of the receiving player and of the opposing defence affect the outcome of a goal kick as well. But it’s up to the goalkeeper to weigh those considerations and make a decision that will generate goal-scoring opportunities. If the opposing defence is strong in the air, then continually sending long balls creates a low percentage environment. If they are weak in the air, then a long ball creates high percentage conversion opportunities.

For example, this chart shows that against the Galaxy in Game 5, Vancouver had significant ball turnover on goal kicks vs against Sporting Kansas in Game 9, where a higher percentage of goal kicks were converted to successful plays. In the same games, it was interesting to note successful distribution from a back pass was also significantly lower as a percentage vs the Galaxy than vs Sporting Kansas, with the latter match featuring both 100% conversion and more than double the number of back passes.

Next week we’ll look at Saves and Goals over the course of the Whitecaps season.

NOTE: 4th last game is a blank test game.