Sidekicks’ playoff primer – Analyzing the ‘Kicks tactics

The Sidekicks, despite finishing with a 1-10 record, are heading to the playoffs for the first time since the 14/15 season, and the first time since Simon Bozas took over as head coach. They’re set to face the Ontario Fury, a team they have literally never beaten.

With the regular season over, I took a deeper dive into their results to look further into an observation made by my girlfriend: when the Sidekicks seem to go for a 6th attacker, it never seems to work.

For those not as familiar with arena/indoor soccer, a 6th attacker is where a team pulls their goalkeeper to substitute in an additional field player, a 6th attacker. They wear a colored, labeled jersey reading “6th Attacker”, and are allowed to not only play the entire field, but use their hands in their team’s box as a goalkeeper would. It’s very much akin to and based on the pulled goalies in ice hockey.

To begin with, I went in and re-scored every game from the 19/20 and 2021 seasons to divide goals scored and conceded into the 5 most common game states: even strength 5-on-5, power play 5-on-4, short-handed 4-on-5, Sidekicks using the 6th attacker 6-on-5, and the opponent using the 6th attacker 5-on-6. There are a few moments where teams will be 4-on-6 or 6-on-4, but those are rare (average of once per season), and the strategy works more similarly to a normal 6th attacker.

Having separated every goal scored into these five states, a few things become clear.

Even-Strength (5-on-5)104205
Power Play (5-on-4)133
Shorthanded (4-on-5)026
Kicks 6th Attacker (6-on-5)1629
Opp 6th Attacker (5-on-6)33

Even strength, Dallas is bad. They concede almost twice as often as they score, and that’s consistent across seasons and in line with their end-of-the-season totals.

On the power play, the Sidekicks aren’t great offensively, not scoring at a rate much better than from open play, but with a man advantage still managed to concede 3 times. When facing a power play, they’re even worse, with opponents able to slice through even easier than normal.

But things get really interesting with the 6th attacker. Not only do they fail to score at a greater rate than average, they actually concede far more easily, despite the man advantage, with an empty net. More than 10% of the goals the Sidekicks conceded were on an open goal. No other team comes close.

What’s particularly interesting is the situations where Bozas pulls his goalkeeper for the 6th attacker. The Sidekicks are always losing, and looking to at least tie the game. In 17 games from the 33 total the past two seasons, the Sidekicks went for a 6th attacker. 5 times, they scored more goals than they conceded with the net empty, and yet, in all 5 games Dallas failed to take the lead or even tie the score. Even when it works, it doesn’t work.

In the other 12 occasions, Dallas was outscored 9 times, with 3 occasions both teams scoring equal amounts with the Kicks using a 6th attacker. All of those either made no impact in the final result, or dug Dallas further into their deficit.

Going for a 6th attacker, the last 33 games, has literally never once helped the Sidekicks win or even tie a game.

And yet, Bozas keeps doing it.

In their final game of the regular season last Saturday, Dallas was down by 2 against San Diego with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Bozas pulled Juan Gamboa. Dallas almost immediately gave up two empty-net goals. Gamboa’s 4:19 on the bench was enough to, yet again, dig the deficit deeper, and the Sidekicks ultimately lost 9-4.

For a team that relies on Gamboa, a solid indoor keeper, as the cornerstone of their defense, there is literally no reason to remove him from a game, at least without a defensive strategy consisting of something more than “Gamboa can handle it.” Gamboa actually finished 2nd in the league for saves made per game, and in nearly every metric put up numbers that, with any other team, would have been fine.

It all contributes to a growing feeling among Kicks faithful that Bozas has run this team into the ground. This is rock bottom. No Sidekicks team has ever had a season this bad, and it’s entirely preventable with merely competent coaching.

This should have been a slam-dunk season with the number of talented players available, a depleted league, and a shorter schedule. It wasn’t, and Bozas is the biggest reason why.

The Sidekicks take on the Ontario Fury in the first round of the playoffs, with leg one in Ontario on Wednesday night, and leg two in Allen on Sunday afternoon. Here’s hoping something good happens.

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