by Lindsay Durham

**The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints or positions of the Major Arena Soccer League.**


The importance of a good goalkeeper

Amidst the sporting meritocracy in indoor soccer, a few quirks within the game have yet to be quantified. We’ve discussed power plays here before and how teams distribute their goals throughout a game. These stats give us a look behind the curtain and help explain what we see beyond the goals and assists.

Today, I’d like to look at goalkeeping, more than we have in the past. At our disposal are 65 games (I embarked on this journey prior to Milwaukee vs Monterrey), and a comprehensive list of stats from the very website you are reading this on. Armed with just my laptop and an espresso, I decided to find the best stats we have to assess goalkeeper performance and get a little closer to figuring out what exactly wins indoor soccer games.

Saves are helpful, but more as a side than the main course. With all credit to William Banahene, who currently leads the league in saves with 135, that stat is slightly susceptible to skew. Banahene faces more shots than Berna Valdovinos, so the sheer number of saves doesn’t paint the clearest picture. So, primarily we’ll use Goals Against Average (GAA) and Save Percentage (SP). Now that we know what data we’re looking for, I’d like to quantify how important shot-stopping is.

First, I combed through every game from this season and compiled a dataset of each team’s SP. Notice I said “team’s” as goalkeeping pairs count as a collective being. This helps the data be more standardized and interpretable. Second, I organized it and established a league average for SP, which turned out to be .686, or just under 70%. With that, I separated the data into above-average and below-average to figure out whether that correlated to winning or losing.

Spoiler alert: It did.

Based on the data, when a goalkeeper or goalkeeping pair finished a game with an above-average SP, their team won roughly twice as often. With a P-value of 0.0002, this correlation is extremely statistically significant, but let’s take it a step further. Let’s look at how much the win percentage changes as SP changes. To do this, I separated the data into groups, choosing to organize them by hundreds given that the average was very close to 0.700, and I like even numbers.

            As you can see, a higher SP leads to more wins, especially as you get above 0.800. It’s certainly rare; teams have only finished a game with an SP that high 24 times this season, but they’ve won 21 of those matches. I’ll quickly add that there are other factors at play here. Some teams have better defenses, others play better opposition more often, and as a result, these goalkeepers face more dangerous shots and concede more goals. These graphs are not a perfect indicator of skill or ability, but over a season, trends emerge that help us gauge how well goalkeepers perform in the conditions provided to them. With these new understandings, let’s look at the data again to put some names to the numbers.

            In the top left quadrant are the players who put their teams in winning positions more frequently. The likes of Diego Reynoso, Christian Hernandez, and Valdovinos stick out immediately, but notice the likes of Eduardo "Pollo" Cortes, Nicolau Neto, and Banahene, who have similar SP stats, but have faced significantly more shots and conceded more goals, but conversely, have made more saves.

Just behind Banahene in the saves department is St. Louis goalkeeper Paulo Nascimento, who led St. Louis to an 8-3 statement win over the Baltimore Blast this weekend with a staggering .850 SP. The Ambush haven’t won as many games as they would have liked this season, just two games have gone their way, but they’ve put in some good performances. When looking at the data, it’s clear that Paulo’s stellar play is the key that opens the door. Against the Blast, he made 17 saves on 20 shots as he broke the .800 SP mark for the third time this season. In those three games, the Ambush have earned both of their wins.

Another goalkeeper to shoutout is Reynoso, whose return to the MASL last week caught everyone’s attention as he nearly kept a clean sheet against San Diego at the Pechanga Arena. Since then, he’s kept Kansas City to two goals and Monterrey to four, although the Savage dod lose to the Flash. His save percentage has not dropped below .778 in his three appearances, almost ten percent better than the league average. Credit to Chihuahua for picking up their guy, because he will be huge as they get to the playoffs.

While the findings may not be the most surprising in the world, it’s fascinating to see such a clear correlation between on-field statistics and wins across the league. Such connections are rarely seen in a sport as open for interpretation as indoor soccer, and if more research is done, we may see teams value the goalkeeping position more highly when building their rosters. So if you or a friend are a General Manager for a MASL team, get looking for the next great shot-stopper or protect the one you have, because they truly are worth their weight in gold.

Reget goal streak ends in Chihuahua

From data to despair, Zach Reget’s streak fell victim to one of the league’s best sides. The Wisconsin native had scored in every game this season, but couldn’t find the net in the Comets’ final stop of their Mexican road trip, despite registering five shots. There’s a level of surprise that his streak didn’t last the entire season, which perhaps speaks to the standard that Reget has set for himself.

Reget’s situation is similar to his side’s. After a successful start to the season, Kansas City hit a massive roadblock at the midpoint of their campaign. Four consecutive losses have created an impasse for Stefan Stokic’s side. Either they can stop the slide and regain focus for the rest of the season, or the slump is bound to continue.

            For Reget, it’s a new day. Get back to scoring with a goal against Utica and start again from scratch. He’s good enough to dominate, and on his day, he has. What needs to happen is he, along with the rest of his teammates, need to come together and return to their early season form. Do the little things right, be more clinical in front of goal, and take chances while holding each other more accountable on defense.

If this road trip has been good for anything, it’s assured them that they have two great goalkeepers in Neto and Phillip Ejimadu. In front of them, the confidence will come back in the form of goals and wins. The Comets will want to avenge their home loss to Utica with a win at the Adirondack Bank Center, and they certainly have the talent to do it, but they’ll need Reget to show up for that to happen. Kickoff will be this Sunday, Jan. 28, at 3:05 p.m. EST.

Texas makes a statement against the Riggies

Fresh off a statement weekend in Missouri, Utica returned to Upstate New York invigorated. A date with the Outlaws awaited, though it wasn’t Utica City FC who took the field. Instead, it was the Utica Riggies, a fun brand shift just for the week, as Hewerton’s side hoped to embrace the flavor of their city’s signature dish.

In came Texas, hoping to do the imPASTAble (okay, that’s enough of that), as they attempt to rack up wins before their midseason gauntlet in February. What emerged was one of the games of the season, featuring no fewer than five lead changes, a Luiz Morales hat trick, a Taylor Walter Bond hat trick, EIGHT (8) goals in the fourth quarter, and ultimately, Jorge Deleon’s savvy overtime golden goal to seal the win for the visitors.

It was dramatic. It was back and forth. It was everything you could possibly want in an indoor soccer game. On top of that, it also had stakes.

For Utica, this loss blows the Eastern Conference wide open. Even with Milwaukee’s loss to Monterrey, Utica sits third behind the Wave thanks to their head-to-head record. With a game in hand, Utica has not fully squandered their advantage, but these close games will mean a lot down the stretch.

The Outlaws could possibly finish the season as the third-best team in the Western Conference, but thanks to their incredible results up to this point, they are still fighting for the top two spots with San Diego and Chihuahua. This win will go a long way toward continuing that fight and ensuring that neither the Savage nor the Sockers have an easy route to the top two seeds.

Texas has played all top four teams in the Eastern Conference and has beaten three while pushing Monterrey to the very end. They struggled against Chihuahua earlier but have improved drastically as a team since then, thanks in large part to the Morales-Mendez duo who have combined for 52 points in 11 games, while four players have registered ten or more blocks in defense. Add in Eduardo "Pollo" Cortes’ staggering .750 Save Percentage, and this team is loaded across the turf. Count out the Outlaws at your own risk, because they’re only getting better as the season goes on.