MLS Week 3: Expected Goals and Attacking Passes

In the coming days, Matthias will be releasing our Expected Goals 2.0 statistics for 2014. You can find the 2013 version already uploaded here. I would imagine that basically everything I’ve been tweeting out from our @AnalysisEvolved twitter handle about expected goals up to this point will be certainly less cool, but he informs me it won’t be entirely obsolete. He’ll explain when he presents it, but the concept behind the new metrics are familiar, and there is a reason why I use xGF to describe how teams performed in their attempt to win a game. It’s important to understand that there is a difference between actual results and expected goals, as one yields the game points and the other indicates possible future performances.

However, this post isn’t about expected goal differential anyway–it’s about expected goals for. Offense. This obviously omits what the team did defensively (and that’s why xGD is so ideal in quantifying a team performance), but I’m not all about the team right now. These posts are about clubs’ ability to create goals through the quality of their shots. It’s a different method of measurement than that of PWP, and really it’s a measuring something completely different.

Take for instance the game which featured Columbus beating Philadelphia on a couple of goals from Bernardo Anor, who aside from those goals turned in a great game overall and was named Chris Gluck’s attacking player of the week. That said, know that the goals that Anor scored are not goals that can be consistently counted upon in the future. That’s not to diminish the quality or the fact that they happened. It took talent to make both happen. They’re events—a wide open header off a corner and a screamer from over 25 yards out—that I wouldn’t expect him to replicate week in and week out.

Obviously Columbus got some shots and in good locations which they capitalized on, but looking at the xGF metric tells us that while they scored two goals and won the match, the average shot taker would have produced just a little more than one expected goal. Their opponents took a cumulative eleven shots inside the 18 yard box, which we consider to be a dangerous location. Those shots, plus the six from long range, add up to nearly two goals worth of xGF. What this can tell us is two pretty basic things 1) Columbus scored a lucky goal somewhere (maybe the 25 yard screamer?) and then 2) They allowed a lot of shots in inopportune locations and were probably lucky to come out with the full 3 points.

Again, if you are a Columbus Crew fan and you think I’m criticizing your team’s play, I’m not doing that. I’m merely looking at how many shots they produced versus how many goals they scored and telling you what would probably happen the majority of the time with those specific rates.

 

 Team shot1 shot2 shot3 shot4 shot5 shot6 Shot-total xGF
Chicago 1 3 3 3 3 0 13 1.283
Chivas 0 3 2 2 3 0 10 0.848
Colorado 1 4 4 2 1 1 13 1.467
Columbus 0 5 1 2 1 0 9 1.085
DC 0 0 1 1 4 0 6 0.216
FC Dallas 0 6 2 0 1 1 10 1.368
LAG 0 0 4 2 3 0 9 0.459
Montreal 2 4 5 8 7 0 26 2.27
New England 1 2 1 8 5 0 17 1.275
New York 2 4 2 0 2 0 10 1.518
Philadelphia 2 5 6 2 4 0 19 2.131
Portland 0 0 2 2 2 1 7 0.329
RSL 0 4 3 0 3 0 10 0.99
San Jose 0 2 0 0 3 0 5 0.423
Seattle 1 4 0 2 2 0 9 1.171
Sporting 2 6 2 2 3 2 17 2.071
Toronto 0 6 4 2 2 0 14 1.498
Vancouver 0 1 1 3 3 0 8 0.476
 Team shot1 shot2 shot3 shot4 shot5 shot6 Shot-total xGF

Now we’ve talked about this before, and one thing that xGF, or xGD for that matter, doesn’t take into account is Game States—when the shot was taken and what the score was. This is something that we want to adjust for in future versions, as that sort of thing has a huge impact on the team strategy and the value of each shot taken and allowed. Looking around at other instances of games like that of Columbus, Seattle scored an early goal in their match against Montreal, and as mentioned, it changed their tactics. Yet despite that, and the fact that the Sounders only had 52 total touches in the attacking third, they were still able to average a shot per every 5.8 touches in the attacking third over the course of the match.

It could imply a few different things. Such as it tells me that Seattle took advantage of their opportunities in taking shots and even with allowing of so many shots they turned those into opportunities for themselves. They probably weren’t as over matched it might seem just because the advantage that Montreal had in shots (26) and final third touches (114). Going back to Columbus, it seems Philadelphia was similar to Montreal in the fact that both clubs had a good amount of touches, but it seems like the real difference in the matches is that Seattle responded with a good ratio of touches to shots (5.77), and Columbus did not (9.33).

These numbers don’t contradict PWP. Columbus did a lot of things right, looked extremely good, and dare I say they make me look rather brilliant for picking them at the start of the season as a possible playoff contender. That said their shot numbers are underwhelming and if they want to score more goals they are going to need to grow a set and take some shots.

 Team att passes C att passes I att passes Total Shot perAT Att% KP
Chicago 26 17 43 3.308 60.47% 7
Chivas 32 29 61 6.100 52.46% 2
Colorado 58 27 85 6.538 68.24% 7
Columbus 53 31 84 9.333 63.10% 5
DC 61 45 106 17.667 57.55% 3
FC Dallas 34 26 60 6.000 56.67% 2
LAG 43 23 66 7.333 65.15% 6
Montreal 63 51 114 4.385 55.26% 11
New England 41 29 70 4.118 58.57% 7
New York 57 41 98 9.800 58.16% 6
Philadelphia 56 29 85 4.474 65.88% 10
Portland 10 9 19 2.714 52.63% 3
RSL 54 32 86 8.600 62.79% 3
San Jose 37 20 57 11.400 64.91% 3
Seattle 33 19 52 5.778 63.46% 5
Sporting 47 29 76 4.471 61.84% 7
Toronto 30 24 54 3.857 55.56% 6
Vancouver 21 20 41 5.125 51.22% 2
 Team att passes C att passes I att passes Total ShotpT Att% KP

There is a lot more to comment on than just Columbus/Philadelphia and Montreal/Seattle (Hi Portland and your 19 touches in the final third!). But these are the games that stood out to me as being analytically awkward when it comes to the numbers that we produce with xGF, and I thought they were good examples of how we’re trying to better quantify the the game. It’s not that we do it perfect—and the metric is far from perfect—instead it’s about trying to get better and move forward with this type of analysis, opposed to just using some dried up cliché to describe a defense, like “that defense is made of warriors with steel plated testicles” or some other garbage.

This is NUUUUUuuuuummmmmbbbbbbeeerrrs. Numbers!

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One thought on “MLS Week 3: Expected Goals and Attacking Passes

  1. Pingback: Preview: Union vs Montreal Impact

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