Saving Grace (An Update)
It’s been just over a month since I wrote about the strange statistical totals coming out of the Major Indoor Soccer League’s teams in Chicago and Syracuse, where their goalkeepers – particularly Chicago’s Jeff Richey – were being credited with record-breaking (and near-historic) numbers of saves.
At that time, a league official told me they would have a talk with the teams to remind them of statistical standards. Based on numbers over the last month, it looks like Syracuse got the message, while Chicago ignored it.
In Chicago’s 8-6 loss to the Missouri Comets last night, Richey made a remarkable 34 saves on 38 shots. The saves total was his second-highest of the season (behind the league-record 45 he recorded against Syracuse on January 4) and the second-highest by an MISL goalie this season. In fact, Richey has five of the top six save performances in the league this season, and eight of the top ten have happened in Chicago.
And while the average starting MISL goalie makes every so slightly more saves per game at home, Richey is making nearly twice as many saves at home as on the road (in 12 road games, he’s been credited with 155 saves – 12.92 per game; at home, he’s been credited with 296 saves in 12 games – 24.67 per game, nearly double the road rate).
Since I let the league know about this, the number of combined shots per game in Syracuse has gone down about 10 percent (from about 46 per game to about 41). But games in Chicago – which averaged 52.9 shots per game before – have averaged 53.0 shots per game since. In short, they’re not paying attention.
I’m told Chicago – which has a good team that’s playing well and can make the playoffs with a win Friday night over Syracuse – opted to lay off their dance team as a cost-cutting measure, and that players and front office workers staged a week-long work stoppage because they weren’t getting paid. Add in a coaching change and a recent incident where players went into the stands after a fan they claimed hurled racist taunts at the Soul’s Tijani Ayegbusi and it’s been an eventful year in Chicago.
Meanwhile, they’re averaging an announced 2,366 fans per game (with two games not yet reported), last in the league and not even close to what they’re actually drawing, if scenes like this one (sent in by an alert reader) are the norm.
As we’ve seen, the numbers just don’t add up. Chicago’s chances in the playoffs (where they’d play top-seed Baltimore, against whom they’re 2-2 this season) would seem to be slightly better than their chances of returning for a second season.