Stats Stories

Staying on Track: How Jamal Thiaré’s scoring ability compares to other MLS strikers

Staying on Track MARTA 16X9 Jamal 7.5.24

As Atlanta United, and MLS, develops deeper knowledge and use of data analytics, we’ll be taking a look behind the curtain at some of the specific stats the club values. In our new weekly content series, we examine one metric provided by StatsBomb that may not stand out on a first watch, but upon closer evaluation, is a useful tool to measure the team’s performance. This is Staying on Track presented by MARTA.

It was the finale seen around the world. The sneaky game-winner scored by Jamal Thiaré to lift Atlanta United over Toronto FC was one of the most unbelievable endings to date. Not only was it the third-latest game-winner in club history, it also was a play not seen often in the game of soccer.

“At the moment, I’m telling myself ‘At no point did he look back, so I’m going to try to stay behind him,’” Thiaré explains in the latest episode of Nonstop Access produced by the Atlanta United content team. “It was the last minute, so I had to try something. I felt I could get something out of this. And that’s it. It happened the way it happened.”

The goal signaled something even greater for the Senegalese striker. It was his fifth goal of the season in just 613 minutes played. His scoring total brings him tied for second this season in goals scored trailing only Thiago Almada (six).

Thiaré’s goal scoring ability has been shown up on the stats sheet as well. He ranks no. 7 in non-penalty goals per 90 minutes played.

That number also ranks second among non-designated and U-22 players. The only MLS player ahead of Thiaré on that list is striker Tani Oluwaseyi of Minnesota United and the Canadian national team currently competing in Copa América. The Nigerian-born Canadian has scored seven goals in 620 MLS minutes this season. (Incidentally, one of those goals came against Atlanta United on May 4.)

More numbers showcase Thiaré’s effectiveness. He currently ranks:

  • 12th in non-penalty expected goals (xG)
  • 9th in post-shot xG
  • 5th in xG per shot

As a brief reminder of these terms, expected goal measures the probability of a shot resulting in the goal before the shot has been taken. Post-shot expected goal measures the probability of a shot resulting in the goal after the shot has been taken.

Earlier this year, we looked at post-shot expected goals in our story about goalkeeper Brad Guzan, examining at how effective he is at stopping quality chances taken by the other side. For Thiaré, to have the ninth best post-shot expected goals in MLS shows that his shots, after he takes them, are high quality. In other words, he is striking his shots firm and true.

The goal Thiaré scored against Toronto FC was pretty well taken. His expected goal on the shot was 0.73, which is very high because the goalie was not in position to block the shot with his hands plus Thiaré was essentially taking a shot on an open net. His post-shot expected goals, proving that he struck the ball well and on target, was 0.95, a near perfect number.

One of the best examples of Thiaré’s effectiveness this season was the goal he scored in the draw with New York City FC. Thiaré’s ability to change pace, just as he did against the Toronto goalkeeper on Saturday, made it one of the fastest and most directly developing plays of Atlanta United’s season. And his header was right on the money.

Maybe something the stat sheet doesn’t show is Thiaré’s ability to capitalize in major moments. Back in March, the striker scored a brace on his birthday to ice a 3-0 win for Atlanta United against Chicago Fire. The performance earned Thiaré his first selection on MLS Team of the Matchday.

All in all, he’s putting together a strong season as an option at striker for Atlanta United. Although, he's currently out due to injury for the next 2-4 weeks, Atlanta United supporters will undoubtedly be ready for more magic from Thiaré when he's next available to get on the pitch.

Atlanta United's Data Scientist & Analyst Arjun Balaraman contributed to this story.

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