Nashville SC’s 2022 season sputtered to a close with a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy. I wanted to take a look back at some of the numbers and statistics that defined the season, characterize the Boys in Gold, and illuminate certain player attributes.
-3.72: xPlace (C.J. Sapong). Expected Place is the difference between Goals Scored and Expected Goals Scored. Sapong finished with 5 goals on 8.10 xG. It was the worst xPlace figure in all of MLS this year.
0.34: g+/96 (Jacob Shaffelburg). Goals Added attempts to quantify a player’s total contribution to the team. Only Hany Mukhtar finished with a higher Goals Added per 96 Minutes for Nashville. Kudos to Mike Jacobs for acquiring the young Canadian.
1.25: xEmpanadas. The number of Chivanada’s empanadas I can expect to consume on an average matchday at GEODIS Park. I have sampled other offerings, but I just keep coming back to that beef empanada.
1.41: Points/Home Match. Only ahead of bottom dwellers Houston in the West. The abysmal home record sunk the Coyotes’ chances for a home playoff game.
1.53: Points/Away Match. Nashville tied LAFC and Austin for the best road records in the Western Conference.
4: Trips to Buc-ee’s. The number of times I stopped at the gas station chain with a cult following on my way to Nashville matches. As you are probably aware, Buc’ees recently opened their first Tennessee location in Crossville.
6: GK Actions Outside Penalty Area. For better or worse, Nashville’s keepers stick to their box and hardly ever venture out. The ‘Yotes were the only team in single digits.
8: Straight Away Games. The eight-match away trip to begin 2022 defined the first quarter of the season for Nashville. The Boys in Gold solidified their standings as one of the best road teams in the league by setting a record for the most points collected (11) of any similar away stretch to open a season. It all started with a statement win in Seattle on the opening weekend.
10.99: Expected Goal Differential. Nashville finished with the second-best goal differential in the Western Conference but managed to only finish with the 5th seed.
11: Goal Differential. It almost perfectly aligns with the expected total. It tells us that other Western Conference teams performed over expectations.
12: Fouls (Dave Romney). Romney finished yet another season earning less than a foul every two matches. In three seasons with Nashville, Romney has only been whistled 32 times and shown 3 yellow cards. It is quite remarkable how cleanly he goes about his defensive duties.
14: Saves (Joe Willis). The Nashville keeper delivered a performance for the ages against LAFC. Willis had a rocky summer with a few mistakes in consecutive matches that cost Nashville points, but he returned to his steady ways in the last third of the season.
16.1: Average Distance (Yards) Per Shot. It is the 3rd shortest distance in MLS. Nashville does extremely well to work the ball into the box and limit speculative shots from outside the penalty area.
17.47: Beer Price. The amount I paid for a Dos Equis at GEODIS Park with tip. By comparison, I spent $14.30 at Q2 Stadium for the same.
18: Ticket Price. The amount I paid, per game, for season tickets in Nashville’s supporters’ section with the First String discount. By comparison, Austin fans paid $27.94 per match for season tickets. A lot has been made about GEODIS Park concession prices this year, but it favorably compares when you account for the cost of entry.
18.6: Average Distance (Yards) Per Shot of NSH’s Opponents. The best mark in the league. Nashville forces opponents to take low-percentage shots from distance better than any team in the league. This is a marker of a great defensive unit.
20/10: Goal Contributions Club (Hany Mukhtar). Hany Mukhtar joined an elite club of MLS playmakers to have scored at least 20 goals and contributed 10 assists in a single season. The other members of the club are Carlos Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Diego Valeri, and Sebastian Giovinco. Philadelphia’s Daniel Gazdag eventually joined the group as well later in the season.
21: Total Salary Spend Rank. At the beginning of the season, Nashville reported a total salary spend of $11.7 million dollars. It was only the 21st-highest in the league. I expect that number to climb with the raises and extensions given to Hany Mukhtar and Walker Zimmerman. However, it will still likely fall short of Mike Jacob’s pronouncement that Nashville would spend in the top quarter of the league.
23: Goals Scored (Hany Mukhtar). He takes home the first Golden Boot award in club history and will likely become the first MVP award winner next month.
29.2: Median Age of Starters. Nashville fielded the oldest team in MLS this season. The ‘Yotes were also the only team to never play anyone under 22 years old.
29.51: Passes Completed Over Expected (Joe Willis). The goalkeeper led the team in passes completed over expected edging out Sean Davis. Willis ranked third in the league in the category trailing only Pedro Gallese and Gabriel Slonina.
40: Yards from the Crossbar (Hany Mukhtar). For all the goals scored, Hany Mukhtar’s star profile exploded most when he nailed the crossbar to win the 2022 All-Star Skills Challenge for MLS. It is the type of moment that everyone surrounding the league, including casual fans, eventually watches in a made-for-social-media event.
45: Approximate Days Wearing USL Logo Gear. I will never give up on… my USL logo trucker-style hat. It is so beat up that you can hardly tell what it is at this point.
50: Points. The amount is a slight step back from 2021’s total of 54 points.
55.45: Expected Points. Based on expected point totals for all teams, the underlying numbers suggest that Nashville should have finished second to LAFC in the West.
56.1: Percentage of Aerial Duels Won. The Coyotes continue their dominance in the air winning more 50/50 balls than any other MLS team.
61.97: Percentage of Ground Duels Won (Shaq Moore). Moore led the team in this category. In his limited time, he has already shown his prowess in one-on-one defending.
77: Interceptions (Sean Davis). It is the most for any midfielder in MLS.
77.3: Aerial Duel Win Percentage (Sean Davis). If I had asked who wins the largest percentage of their aerial duels on Nashville’s squad, 99 of 100 guesses would have been Walker Zimmerman. That guess would be incorrect. Sean Davis led the way with 77.3% win rate, third best in all of MLS. Now, Zimmerman and others engage in more aerial duels, but Davis wins his battles in the midfield three out of every four times. These last two statistics highlight the quiet, yet effective, nature in which Davis operates as a defensive presence in the midfield.
90: Open Play Crosses Completed Into the Box. As they have in the past, Gary Smith’s side relies on a high volume of crosses into the box. Only New England, Real Salt Lake, and Seattle finished with more completed crosses in open play. If Nashville is in the market for a new striker this winter, it will want to target a physical player that can take advantage of these types of chances.
334: Attempted Dribbles. It is the lowest mark in MLS. Despite the wonderful work of Assistant Coach Steve Guppy, Nashville still prefers to progress the ball via passing.
421: Minutes (Aké Loba). Simply a waste of resources for a Designated Player to log such little time. Whether he stays or goes, Nashville must sort out Loba’s situation before next season.
885: Pressures in the Attacking Third. Nashville finished with the lowest mark in the league. It highlights Nashville’s defensive style of often sitting in a mid or low block. When Nashville did press high, they looked quite adept at creating turnovers and scoring opportunities. I am not advocating that Nashville suddenly become a high-pressing team, but I would love to see Gary Smith sprinkle in a bit more next year.
3,515: Attempted Passes Above Shoulder Level. The ‘Yotes attempted the 2nd most high passes in the league, behind the New York Red Bulls and ahead of Philadelphia. A lot is made about the play style of those two clubs. While there are differences in the defensive approaches, offensively Nashville can look quite similar to the Union.
27,554: Average Attendance. It is the fourth-highest mark in the league. MLS uses tickets sold to measure attendance so it is not necessarily a reflection of butts in seats. However, it is a wonderfully large number that serves as a collective “told ya so” to everyone who doubted Nashville’s expansion bid.
34,891: Airline Miles. The miles traveled by the Nashville squad this season. It is a lot of travel and more than Nashville will make in most years as they return to the Eastern Conference. Despite the one-year move out west, the total travel distance was actually below league average. The MLS schedule makers did the Boys in Gold a favor by keeping their Eastern Conference trips (Columbus, D.C., Orlando, Charlotte, and Cincinnati) reasonably close.
1: The number of shots Hany Mukhtar took in their playoff loss to the LA Galaxy. The incumbent MVP was spectacular all season, but he can’t carry this team forever. Nashville needs to get him some help this offseason. Lots of it. And badly.
Do you have another number or statistic that you think illuminates Nashville SC’s 2022 season? If so, drop a comment here or on Twitter and I’ll highlight it.