Los Nerdes Verdes: High and Dry in the Back (One Year Later)

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

It’s been a year since our first analysis on fbref’s Errors stat (which they define as “Mistakes leading to an opponent’s shot). While Austin has improved somewhat since year one, they’re still one of the most error-prone teams in the league. Sunday’s wild 6-3 had just about everything, including a demonstration of the impact of these errors as an attempted distribution from Stuver came up short, leading to the game-clinching sixth St. Louis goal. 

Opponents of Austin are already generating the 4th-most Shot Creating Actions per 90, so the last thing we need to do is gift them more chances. Here are some of the spots Austin can best clean up those errors:

Most per/90 Errors 2023
Radovanović – 0.26
Keller – 0.20
Stuver – 0.13
Väisänen – 0.08
Cascante – 0.07

Attempting to build out of the back and a focus on possessing the ball can certainly get you in trouble, but the correlation between possession and errors isn’t all that high (with just an r2 value of 0.004). Where Austin introduce risk is how much passing they’re expecting from their goalkeepers and defenders. The Verde & Black have the 3rd-most goalkeeper pass attempts per 90 (32.5) and the highest number of touches in our own penalty area (70.1). 2nd-highest is today’s opponent, FC Dallas. Despite all of those touches, Frisco have kept mistakes to a minimum, especially compared to Austin — ranking 18th in errors leading to shots.

The Matchup

Having been knocked out of the Leagues’ and Open Cups, Copa Tejas remains the only non-league trophy left to play for this season. That makes today’s game the most important single match of the season. A win or a draw today and Austin captures the intrastate trophy for the second year in a row.

Dallas have had trouble putting the ball in the back of the net this season (20th in goals/90 at 1.09). They’ve had an even more difficult time creating high-quality chances with only four other teams averaging less than their 1.03 xG/90. Both of those issues will only be exacerbated tonight as late news suggests Ferreira will miss the match with an illness.

Where they’ve been particularly strong is in defense. They’ve given up just an average of a goal a game. They give up a fair amount of shots, but a very low xG — indicating that they’ve done a good job of forcing their opponents into settling for low-quality chances.

More than tactics or playstyles, this game is likely going to come down to how much this team wants it. The Verde & Black looked second-best in just about every facet of the game on Sunday against St. Louis, and whether that 6-3 embarrassment serves as a motivator or the straw that broke the camel’s back is yet to be seen. Austin FC have played games following a 3+ goal loss 8 times in their franchise history, including 2 this season. In those games, the good guys have won 5, drawn 1, and lost 2 — a good sign for today’s outlook. Listos!