Film Fridays: Joe Willis is in career-best form

Hello and welcome to another Film Friday. Nashville SC drew Toronto FC nil-nil, and let’s be honest: there isn’t much to say about that match that hasn’t already been said. 

Instead, today’s topic is Joe Willis. The Nashville goalkeeper is having what is most likely his best season so far, and if he continues at this rate, he’ll without a doubt be among the best in MLS by the end of the season.

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A historic defense?

First, let’s start with the clear stat. Because playing time is not equal for all goalkeepers, looking at goals conceded per 90 minutes is a better measurement than looking at just goals conceded. In that category, Joe Willis leads the league with 0.29 goals per 90. Of course, he isn’t the only player responsible for that record. The defense, as well as any player defending, play their part. 

So let’s keep digging into the stats. Joe Willis also leads the league in save percentage, with him saving 92.3% of all shots he faces. Despite Nashville conceding 26 shots this season, which is the 17th most in MLS, Joe Willis has only let in two of those.

Making saves

Now let’s just get a little more nerdy with ours stats and look at the post shot expected goals. This metric is a bit more specific than your regular expected goals. It tells us what happens to the ball once it leaves the players foot. So it doesn’t just measure where the shot was taken from, but also the quality of the shot.

This season, Nashville’s post shot expected goals against is 4.7, which means that so far they should have conceded 4.7 goals. By subtracting the actual goals against from the PSxGA value, you are left with a nice little Opta measure that can be another measure for a goalkeeper.

Long story short, Joe Willis is second in MLS when it comes to post shot expected goals minus goals against (PSxG-GA) with a 2.7 rating.

Sorry for the math lesson, but let’s be honest here; you do not need all those stats to tell you that Joe Willis has been excellent this year for Nashville SC. Just watch one of their matches. 

Off-season improvement

After a dodgy 2022 season, I think it was fair for Nashville fans to question whether Joe Willis was the man for the job. However, you have to give credit where credit is due. Joe Willis deserves that credit this season.

Lastly, I think Joe Willis can improve his skills on the ball. Whether it’s keeping possession or passing distribution, there’s room for improvement there. However, Nashville doesn’t generally rely on their keeper to work with the ball, so I don’t think this is a pressing priority for them.

Thanks for tuning in, and make sure to follow and share.

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

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