Servando Carrasco's debut, statistics, and reading beyond the obvious

USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a trade from the Seattle Sounders, new Houston Dynamo midfielder Servando Carrasco quickly made his debut in the 72nd minute of Saturday night's 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union. Statistics say he didn't do much, but I would argue that in this case, the statistics don't tell the whole story.

A lot of times, we'll look and point to statistics as a way to describe the impact a player has had on a match or a squad. Stats like "goals" and "assists" or "clean sheets" and "saves" are seen as easy ways to point at Player X (both examples are from the Union-Dynamo match last night, see if you can identify them) and say "He's clearly contributing, he scored last night," or "He took five shots, and none of them were on target? Get him off the pitch!" in that quasi knee-jerk fashion that so many sports fans are good at falling back on.

But stats don't always tell you everything. The possession stat is notorious for this in soccer, as people often point to a club like Barcelona and say "They win because they control the ball," which is not always true. Does controlling the ball help? Of course. A club like Barça wins partly because when they have the ball, their opponents do not. If their opponents don't have the ball, they can't score. So the "possession equals wins" myth, in this case, is true.

Yet the best clubs also know that all it takes to change the course of a match is one play breaking down. We've certainly seen this play out in excruciating fashion against the Houston Dynamo in recent weeks, but we're not alone. Even the best of teams are susceptible to defensive lapses and the counterattack, that flash of speed and brilliance which can lead to someone like Celtic's Tony Watt humbling Barcelona, or Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey combining to see the national team through to the knockout stages of the World Cup in 2010.

So we can look at stats to help see how a match went, but we must remember that they don't tell the whole story. That leads me into the point of this post: the impact of new Dynamo Servando Carrasco and his debut Saturday night. Carrasco entered as a substitute for Giles Barnes in the 72nd minute, at a point when the Dynamo were already trying to hold on to a thin 1-0 lead over the Philadelphia Union.

To look at the stat sheet, it would appear that Carrasco did little in the last 18 minutes of the match. He shows up six times on the Opta Chalkboard for the match with two attempted passes (one successful), two tackles won, a clearance, and a foul conceded (in the 83rd minute). Hardly seems like an auspicious debut, some might say.

I disagree. This time about three days ago, Carrasco was a member of the Seattle Sounders. This time two days ago, he was on a plane to Philly, having been traded to the Dynamo for Adam Moffat a few hours previously. The fact that he was even dressed last night impressed me - never mind that he was actually substituted on. In my eyes, that counts for a lot. Not only was he here, he came ready to contribute - in a post-match interview with CSN Houston's Sebastian Salazar, he said that as a player, you have to be able to "roll with the punches and take it all in stride."

"You gotta roll with the punches and take it all in stride and I'm excited for the opportunity...so now we gotta get more points and make a push for the playoffs."  - Servando Carrasco


Granted, parts of the interview make him sound as he was coached in clichés by Crash Davis (Kevin Costner's character in Bull Durham), but that's to be expected. But looking past the clichés and the sparse stats, I see someone who seems to have come to Houston ready to contribute and make a difference. And as a Dynamo fan, that's something that's good to see.

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