Taken during the warmup before the Seattle Reign v Washington Spirit 9/11/16 game. Little did I know most of the people in this picture would leave…

The Dismantling of the Spirit Framework

One last appreciation of their 2016 season before the draft.

There are only two teams I have seen play live for the last three seasons against the Seattle Reign — Portland Thorns and Washington Spirit. I have watched how this team has come together in the last few years, players selected carefully under the supervision of Mark Parsons, prior to his departure. Thus, I knew I had to write a piece about this team before it gets a complete makeover. You can become familiar with the upward trajectory of this team, solely based on goal and shot differential and a few related headlines.

Now, I wrote about the Spirit in Backline Soccer, as part of a monthly contribution, with the promise to provide some more data on this page. First I just want to reintroduce the 2016 in two forms: the lineup and the assist network. With the lineup, you can visualize the exact dates the Olympic players were gone and then you can see how the starting line up during the playoffs (9/30 and 10/9) differed from the beginning of the season.

Average number of minutes is illustrated through the darkness of the color. The last two games represent post-season and 120 minutes of play.

During the 2016 season, Washington Spirit had a complex but concise assist network. Now, it does not matter who is who in this network diagram, the more important thing is to highlight the players who have left (seen in red). From this, you can see a majority of this network falls apart.

Now, in the article I illustrated the defense and passing networks without much details. With regards to defense, I made the following statement:

The original backline in general (Dydasco/Kleiner, Oyster, Zadorsky, Krieger) maintained a fantastic balance between one another, with all four being largely conservative and the outside backs being a bit more aggressive.

This statement is based on the data below. All of the members of defense were highly conservative and balanced each other in terms of aggressive defensive actions. It should be noted, Huster is the only member of midfield to illustrate above average conservative action. I will touch upon this a bit later.

Here is the passing network for the 2016 Spirit team. Without the players traded and with injuries, the image on the right illustrate how this network breaks down.

Thickness of line or dot represents frequency of passes. It is important to note that this network breaks down because most of the starters have left or are injured.

Now, I made the following statement in Backline Soccer:

“The Spirit will miss through balls from Nairn, take-ons from Dunn, interceptions from Krieger, the conservative defensive action of Oyster (on par with Krieger), and offensive individuality from Banini.”

I want to take the opportunity to provide supporting evidence of these statements.

Nairn and Through Balls

It turns out, it isn’t just Nairn but Dunn as well, who perform above average with the greatest number of attempts per 90.

Dunn and Take Ons

Dunn has almost 10 take ons per game and she wins 65% of them. Are you surprised? I am not. I will certainly miss watching her play live.

Krieger and Oyster in Defense

Krieger is the queen of interceptions and where Oyster trails behind in interceptions, she makes up for in clearances. I would like to also just take this moment and highlight the importance of Tori Huster, in her defensive duties. In addition, although I do not have as much data on Dydasco, I would like to hypothesize that she also had an incredible season before the ACL injury.

Banini Under Pressure

As I illustrated in the Backline Soccer article, Banini does an outstanding job under pressure, completing 92% of her ~29 passes per 90. In general, she makes 87% of her 42 passes per 90.

Lohman/Huster and Recoveries

I made the following statement towards the end of the piece:

The one thing Spirit fans can take solace in: Lohman and Huster still remain, and they provided some of the best recoveries for the team.

Here is the evidence towards this statement. They both are above average (upper right corner). However, I should take this opportunity to highlight Oyster and Zadorsky’s role in defensive recoveries. In addition, Nairn was also one of the best on possessive recoveries.

I mentioned that you do not want to imagine the team without all the Canadians and well, now you have a few more things to look at to help determine their importance. Personally, I think I am done thinking about it.

Special thanks to WoSo Stats team for fantastic data collection. If you are interested in helping, please join! Special thanks to certain data hungry fans who helped me collect some of the basic data to make the assist network. Also, never trust NWSL Play-by-Play records (lesson learned). Original article appeared in Backline Soccer so check that out!