Outside the Box Scores: Throwing down the gauntlet
This week in stats: Duels, passing, and Megan Rapinoe's penalty kicks
Julie Ertz of the Chicago Red Stars takes on the Orlando Pride's Marta during their Week 11 match. (Photo credit:  Jeremy Reper for isiphotos.com)
Julie Ertz of the Chicago Red Stars takes on the Orlando Pride's Marta during their Week 11 match. (Photo credit: Jeremy Reper for isiphotos.com)

There are stories to be found in statistics. From analyzing the box scores to keeping detailed spreadsheets tracking our favorite stats, we’re ready to shine a bright light for you thanks to Opta. After digging into this week’s data, here’s a look at some trends as we head into Week 12 in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Winning the duel

The Chicago Red Stars left Orlando on July 1 with all three points thanks to Christen Press converting the penalty kick. And in addition to that crazy sequence featuring a near-goal from a goalkeeper, followed by a defender clearance off the line into a shot off the crossbar, there were also some crazy numbers in the box score.

Chicago battled Orlando to win 69.2 percent of the duels in the match, winning 72 to Orlando’s 32. That’s the second-widest gap between two teams in a match so far this season. And while the Red Stars might have out-dueled the Pride, they did have to fight an uphill climb in one stat to walk away with the win. The Pride owned 62.1 percent of possession, and had 463 passes (76.7% accuracy) to the Red Stars’s 299 (65.9% accuracy).

The back line was huge for Chicago on Saturday, and they did plenty of work along with goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to keep the clean sheet despite the 20 shots that Orlando had. Taylor Comeau won 81.3 percent of her 16 duels, Kathleen Naughton 88.9% of her 9, Samantha Johnson won three of her four, and Sarah Gordon kept it perfect going four for four before she was subbed off.

There have been a few other games this season with wide gaps between the two teams in duels won or possession, but usually it’s only one stat that’s lopsided. This is the first game to have both clearly favor one team, and on top of that, have them favored in the opposite direction.

Back in May, Seattle Reign FC and the Orlando Pride settled for a 1-1 draw, but Seattle won 52 duels to Orlando’s 17 for a 75.4 percent duels won rate. That’s the highest mark so far this season — but the two teams split possession 55/45.

Two other teams have won a match despite being in the 30s for possession numbers — but they may have home field advantage to thank for the there points. On May 27, Sky Blue FC defeated Orlando 2-1 at home on Yurcak Field with only 33.3 percent possession over the 90 minutes. On June 24, the Washington Spirit upset the Portland Thorns with a 1-0 win and 38.0 percent possession.

A mid-season look at passing

Teams that pass well don’t always earn results, but there are some notable numbers from the 11 weeks of the season so far when it comes to passing and passing accuracy. There are three teams who have only broken 400 passes in a match once: the Boston Breakers, the Chicago Red Stars, and the North Carolina Courage. On the flip side, three teams have played in three games where they didn’t manage 300 passes: the Breakers again, with 280 vs. the Pride in the June 3 loss; the Red Stars with 298 vs. the Pride in that 1-0 win on Saturday; and the Spirit with 284 in the 6-2 drubbing at home.

Only half of the clubs have managed to have a team passing accuracy above 80 percent for at least one match, though these games are few and far between. The Seattle Reign have set the bar so far this season for highest passing accuracy in a game: they beat Houston on May 27, while keeping 86.2 percent of their 485 passes on target.

A team has only slipped into the 50s once so far this season, and that dubious honor goes to the Washington Spirit. They still earned a point from that match, however, picking up a draw against the Chicago Red Stars despite the 58.9% passing accuracy on June 17.

While most teams stay in the 60s and 70s for passing accuracy, there are two teams that have nearly managed to stay about 70% in every game. Both teams have only slipped once this season, and they might be two teams that don’t necessarily have the reputation for solid passing. The Houston Dash fell to 69.7 percent in their win against the Washington Spirit back on April 29, and the Orlando Pride dropped to 67.4 percent in their draw against the Seattle Reign on May 21.

One goal

During the month of June, while most teams scored and allowed plenty of goals, two teams had ones in those columns. The Washington Spirit had the better of the two options, only conceding one goal during the three games they played in June — a penalty kick from Christen Press. On the flip side, the Boston Breakers played four games last month, and only scored once. Adriana Leon scored in the 73rd minute against the North Carolina Courage on June 17, but that goal stands as the only tally of June for Boston. They did put an emphatic end to their 0-3-1 June by starting July with a 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit. The Breakers are still the only team to not yet break double digits for goals scored so far this season, with nine through Week 11.


According to Opta, Megan Rapinoe is the only player to take two penalty kicks in the same game since the start of 2016. After Week 11’s games, she’s now firmly in the lead in the Golden Boot race with nine goals in 12 games played. That’s a goal every 117.7 minutes.

After Wednesday’s game in which she converted the two PKs against Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher, Rapinoe said, “”I don’t really study [Naeher’s] tells. Obviously, I take them against her from time to time in training, but I always feel like as the taker, if you put it right, and hit it right, that they should never save it. Sometimes they make great saves. For the second one, I was just too tired to be doing anything other than just get it in there.”

Opta Tweet of the Week

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