As the Boston Whitecaps visit the DC Current in Silver Spring again, it becomes clear that these two teams are dealing with different realities.
While the DC Current have spent their season fighting to win 2 games out of their six thus far and is still working to earn a playoff bid, Boston has won all of their matches and clinched a playoff bid last weekend. Going into this weekend, Boston has room to soften their focus and include the playoff picture in all calculations, Washington’s calculations are focused solely on making the playoffs.
The obvious key players for this game are the same names we’ve been hearing all season for both teams: Alan Kolick of DC leads the league is completions (295) and assists (25). Jeff Graham of Boston leads the league in points (37) and goals (25).
For Boston, the top five scorers round out with Brandon Malacek (8G, 20A), Peter Prial (17G, 11A), Josh Markette (9G, 18A) and Danny Clark (14G, 5A). For DC: Sean Keegan (9G, 15A), Markham Shofner (6G, 14A), Jeff Wodatch (15G, 4A) and Colvin Oung (11G, 8A).
These two lists are rather similar in composition. There is one key cog through which the offense runs (Kolick, Graham), two assist-heavy distributors (Keegan&Shofner, Malacek&Markette), one goal-scorer (Wodatch, Clark) and one all-around useful player (Oung, Prial). That two ultimate teams would have similar top-player usages is not of note. Nor is it striking that the two teams have near-identical completion percentages over the season (DC: 92.98%, BOS: 92.93%).
The difference in realities becomes more obvious when the number of passes completed is examined. This is clear over the season stats (BOS has 1330 throws over 7 games [190 per game] while DC has 1481 throws over 6 games [247 per game]) for a 57-throw differential per game. However, it is even more striking when looked at solely in matches between the Current and Whitecaps.
In two games, BOS has thrown 312 passes (156/game) while DC has thrown 554 (227/game). That’s a difference of 121 passes per game! If each team completes passes at the same rate, and one team throws near-double the amount of passes, which team will throw more turnovers?
One of the ways that DC attempts to solve this problem is by heavily leaning on the extremely effecient Kolick, who has accounted for 21% of his team’s throws in these two matchups. He completes these passes at a slightly above-average rate (94%) for the team, which justifies his usage. The next three players in percetange of passes are Keegan at 11%, Brent Bellinger at 10%, and Sean McComb at 10%. Of those four, Keegan is the only player who dips under the average 93% completion rate to 82%.
Boston’s distribution is more even. Alex Cooper and Malacek both lead the way with 16% of the team’s passes. The difference between them is that while Cooper completes an above average rate (94%) Malacek is below-average at 84%. The next player in terms of percentage of team throws is Graham at 12%. Below that, there is no player with more than 7% of Boston’s passes.
These larger-scale trends over two games are unlikely to change. The names above who re involved in a larger portion of throws for each team is a mix of handlers and all-stars. To stray from your best players or your offensive design is clearly sub-optimal. On the other hand, what of the whole rest of the team? What can those groups tell us about the matchup?
The whole of DC (minus Kolick, Keegan, Bellinger, and McComb) accounts for 47% of the passes thrown and they complete at a rate of 94%. The top 4 account for 53% of passes thrown, and complete at a rate of 92%.
The whole of Boston (minus Cooper, Graham and Malacek) accounts for 55% of the passes thrown and completes at a rate of 95%. The top 3 account for 45% of passes thrown, and complete at a rate of 89%.
Does this mean that DC should work defensively to force the disc through the top of the Whitecaps roster and hope for turns? Does this mean that Boston should keep on doing what they’re doing and rely on the high number of passes attempted by the Current to give them enough shots at turns? Both teams have incentive to change their strategy (Boston can experiment while Washington needs a different result), but it is unclear what the obvious changes are, or how that will affect the outcome.
Which adjustments will be made is clearly unclear at the moment, but this evening at Blazer Stadium in Silver Spring, MD we will have an answer for which adjustments proved most effective. Washington is fighting for every victory and every point in order to get into the playoffs. Boston is refining its game for its inevitable playoff run. Will Boston remain unscathed in their matchups with DC or will the overwhelming effort that DC displayed last week in their win over the Philadelphia Spinners be enough to topple the wave?