Stats Zone winners: Red Bulls Felipe, Collin pad their numbers on MLS Saturday
Aerial Duels – Aurelien Collin (9/13)
We start in New Jersey, where New York Red Bulls’ center backs were tasked with containing one the most physical and athletic target men in the league, Philadelphia’s C.J. Sapong. Unfortunately for the Union striker, he was matched up against one of the best strength-for-strength defenders Major League Soccer has ever seen; at least, Collin’s one of the best when he’s actually on his game.
On Saturday, Collin was close to that level. New York’s midseason acquisition put up a Saturday-high nine wins in aerial duels, doing so at a 69.2 percent clip. Though Philadelphia did score twice at Red Bull Arena, Sapong was held without a shot. New York’s 3-2 victory moved the Red Bulls back on top of the Eastern Conference.
Interceptions – Steve Birnbaum (11)
Birnbaum will be in the Toronto-D.C. United highlights for getting turned inside out by Jozy Altidore on the Reds’ only goal, but around that isolated moment, the U.S. international had a productive night. At BMO Field, he tied for game highs in clearances, aerial duels won, and headed clearances during his team’s 2-1 victory.
Interceptions, though, is where Birnbaum really stood out. Eleven times, the Cal-Berkeley product regained possession for his team by picking off a TFC pass, with four of those interceptions occurring inside the United penalty box.
Passes – Drew Moor (80/87)
At the other end of the field, another central defender was putting up big numbers, through Drew Moor’s prolific day with the ball may be less of an indication of a Gerard Pique-esque skill than the nature of his opponent. D.C. United, never known for forcing the issue with its opposition, only trailed for three minutes on Saturday, and that was in the first half. Leading for the final 32 minutes of game clock, Ben Olsen could afford to let his team preserve its defensive shape and allow Toronto to mess around with the ball.
That might be a unfair description of what Drew Moor did, but completing 80 passes at a 91.9 percent clip, the TFC rearguard was allowed to play the ball along the back with impunity. Though he also completed 11 of 14 passes in the Reds’ attacking third, only 16.1 percent of his deliveries targeted that part of the field.
Attacking Third Passes – Felipe (36/47)
Felipe, on the other hand, earned his paycheck in Philadelphia’s half of the field. Of the 74 passes the New York midfielder attempted on Saturday, 47 of them were aimed at the Union’s defensive third. Felipe’s teammate, Sacha Klejstan, targeted Philadelphia’s final third another 42 times. Did Alejandro Bedoya and Warren Creavalle get the day off?
Considering Felipe’s passes into the penalty area, though, and Philadelphia doesn’t look quite as lax. Only seven of his passes were aimed at a teammate in the box, and only four found their target. Felipe connected 36 times in Philadelphia’s defensive third, but only two led to shots.
Fouls suffered – Diego Chara (6)
Chara, one of the most foul-prone players in Major League Soccer history, is usually on the giving end of this kind of treatment. Saturday in Commerce, though, the Portland defensive midfielder felt the brunt of a night where Colorado made the best of Allen Chapman’s reluctant whistle.
Colorado was whistled for 26 fouls (to the Timbers’ 11) and drew six yellow cards, but the Rapids were also able to limit the Portland to nine shots, only two of which found their target. With the 1-0 win, Colorado clinched a playoff spot and set a team record for home wins in a season (10).
Ball Recoveries – Michael Bradley (15)
For the second MLS matchday in a row, Bradley looks destined to lead the league in recoveries. And, for the second matchday in a row, his ball-claiming partner in midfield, Armando Cooper, was right up there with him.
On Wednesday, the two TFC midfielders tied for the night’s high mark with 11 recoveries, each. Tonight, the duo combined for 29 against D.C. United, helping the Reds maintain 65 percent possession despite the team’s 2-1 loss.
Richard Farley is the West Coast Editor of FourFourTwo USA. Follow him on Twitter @richardfarley.