Aerial duels in the 2016 NWSL season (through 54 matches)

In the WoSo Stats Shiny app is a section titled “Aerial Duels” that has data for how many times a player goes up for an aerial duel, and how often she wins them.  In the 2016 NWSL Season Tableau workbook, I originally didn’t include a visualization for aerial duels, but I recently created one to get a better look at how the distribution of players looks when you compare the amount of times they go up for an aerial duel per 90 minutes to the percentage of times they win an aerial duel.

You can view the “Aerial Duels” section of the Tableau visualization for yourself. As of this writing, with 54 matches logged for the season, two players, Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Natasha Kai, stand apart pretty clearly from the rest of the league for how often they are involved in an aerial duel per 90 minutes.

It of course makes sense that they’d have a lot of aerial duels; they’re both tall and are typically thrown into attacking positions high up the field. After Kai (15.6 aerial duels per 90) and Brynjarsdottir (13.6 aerial duels per 90), the rest of the field appears starting with another Portland Thorn, Lindsey Horan (10.1 aerial duels per 90).


The players with the highest aerial duel win percentage with a significant number of aerial duels per 90 (beyond the 25th percentile, the left edge of that light grey rectangle you see running parallel to the y-axis) are further back, with far less aerial duels per 90 but with generally greater defensive duties. The top four – again, with 54 matches logged so far – are Whitney Engen (82% of aerial duels won), Becky Sauerbrunn (78%), Julie King (78%), and Alanna Kennedy (72%).

Sauerbrunn and Kennedy noticeably have a very high win percentage while still being above the 75th percentile of aerial duels per 90. As is evident by looking at the chart, more aerial duels appears to correlate with a winning percentage approaching around 45%.

Finally, I looked at how each team compares. The Western New York Flash stands out for having four players -Erceg, Kennedy, McDonald, and Mewis – clustered in the top-right corner of the chart. No other team has a cluster like that.

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Meanwhile, have a look at the Seattle Reign. Their players are generally clustered behind the 75th percentile.


An interesting follow-up to this chart would be to break down the per 90 and win percentage by location. Each match with complete location data has the location of each aerial duel logged, so this is something that should be possible to visualize and analyze once a way of coding through the matches and sorting out the aerial duels by location is resolved.

Another more complex follow-up question is what happens after each of these aerial duels. If it went out of bounds, it was recovered by a teammate of the player who won the aerial duel, if it was cleared away, if the aerial duel resulted in a foul, and so on. This data is deep in the spreadsheet that is logged for each match and I haven’t yet figured out an easy way to do that type of analysis, but it is going to be worth digging into.

In the meanwhile, feel free to dig through the chart and have a look at this for yourself!