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USA 2, Mexico 0: A closer look at the stats

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When it comes to the US national team's 2-0 win against Mexico last week, only one stat really matters. 2-0. That said, it is still interesting to look at the stats and see just how thoroughly the United States dominated Mexico last week.

The ProZone Match Analysis stats are out for the game and they paint a pretty clear picture of how much control the Americans had last week.

Among the stats to look at:

  • The Americans held a 52 percent-48 percent edge in possession.

  • The US team attempted 84 more passes and finished with a 79 percent to 71 percent edge in completion percentage.

  • The U.S. team won 80 headers to Mexico's 40.

Those are just a few of the stats. You can see them all here.

What do you think of the stats? Do you have a better appreciation for how well DaMarcus Beasley played? Surprised to see Mexico lose out in so many categories?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Pass completion numbers can be VERY misleading. A 92% completion rating can say that he was sending incisive pipoint passes picking apart the Mexico defense…. or it could say that he was the master of the easy backpass. Usually the truth is somewhere in between the two extremes, but I have seen some statistical analyses (I hate to reference Bigsoccer but yeah) that do a more qualatative analysis of the nature of the pass. My recollection is that DMB did not attempt very many “difficult” passes at all.

  2. Robert – did you see the game played on Feb 11th, 2009? Even in the wind the US played nicer soccer than Mexico. The Mexican tema members even admitted the resorted to long balls. Your analysis is outdated.

    BTW the US and Mexico have exactly equal amount of wins in the KO stages of the WC – 1. Yes, Mexico has reached the quarters twice but the first time the KO stage started in the quarters becuase of less teams included in the tournamet. Furthermore, the US has reached the KO stage 3 out 8 tries and Mexico 6 out of 13. Both coming in at just under half their chances. Mexico hasn’t performed better when on the biggest stage. They’ve just been there more often. In the WC at least they are a C level team. no better than the US.

  3. cmon , the real meaning is that USA dont play nice soccer at all …. the play is based only in ( contragolpe ) always defend and go ahead with only one touch of ball each player until shot to goal … against Mexico ( in american soil ) always works dont know why but always works !!! but for these reason in world cup´s USA always fail … we need to start playing like Mexico with control of the ball all the time … you guys always make fun about Mexico loses here in America but in the most of the cases they do a better job in the main important tournament ( world cup ) … meanwhile make fun to the mexican fans … I predict 3-0 Mex over USA next August in Azteca stadium !! feedback is welcome !!!

  4. Never been a stats guy, but I find this discussion pretty intriguing. Sure, it doesn’t incorporate the “art” side of the game, but heck: it’s a STATISTIC! 🙂

    Lute Olson (NCAA b-ball) used to give players points based on values he gave to components of the game (basket, assist, steal, etc). It was a way to see the production and value of guys who were not top scorers.

    I am not a Ching fan, but at the game it was clear he was working hard, flicking on passes, etc. I didn’t keep stats on him 🙂 but I came away not hating him. There are so many stats you could think up: how about a guy who makes a run drawing defenders to him, allowing another player to break free? Or a player that intimidates so much, the people he is guarding don’t get passes? All those things add to the game.

    Something I am interested in. Viewing a game “from the top” angle, and taking note of different ways balls could have been played. Perhaps players get in a rut and don’t think of passes or runs they could make. Analyzing different options might begin to open up creativity for us. Our US team, despite better passing of late, still doesn’t seem to me to have a lot of great through balls and off the ball running. With our speed at certain positions, we would want to take advantage of that more.

  5. The discrepancy in headers confirms what we were all probably wondering….why was Mexico so adamant about playing long balls in the air against our defense? The US cleaned their clocks in that regard.

  6. US Soccer forgot to list the yellow card that was received by Salcido at the end of the game for his tackle on Altidore. Salcido will sit out next match as well as our favorite player from Mexico we love to hate!

  7. This is a great start!

    For soccer to catch on in America i think it is going to have to be much more statically oriented.

    I love that they’re tracking passing percentage, interception percentage.

    How hard would it be for ESPN to incorporate some of these stats into their broadcasts?

  8. When one team attempts that many more passes than the other but the teams produce roughly the same number of chances, it’s a good indication that one team has decided to play ping-pong. As dominant as the US was, those passing totals and percentages are not indicators of that fact.

  9. Donovan deserves some credit as well. I was at the game and I noticed that he played some good defense with some nice take-aways. He also headed the cross that led to the first goal.

  10. I think the pass stats are a little fishy, unless they count as “completed passes” those many that went straight from the foot of an American player straight to the foot of a Mexican player. I lost count of the number of times we passed the ball straight to Mexico in the first half alone. I guess Pearce’s “crosses” could fall into this category also.

  11. Ah stats! Agreeing with the comments about mixed usefulness, but if anything they are something interesting to talk about.

    Also appreciate the followup stats Keano, although they leave me a bit torn. Hejduk’s hard work shows with 5 defensive stops (and he had some big ones), but a 62% pass completion as a right back is terrible (and those giveaways were very noticeable at the game). Can’t pass like that when you have the entire team to pass to.

    I’m hopeful for more stats in soccer. While they don’t tell the whole story, they can give a deeper look. We’ll have to wait and see what Billy Beane does with the Quakes.

  12. this is great. as you all have accurately stated stats are far from the end all be all in soccer, but i was glad to see that my initial takes from the match were more or less confirmed by these statistics. i.e. dempsey was not a gamebreaker but was very composed and helped us keep possession, anyone that watched the game and didnt rate beasley is a goon, bradley put in a masterful performance, and ching may have been serviceable, but that would be one of the only positive adjectives to describe his play(im not a ching hater). my last point would be that i thought for 75% of the game pearce was a very good outlet, his final product was nothing special, but he was by no means a 0.

  13. THIS ProZone stuff is what I’ve been waiting for!

    Eugene’s last paragraph is helpful.

    One stat that I’d like to know is how many times midfielders and forwards were dispossessed vs Mexico, and where on the field. For instance, my hunch is that as “off” a game as Dempsey supposedly had, it was very hard to take the ball from him (something evident since at Fulham). So, even when he’s got dead legs at the end of the game, you still keep him in because he helps you maintain possession on broken plays without resorting to back passes. If he loses it, it’ll be in the scoring third and you can recover on defense.

    If you like stats for the premier league check this out:
    I hope US soccer has something like this soon.

  14. What stuck out for me was the number of shots blocked by the US vs. Mexico. Mexico had 5 shots blocked vs. 1 for the US. Yes, several shots (notably Dos Santos’s 3 min strike) were saved by Howard, who deserves a great deal of credit. But there were 5 other shots that he didn’t even have to deal with. If the defense collapsed on Bradley, Sanchez wouldn’t have had to deal with his second goal strike which may or may not have been mishandled.

    It would be good to have a stat regarding the result of saved shots – that would give credit, in other words, when keepers snuff rebounds vs. permitting scuffles in the box. Yes, even that stat could be misleading if a keeper punches a ball away.

  15. That’s very interesting! The analysis confirms how well Michael Bradley played — 90% pass completion, 23 interceptions, 12 headers, 3 shots, and of course 2 goals. He had a thoroughly dominating box-to-box performance.

    I’m also not surprised to see Beasley’s numbers, because I thought he played really well and looked at or near top form. 92% pass completion, 2 shots, 2 crosses, although it doesn’t tell you the quality of the shots, crosses or passes.

    What did surprise me was to see that Clint Dempsey had a better game than I thought — 90% pass completion, 2 shots, 2 crosses, 9 headers. He actually played pretty well, even if he arguably didn’t put his stamp on the game.

    Donovan’s numbers were a bit disappointing, given that I thought he had a pretty good performance — but his pass completion 72% and he only had one shot — it is important to give him credit for the assist though.

    Combining that info with Mexico’s numbers, the stats suggest that to be competitive in Europe, pass completion needs to be very high. That’s probably what Donovan needs to work on improving in his game. As well as most of the Mexican players.

    Possession, winning 50-50 balls (in the air and on the ground), creating opportunities through high pass completion. Those are all things that I would consider key.

    Unfortunately, the stats don’t cover touches from the perspective of playing 1-2 touch soccer — it’s not visible in the numbers at all. Yet it’s key to the speed of the game, having a rhythm in the game, maintaining possession and creating opportunities. Given a player’s “reception,” I can’t tell if the player touched the balled 2 times, 3 times, or more per the reception. That would be an important thing to know.

  16. We still are a long way from figuring out stats for soccer. Heath Pearce was awful. The only reason he had the most crosses was because Beasley was dominant on that side of the field — speaks more the DmB than him. The way he actually executed those crosses made me cringe. The only thing worse than Heath Pearce was the way the Univision announcers pronounced his name (Hay-ahth Pey-arse). Sorry for the hating.

  17. Statistics are fine and they can give you a good read on how the game develops and the contributions each player makes. They can be misleading. Although the U.S. appeared to dominate and in certain areas, they did, it was closer than some think. It believe came down to the two goalkeepers, and the skill-sets each possess. The first goal by the U.S. came when the goalkeeper for Mexico blocked the initial header through a commendable reaction save. The save was squandered when he (Sanchez) failed to hold onto the ball or clear it out of the box, allowing Bradley to get a foot on the ball within two feet of the goalmouth earning the US it’s first goal.

    Tim Howard saved an early Mexico save when he made a great reaction save. Tim Howard’s save were usually followed by holding on to the ball or deflecting them away from the goalmouth to deny rebound goals. Many of Mexico subsequent attempts were shots to “avoid the goalkeeper” and went wide or high.

    The U.S. second goal was an error or just poor goalkeeping by Sanchez. With an unobstucted view of the shooter, SAnchez still misjudged and poorly timed his save attempt, allowing Bradley’s distance shot to bounce under the arms of the goalkeeper.

    Had not Howard possessed the skill sets to save and control shots on goal and subsequently allow the initial point blank shot by Dos Santos to score and Had Sanchez saved a relatively easy shot by Bradley, the US would have been looking at a home tie. So despite all the statistics it came down to a hard shot saved and an easy shot missed. But Hey!, It’s football not baseball and reams of stats don’t win games.

  18. AI17- I’m not keeping the stats professionally and never claimed to do so. It’s merely for personal use and is not a perfect science by any means. Everything I keep track of is my opinion and completely at my discretion. And, I agree 100% with what you said about TV viewers not being able to see everything due to the limited angles. Not to mention how many fouls and offsides calls everyone missed seeing due to ESPN cutting away to Pedro F-ing Gomez fondling a voodoo doll or quick highlights of a college basketball game or some other crap like that…

    Do you have any links to the Ligue 1 stats? Sounds cool and I’d be very interested to see them. Thanks.

  19. Sean Mon- I totally hear you and I definitely don’t get too caught up with the numbers. It’s more of a hobby and just something I like to do. I love soccer because of it’s improvisation and the fact that while there are tactics and strategies, there is no play calling or timeouts. It’s kind of an art to me. Keeping stats is just something easy I can do to dive a little deeper into the game (much like keeping score in baseball) to try to figure out why certain things happen when they do.

    Tim- The headers stat can be a little misleading too. Winning balls in the air is certainly critical, but that also accounts for headers that are made when someone is not under pressure. According to ProZone, Onyewu led with 16 headers. But he SHOULD lead the team in headers. He’s 6’4″ and plays central defense. In theory, he will get the most chances to head the ball just because of the position he plays. If Onyewu heads the ball off of his own 6 yard line with two strikers on him ProZone counts it the same as if he heads the ball to a teammate at midfield under no pressure. It’s sort of a meaningless stat.

  20. However, some of the stats can be misleading. For example…

    ProZone says Heath Pearce led the team in crosses with 3. However I have Pearce as completing 0 successful crosses. What good is a cross if it is easily cleared away? By seeing that Pearce led in this category, you might think that Pearce was involved in the play more than he actually was. From what I saw, he performed the least out of the entire starting XI.
    Posted by: Only1Keano

    Keano as you and a number others know, you can manipulate stats to a certain extent. I’ll use the above to illustrate my point. What is your definition of a successful cross? His cross may have not met it’s direct mark but if we scored a goal on it then one could consider the cross successful. You then go on to state based on what you saw, that Heath Pearce performed the least out the starting XI. If you watched this match on TV and drew this conclusion then the credibility of your stats are extremely questionable since TV angles are limited. I’ve actually worked for a company during a major tournament in which you saw the stats and the crew I worked with collected and we used TV monitors as an aid to what we saw from the field and there were alot of things we saw at the match that TV viewers never saw.

    Having said that – whew!!! I’m glad to see US Soccer posted match stats and it’s a step in the right direction. I’m extremely partial to the stats collected in Ligue1 matches. They’re second to none and the speed in which they’re compiled is astounding.

  21. Only1Keano, I like the stats, particularly in the defensive aspect. Just don’t get too caught up with numbers, this game is more than that. Otherwise it would actually be played out on paper.

  22. I am not surprised at all. I was at the match and we were definitely on our game. People will always hate, Beas do your thing baby, and may I just say DOS A CERO.

  23. I know this is going to come off as extremely dorky, but I am a big math/stats guy and love keeping track of stats on my own for sports. I am a huge soccer fan and within the past year have been wanting to see more stats in the sport. I just recently started keeping track of stats on my own for certain games with hopes that I can progress it into something more significant than just a hobby.

    The stats that I keep track of do not account for every header, tackle, clearance, etc. but rather focuses on the bigger picture such as: successful through balls, successful crosses, key passes (a pass leading directly to a shot on goal), good defensive tackles & 50/50 balls won, shots on goal, and a few others.

    Here is my opinion on the ProZone stats:
    I think they are pretty good overall, and I’m glad to see them at all. I like that they include categories like attempted passes and balls received, as this is something that is almost impossible to do by hand as the game is going on.

    However, some of the stats can be misleading. For example…

    ProZone says Heath Pearce led the team in crosses with 3. However I have Pearce as completing 0 successful crosses. What good is a cross if it is easily cleared away? By seeing that Pearce led in this category, you might think that Pearce was involved in the play more than he actually was. From what I saw, he performed the least out of the entire starting XI.

    Some observations from what I saw:
    -Good Defensive Plays (A tackle or 50/50 win that stops a good chance by the other team): Onyewu 5, Hejduk 5, Bocanegra 4, Bradley 4, Pearce 0.

    -Bad Defensive Plays (A play which directly leads to an attack or scoring opportunity for the other team): Pearce 2, Bocanegra 1, Kljestan 1.

    -Key Passes (A pass leading directly to a shot on goal): Donovan 3. He was the only player who had any key passes at all.

    -Successful Thru Balls & Crosses (combined): Beasley 3, Dempsey 2.

    These are just a few examples, but you guys get the point. By looking at the stats I had taken at the end of the game, it was quite clear to see just how little Ching and Pearce were involved in the game. And made me realize that even though he didn’t have a shot on goal, Donovan was actually more involved than I had originally thought.

  24. I am not surprised in the least. I was at the match, and we were certainly on top of our game. People will always hate, Beas do your thing baby, and may I just say DOS A CERO.

  25. I try not to defend DeMarcus when people on here are bashing him because I grew up playing soccer with him. I tend to just let him show the haters wrong.

    I can’t believe people are still calling for the Firing of Bob Bradley????????


  26. Also shows the quality game Dos Santos had since everyone is killing him on that early miss. Mexico also shouldn’t of had taken him out in the second half..classy young player.

  27. The stat list is missing a few key points, what part of the field was ball possession kept, and how many direct, corner kicks and throw ins were in the game. For example, ball possession is good indicator who is controlling the game, but whoever has the most corner kicks, and throw ins in the opposing team half, will create more opportunities to goal.

  28. I was in Germany and did not se the game. But what does it really matter? The press in Europe was all over the game from the Sven angle. And the fact that Mexico can’t beat the USA.

    So the only important stat was 2-0.

    As one German friend said to me after I said The USA beat Germany all over the field in WC 2002; “That is true Tom, but all anyone remembers is that we went on to the finals”

    So much for stats.

  29. we could play the game on our knees and have a header advantage.

    but is this the first time we actually had better possession vs Mexico and completed so many more passes?

    I never saw numbers for old games, but I recall that in the USA’s 2-0 win in Korea in 02, Mexico had a 2-1 advantage in possession. Yes, 67 percent!

  30. Bob Bradley is one smart cookie. These stats also show you what he was saying before the game, that Pardo is the key to Mexico’s play.

    Michael Bradley got credit for his goals and his overall play — I hope we see some love for Beasley now. I guess in Scotland, they don’t care about completing passes. Maybe if they don’t confuse soccer with Braveheart battles, they might actually qualify for an international tournament and get somewhere in the Champions League, ja ja.

  31. That’s a pretty cool analysis!

    One surprise (to me). Howard only had 2 saves on Mexico’s 8 shots. 5 were blocked by US players, and 1 sailed wide. Not bad defense.


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