Saturday, August 25, 2012

SUB WATCH: Week 24

I'm Sorry, You Were Saying Something About My Substitution Strategy?
Last Saturday saw the lowly Portland Timbers visit Red Bull Arena for a match that was highly anticipated by many Red Bull fans who had to endure a horrible performance at Houston and a not-entirely-convincing win at home against the same team in previous weeks. With a bench full of healthy options, SUB WATCH was especially curious to see if Hans Backe would leverage this strength--especially if, as anticipated, the Red Bulls would dominate the struggling Cascadia side.

That scenario was quickly dashed as the boys in red and white gave up two early, soft goals to the Timbers, due to weak play from Roy Miller and inexplicable decisions by his teammates to not cover the only man in the box on the first goal and to not aggressively tackle on the second. So how would Backe react, with his notorious (and somewhat undeserved) reputation for sticking with starters no matter what?

In a move that delighted supporters on several levels, Backe pulled the trigger early, bringing on Cooper for the woeful Miller in the 36th minute. That decision not only played almost immediate dividends, with Cooper putting away a beautiful header at 43’, it also brought Coopers smp* to 168. This still has him 41 smp behind HWSNBN, but we live in hope.

More important for SUB WATCH is the fact that this marks the earliest tactical sub made by Backe all season, and is second only to a sub made due to Henry’s injury against New England. Congratulations to all who put money on 36’ at the beginning of the season! If you parlayed that with Cooper, I have to think you’re reading SUB WATCH from your new, private island!

Cooper apparently provided the spark that the Red Bulls needed because Backe only brought on one other sub, the surprisingly in-favor Teemu Tainio, in the 73rd minute for Joel Lindpere. Let’s take a look at the duo’s contribution:

Sub Production

  • GOAL: Cooper
  • Fouls: 0
  • Tackles won: 0
  • Tackled & possession lost: 12 (Cooper-8))
  • Successful pass: 75% (27/36)
  • Successful dribble: 50% (1/1)
  • Successful flick on: 0% (0/1)
  • Successful cross: 50% (1/2)

Most impressive is the 75% successful pass ratio they combined for. Less inspiring is the fact that Cooper contributed ⅔ of the 12 instances of lost possession on tackles.

But, hey! Credit where due to Hans Backe. Two consecutive weeks with goals from substitutions, reminding us all that it’s quality, not quantity in the sub game!

We’ll see you next week here on SUB WATCH!

*subs per minute

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