In the two and a half years of the Whitecaps MLS tenure, there has been no more polarizing player than Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo. Fans of the diminutive Brazilian point to his club-leading goal-scoring numbers, his willingness to get a head on a cross, his penchant for taking on defenders in the box and drawing penalties. His detractors, meanwhile, accuse him of being an unabashed diver, and a selfish player to boot. Deserving penalties those were not, say they, and why doesn’t Camilo ever pass the ball? You can throw me firmly in the former category. I love Camilo, but I also like to have some empirical backup for my opinions.
More after the break.
For those of you who also follow hockey, you may have heard of a stat called “Corsi” which has been gaining popularity in recent years. Corsi is essentially a plus/minus stat for shots directed at net instead of goals, and has shown itself a more reliable indicator of a player’s on-ice performance than other more conventional statistics. It’s also a reasonable indicator of how the run of play is going. Even if a team is down 1-0 or 2-0, looking at how many shot attempts are being put towards each goal tells you a lot about the game. Once you get that data, you can begin comparing players. To begin, we take the shot differential (Corsi) while a player is on the pitch and subtract the shot differential when the player is off the pitch.
For example: Jun Marques Davidson has been on the field for 112 shots for, or 13.75 for every 90 for every 90 minutes of play (for ease of reading I’ll refer to this as per match), and 105 shots against, or 12.89/match. That’s a +0.86/match shot differential when he’s on the field, a slightly positive advantage over the opposition. While Davidson has been on the bench, however, the Caps have had 51 shots for, or 17.86/match, and 29 shots against, or 10.16 per match — a dramatic +7.70/match shot differential when he’s off the field. On average, the Caps direct 6.84 more shots on target than their opponents for every ninety minutes that JMD sits his defensive ass on the bench. That’s not good.
At the other end of the spectrum is Camilo. When Camilo is on the park Vancouver dominates the play, outshooting the opposition 109-60. When he’s on the bench, Vancouver is outshot 54-74. Crunch the numbers and you get a team-leading relative shot differential of +12.17. The Whitecaps will take, on average, 8 more shots for every 90 minutes the Brazilian plays, and concede 4 fewer.
Some of the knocks on Camilo are legitimate: he doesn’t work hard enough to stay on his feet. I’m still not convinced he dives, but he certainly doesn’t try to fight through contact. Some are overblown: calling him selfish is ridiculous when he led the team in assists last year and set up 1.17 shots/match, fifth best on the team.
Another one I’ve heard is that Camilo doesn’t have a strong left foot. This is MLS, not the EPL. There aren’t a lot of ambidextrous players in these parts. What I do know is that as Camilo goes, so does the Whitecaps offense. Here’s hoping Martin Rennie sees fit to keep him in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
For those of you that have made it this far, the data I’m working from can be found here. Note that Vancouver outshot Edmonton 41-17 over their two games, leading to some decidedly odd numbers for players like YP Lee and Alain Rochat, who missed those drubbings.