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Donovan and Keane: What makes one hat trick better?

The LA Galaxy got hat trick performances from both Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan in recent weeks. Both received player of the week, but Keane performed much better in the Castrol Index. So we asked them why.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

While the LA Galaxy defence was the star of their 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps this weekend, their past two MLS matches have been offensive showcases. Both Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan managed hat tricks against FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake respectively. However, statistically not all hat trick performances are equal.

When it comes to NASR Player of the Week, a hat trick assures a player will be rubber stamped. Mike Magee, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane twice earner PotW for their hat trick performance in a Galaxy uniform. However, while Robbie Keane led the weekly Castrol Index last week, Landon Donovan only finished sixth the week prior. Taking a look at the differences can shed some insight on an occasionally mysterious analytic tool.

"Both players scored three goals in their respective games," said the representative from the Castrol Index, "placing them in the top 20 in the week of their matches. Keane's Index score was 2227, while Donovan scored 1278 so clearly there were some differences between their performances."

We have our own Match Impact Rating here at LAG Confidential, and while occasionally it'll show a one goal performance to not be as significant as that of an assisting midfielder; a hat trick performance essentially guarantees top of the MIR list. The Castrol Index places a lot of value on passing and other elements that lead up to goals, and has a long spectrum which goals can fall upon.

"The bulk of the credit for both Donovan and Keane came from their shooting, Keane receiving more credit for his goals than Donovan. Specifically, in shooting one of Donovan's shots was from close range and was rewarded very highly due to the high associated chance of a goal being scored."

That goal would be Donovan's equaliser right before half time in Dallas. Donovan was able to stay onside while Keane sent up a long ball, then head the 50/50 ball past the Dallas keeper and follow the ball into the back of the net. However, the Castrol Index wasn't as high on his other goals.

"His other two shots didn't have such a high chance of becoming goals when the ball was stuck (and hence in general we don't reward those shots as highly as it is easier for the keeper to save such a shot): one was from distance, and the other from a relatively tight angle."

The shot from distance was in the 72nd minute, when Marcelo Sarvas laid the ball off with his chest outside the eighteen yard box. Donovan took the shot before two Dallas defenders could converge on him, beating the Dallas keeper to the right post. It was a bit speculative, and a keeper with better reaction time probably would have saved it. The third goal indeed came from a tight angle, barely tucking inside the far post from the corner.

So from the index's perspective, because two of Donovan's three goals were speculative they weren't valued as highly. In a match where Dallas had two offside goals, there was a bit of luck working on both sides. What about Robbie Keane? Two of his goals were taken from outside the box as well.

"In Keane's case, he also had one very high value shot (just like Donovan) from close range, but his other two shots had moderately high value; they were from closer range/more central than Donovan's other shots."

This is true. Keane two goals from outside the penalty area were both taken from the centre of the pitch, and closer to the end line than Donovan's. It's a matter of a few feet, but the index liked them a bit more. However, it's not just goals; Keane was also rewarded for his spot on passing.

"In passing, Keane had an 81% success rate (from 27 passes), and Donovan a 61% success rate (from 51 passes). Keane's passing actually had a positive effect on his team, whereas Donovan's passing had a negative impact. The raw success rate isn't all that is relevant, as the location of the passes is very important but in this case the gap is sufficiently large to explain the part this plays in Keane's better rating."

Sixty-one percent success rate is awful, and is the sort of thing I've gotten on Hector Jimenez about in the pass. Especially with so many more passes than Keane, Donovan ended up with 19 unsuccessful passes against Dallas and most of them in the attacking third. The index hates incomplete passes in the final third. Keane on the other hand, during his hat trick performance, only had three incomplete passes.

So there you have it, two hat trick performances but one with more speculative goals and distribution that negatively affected the team. Which is weird to think about when Donovan's goals are the only thing that earned a point for the club on the road.