Los Nerdes Verdes: Copa Tejas by the Numbers

Analyzing the Field

Today’s second Texas Derby of the season sees Austin up against a Frisco side whose season has, in many ways, exceeded expectations similarly to ours. With the departure of Ricardo Pepi, the front three was an entirely new entity coming into this year. Experts were split on whether the pieces would all fit together, but it’s clear now they figured something out. Both Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola are on all-star caliber pace — boasting xG+xA stats that put them in the top half of the league’s forwards. 

Statistically, all three Texas teams are seeing similar trends on the offensive side of the ball with goals outpacing the two predictive stats in shots and xG. There is of course the odd man out in Houston, and Dynamo supporters must be shaking their head at the form of Maxi Urruti who’s on pace to nearly double his Houston-era G/90. It’s a waiting game now to see whether the arrival of Hector Herrera will put them in a much more competitive position on that side of the ball.

While Ferreira and Arriola have grabbed most of the headlines this season — in part due to their hotly debated participation for the USMNT — it’s the FC Dallas defense that really sets them apart from their Texas rivals. That being said, there’s no denying that they’re trending downward in this department, failing to tally a clean sheet in their last five matches including an embarrassing 2-0 defeat at home to Vancouver last week. For Austin, that side of the ball shouldn’t provide too much more solace. While much improved over last season, the Verde & Black are still giving up far too many chances for comfort. Once again, the statistics show that Brad Stuver has been a huge contributing factor in the discrepancy between xGA and actual GA. The fan favorite has the league’s second best PSxG-G (post-shot expected goals minus actual goals) — one of the premier statistical indicators of pure shot-stopping ability.  

Austin FC’s most notable advantage comes in how they control the tempo of the game. The biggest question coming into today’s matchup is how crisp and incisive the midfield will be without Dani Perreira who’s serving a one-game suspension for his early red card against Montreal. One stat that bodes well: despite dropping to 10 men last week, Austin still controlled the game, outpacing the Canadian side in both possession and xG. 

Interestingly, all three teams are in the top of the league in pass completion percentage. Houston’s poor offensive statistics demonstrates the relative lack of correlation between pass completion and actual offensive output. That should look familiar to Austin supporters who witnessed the Verde & Black’s “death by a thousand passes” strategy fall flat far too often last season.

While just the second Copa Tejas match of the season, today’s game is hugely important for those looking to gauge just how good of a team this is. Austin has never beat FC Oklahoma Frisco and doing so today would put the Verde & Black firmly in the driver’s seat for Lone Star State bragging rights in addition to another week pushing for the top spot in the West.