Assessing The Damage: DC United, Wizards Historically Bad Shooters

With the season winding down, there are sure to be plenty of articles written about why teams' seasons went the way they did.

Now that the playoff field is set, the first round of these articles are popping up. The Daily Wiz's Andy Edwards takes this opportunity to mull over a series of missed opportunities that probably cost the Kansas City Wizards the No. 8 playoff spot.

For whatever reason, I'm a huge fan of "what-if" conversations. Maybe I feel that I can justify to everyone (or maybe it's for myself) that things could have, or should have gone my way. After all, it is my world and you're all just living in it, right?

Edwards highlights three games in which he feels the Wizards unnecessarily dropped points. By virtue of either blatantly missed opportunities (Kei Kamara's infamous hand ball that nullified a sure goal) or just poor performances (a 2-0 loss at home to Chivas USA), the Wizards undoubtedly left points on the field.

The good news for Peter Vermes' team is that they are talented and do a lot of the things necessary to win games. They move the ball reasonably well, they create shots (15.71 per match, tops in the league) and even put a good portion of those shots on frame (43 percent, second best in MLS). They have a good goalkeeper and a defense that limits scoring opportunities (11.21 shots per game allowed, fourth best).

A look at the stat sheet of the Wizards' most recent game is a perfect illustration of the problem: Despite outshooting the Revolution 22-7, the Wizards lost 1-0. 

Despite those solid shooting statistics, the Wizards scored just 30 goals (eighth best). The middling total is the result of a historically bad ability for the Wizards to convert shots and shots on goal into actual scores.

The Wizards scored on 8.5 percent of their shots and 19.8 percent of their shots on goal. Assuming that doesn't change dramatically in the team's final game, that will be the among the worst performances in MLS's 15-year history. Only five teams have converted a lower percentage of their shots into goals and only nine teams have scored on a lower percentage of their shots on goal.

Of the seven Wizards with at least two goals, five of them convert shots into goals at a rate lower than the historic league average (11.5 percent). The worst offenders are Ryan Smith (three goals on 46 shots) and Jack Jewsbury (two goals, 32 shots). 

Amazingly, the Wizards aren't even the worst team in that regard this year.

DC United are poised to set all kinds of records for scoring futility, including fewest goals (they currently have 19) and assists (just nine so far). A big cause of that is a remarkable inability to turn shots into goals.

No team in MLS history has ever scored on fewer than 16.4 percent of their shots on goal (then expansion 2007 Toronto FC). United is on pace to score just 15 percent of the time they get their shots on frame. Their pace of scoring on 5.9 percent of their shots would also set a new MLS low (the 1999 MetroStars scored on 6.1 percent). 

Their raw shots totals aren't very good either, but not nearly as bad in a historical sense. Neither are in danger of being in the bottom 10 all time.

How a team goes about fixing this is beyond my expertise. But if Steve Davis' report on Brian McBride's post-playing career plans are to be taken seriously, maybe there is hope yet.

He said 90 percent of the finishing outside the United States happen inside the penalty area whereas "90 percent of the finishing drills here are outside the box, because the ‘keepers are freaking out saying ‘You’re too close!’ " McBride said with a little chuckle at the end. "But that’s not realistic."

At the very least, Vermes may want to give McBride a call in a week or two.

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