The USL Sucks At Stats So I Compiled My Own Republic Database
Back when I wrote for the newspaper, people would ask me which sport I found the most challenging to cover, but the answer was never really about a particular sport -- it was more about the level of said sport.
Everyone always assumed that professional sports were the hardest to cover, but that couldn't be further from the truth. There's so much information surrounding the pros, so much data available on the internet where one can conduct endless background research on a subject without actually having to put on pants.
No, high school sports proved by far the most difficult. Want stats? Great, go ahead and keep them yourself while you also take notes on the action in front of you. Not sure which player is which on the field? Go ask the coach. They might have a roster, but they might also not.
I can't tell you how many times someone sent me an angry email because I spelled their kid's name wrong. Except that I had just copied down what the coach either told me or showed me. So because some coach couldn't spell one of their players' names, I was the asshole.
In general, the less information available, the harder the coverage. Which brings me to the USL, a league that may have the dumbest methods of keeping stats that I've ever seen.
The image that led this article came straight from the USL website. Take a look for a second and see if you notice anything unusual.
So Vilyan Bijev led Sacramento Republic FC in games played this year 17, which is great for him, only there were just 16 matches in the truncated 2020 season. The USL's stats page includes playoffs combined with regular season matches. There's no option to sort, nor one to click on the player to see how they've fared in other years.
Also, according to this, Frank Lopez played 12 games and scored a goal. Those numbers are both correct, but not in a way that makes sense. Frank Lopez arrived in Sacramento midseason on a loan deal from OKC Energy, whom he played six games for and scored one goal. He also featured in Sacramento's playoff loss. Instead of breaking that down, the website misleadingly shows that Lopez played 12 times for Sacramento, scoring one goal.
Lower on each page, you can find several other data points, useful for a various insights, but for some reason the players are ordered alphabetically by first name in that section. Also apparently "assists" aren't a stat in the "attack" tab.
Oh, and if you want to look up any stats prior to 2017, good luck. Those are either stored on individual teams' websites or probably a media guide somewhere.
In the analogy I'm trying to make, the USL is high school sports, while every other professional sports league is professional sports. Which makes it hard on people like me who try to cover the league and its history.
I worked a little on the Republic book this week but paused midway through, realizing that I had no idea who Sacramento's second-leading goalscorer was. I guessed that it was probably Rodrigo Lopez, but there was no way to know for sure without the data.
The same goes with appearances, assists, and really any other stat for the club's seven seasons in the USL. So I made my own database, which you can access here if you'd like.
A couple of points before I share some observations from the data:
- The entire spreadsheet contains only regular season USL games. No playoff or Open Cup or friendly matches are counted here.
- There are probably a few errors. The numbers should be mostly correct, but it's 100 percent probable that I made at least a few mistakes, especially given situations like Frank Lopez's and copy/paste slip ups.
- Player names are listed in bold if that individual has played for his full national team and a star is included after their name if they're Sacramento academy graduates. Players in italics are goalkeepers.
- I only compiled games played, goals, and assists, but may add more stats in the future.
- Because of the dumb combined playoff and regular season games thing, I had to count each player's total and then look through each postseason match to subtract those from the USL's claimed number. I probably fucked at least one of those up.
Onto the data:
For my observations, I've screen grabbed the top 10 in each category in the club's history:
- No surprises here with the top two players, though I wasn't sure which would lead the list between the two before I compiled the data. Cameron Iwasa and Emrah Klimenta are the only Sacramento Republic FC players to hit the century mark for appearances and play in five different seasons.
- Rodrigo Lopez went the longest in between appearances for any Sacramento player ever, four entire seasons.
- The record for most games played in one year is shared by Iwasa, Jeremy Hall, and Josh Cohen, who each entered the field in all 34 games in 2018.
- Speaking of Cohen, he's the all-time leader in games played for a goalkeeper with 50.
- Among non-goalkeepers, the player who has participated in the most matches for the Republic without registering a goal or an assist is outside back Shannon Gomez with 40.
- Gomez, however, is a full international, one of 18 to play for Sacramento. He has represented Trinidad and Tobago at the international level, giving the Republic three national teamers from that country -- Trevin Caesar and Julius James are the others.
- Other countries with multiple internationals to play for Sacramento are El Salvador (Juan Barahona and Joaquin Rivas) and New Zealand (Kip Colvey and Jake Gleeson).
- Rounding out the internationals: are Kevan Aleman (Canada), Carlton Cole (England), Rafael Diaz (Dominican Republic), Thomas Enevoldsen (Denmark), Jeremy Hall (Puerto Rico), Kaleemullah (Pakistan), Dekel Kenian (Israel), Emrah Klimenta (Montenegro), Aaron Long (USA), Jure Matjasic (Slovenia), and Alvas Powell (Jamaica).
- The best player to ever play for the Republic is probably either Cole or Long. You might assume Cole, but his EPL strike rate was actually pretty bad. Long, a defender, has more international goals and should be in the EPL right now but is literally too valuable of a commodity for the New York Red Bulls to sell.
- The weirdest career is that of Alfonso Montagalvan. The one-time US beach international made 22 appearances for Sacramento, but just three starts. His 440 total minutes meant that he averaged 20 a game. He didn't register a single goal or assist and was almost exclusively used when the Republic were a goal up late looking to close out the game.
- Forward Adnan Gabeljic made 10 appearances for Sacramento, the most for any player who doesn't have an active Wikipedia article.
- Academy graduates have accounted for 33 games for the Republic, though 29 came in this past year. Defender Hayden Sargis led the way with 15.
- Lastly, apparently a player named Carlos Martinez played 14 times for the club in the 2014 season. I have no recollection of this despite covering 12 of Sacramento's 14 regular season home games.
A few interesting notes:
- We all knew Cameron Iwasa is the club's all-time leading scorer and such a big deal was made of him hitting the 50-goal mark last season. Unless you count his one playoff goal, he hasn't actually accomplished that feat yet for the Republic. Iwasa also scored two goals for the Swope Park Rangers in 2017. I have no idea where he ranks league-wide. Of Sacramento's seven double-digit goal seasons, Iwasa has three.
- Sacramento have hit the back of the net 304 times in their league history, meaning that Iwasa has accounted for 16 percent of the club's goals. Even if he never plays another minute for the Republic, he will finish as the leading goalscorer in their USL history.
- Iwasa's 2018 tally of 17 is the club's single-season record and he would rank third overall on this list if that was the only season counted.
- Rodrigo Lopez's stats show the difference in his role between his two stints. From 2014-2015, he was primarily a winger. In 2020, he played any of the three central midfield positions.
- Trailing Iwasa by 39 and Lopez by 11 is Dariusz Formella, the active player with the most career goals. The next closest is Jaime Villarreal, who has four.
- Iwasa is the only player to score in five seasons, while Klimenta has hit the back of the net in four separate seasons and leads the club with nine career goals as a defender.
- When both Julian Chavez and Mario Penagos scored in a 2-1 win over Portland Timbers 2 in 2020, it marked the first two goals for academy products.
Not a ton to go over here:
- With 18 assists, Cameron Iwasa has the career Republic triple crown and leads Sacramento in appearances, goals, and assists.
- Danny Barrera's nine helpers set a club record in 2016.
- Iwasa's six assists in 2018 gave him 23 combined goals and assists. The only other player to put up 20 or more combined goals and assists was also Iwasa, who accomplished this in the next season.
- Three of the top 10 players are defenders, with James Kiffe playing out of his mind in the attacking third in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. I will never understand why he never really got a shot in MLS.
- Iwasa is again the only player to record an assist in five separate seasons, while Vilyan Bijev and Elliott Hord set up goals in four different campaigns.
- Tommy Stewart should be in the top 10 given the amount of games he played for Sacramento, but he always took dumb shots instead of passing for open goals. He's 11th with five.
- Jaime Villarreal's four career assists make him the highest active player on the list.
- An academy graduate has yet to set up a goal so far, though Sargis did register a second assist (counted by MLS but not the USL) in his first start last March.