We’ve Moved!

American Soccer Analysis is now at www.AmericanSoccerAnalysis.com!

Are you looking for our informative tables or witty words, combined with that analytical analysis? They’re here no longer! We have finally grown up and moved on to a big boy website. A site where dreams come true, with readable font and sortable tables!

Drew, Matthias and I are going to take that site another level, and we hope you will join us.

Big Game in the Big Apple – my picks on who wins/loses in MLS for Week 12

Sorry, a bit late on this and not a lot of time to offer up detailed thoughts so here we go with my picks on who wins and loses this weekend keeping in mind I don’t/won’t pick draws…  my record without picking draws now hovers at 51%.

 

New York at home to Portland – I’ve already offered up my thoughts on my home blog about this one.  If the Timbers don’t make mental mistakes, don’t get a red card, don’t yield a Penalty Kick and don’t score an own goal I think they win… Timbers take three.

Vancouver at home to Seattle – A big game in the great northwest with Cascadia Cup clash written all over it – Vancouver wins…

Columbus at home to Chicago – If the Crew don’t win and Chicago does the early season dream start will have started to fade into a mid-season nightmare for Berhalter and his Crew; especially after being gifted three goals in Portland and still only coming away with a draw.  Columbus win…

New England hosts DC United – A huge test for Olsen and his crew coming off that disappointing draw to the worst team in MLS, Montreal.  Can the Revolution continue to win – since I can’t pick draws I go with New England to win…

Colorado at home to Montreal – Really – is anyone willing to bet Montreal wins this game?  Colorado wins…

Real Salt Lake entertains FC Dallas – Perhaps a pivot point for FC Dallas as the mid-season approaches.  There might be room this week for Dallas to walk in and take 3 points – RSL are unbeaten this year and if all else fails I can see a draw with these two teams… but Plata should be a difference maker this game – along with the ever under-rated Grabavoy – RSL wins…

LA Galaxy at home to Philadelphia – Is this another one of those stunners for the Union?  Hard to say but with Donovan returning far to early, in my opinion, from the USMNT I see some fire in his eyes and the Union possibly getting crushed… LA wins…

San Jose entertains Houston – with Wondolowski missing, and rightly so… and Davis missing, and rightly so… this has all the makings of a draw but I think Houston wins with a better defense…

Best, Chris

Expected Wins #2 – After 184 MLS Events (92 Games)

Hopefully most of you read Part I of my series on Expected Wins in Major League Soccer.

As a quick reminder the Expected Wins analysis is my internal data quality review on the seven data points I use to support my quantitative Possession with Purpose analysis; the stronger the correlation these data points have the more confidence I have in the overall Indices that are created to assess team performance.

For your benefit, in case you forgot, here are the seven data points I continue to analyze as we reach the 92 game point in MLS; which equals 184 events:

  1. Passes Attempted Entire Pitch
  2. Passes Completed Entire Pitch
  3. Passes Attempted Final Third
  4. Passes Completed Final Third
  5. Shots Taken
  6. Shots on Goal
  7. Goals Scored

All data points, at this time, have equal weight.

What is interesting is that over the week to week course of the season 40% (20/50) of the weekly top five teams, in Attacking PWP, have averaged less than 50% possession in their matches.  

For me that’s pretty cool as it indicates this analysis is not really biased towards teams that use a shorter-passing scheme in attack.  Week 5, 3 of 5 teams were under 50% and the other two were both under 51% possession.

Some of those teams are possession based teams like DC United, Portland and Seattle but in that week the margin of possession did not have as much effect as the ability of those teams to finish quality chances – the top three teams that week all scored goals equal to their shots on goal.

The five teams that week who exceeded 80% in Passing Accuracy; usually a good indicator of ground based attacking all finished outside the top 5.

 

Moving on after that tidbit, here’s the averages for overall (blue bar), teams that win (green bar), teams that draw (orange bar) and teams that lose (red bar).

Expected Wins 2 Averages

Expected Wins 2 Averages

Facts as they exist today after 184 Events in 2014:

  • The overall tenor of the data points and their relationship really hasn’t changed that much since XpW 1.
  • Teams that win average 51.11% Possession; losing teams average 48.89% Possession, (lower)
  • Teams that win average 76.39% in Passing Accuracy; losing teams average 74.10% (lower)
  • Teams that win average 20.48% Penetration in the Final Third based upon Total Passes completed; teams that lose average 20.32% (lower)
  • Teams that win average 18.64% Shots Taken per pass completed in the Final Third, losing teams average 19.22% (higher)
  • Teams that win average 42.67% Shots on Goal per Shot Taken; teams that lose 32.13% (lower) (by over 10%!)
  • Teams that win average 46.18 Goals Scored per Shot on Goal; losing teams 17.03% (lower) (by over 29%!)

Like after XpW 1 (102 Events – 51 games) losing teams shoot the ball more often, on average, but are less accurate when it comes to putting those shots on target and into the net.  Patience in creating quality continues to outweigh quantity…

Overall, the averages for Shots on Goal for winning teams has increased from XpW 1 (4.90) to XpW 2 (5.36); basically the better teams have gotten better and the losing teams have gotten worse (3.84 now) versus (4.10 in XpW 1).

I wonder how that trend will continue through the rest of this year?

Tthe 2% gap in Passing Accuracy between winning teams and losing teams has held from XpW 1 to XpW 2.

The gap in Shots on Goal has increased in losing teams to 10% as opposed to 9% (XpW 1).

The gap in Goals scored has remained near steady at roughly ~30%; though slightly smaller in XpW 2.

Losing teams still continue to take more Shots than winning teams; 12.74 (winning teams) to 12.80 (losing teams) but… that gap has dropped since XpW 1 – perhaps losing teams are looking to be more patient in their shot selection?

So how does the overall data relate in an Exponential Relationship?

Expected Wins 2 Trend-lines

Expected Wins 2 Trend-lines

Observations:

The light shaded lines are the lines of data as in XpW 1 – and the trend-line colors remain the same.

This time the R2 has dropped just a tad.98 to .95 – all things considered most would consider that correlation Rock Solid… I do – and the correlation of these data points, viewed as a whole, have a higher correlation together than Goal Differential (R2 = .88) to Points in the League Table.

Goal differential is usually a great indicator but it also remains a qualitative statistical indicator not a quantitative indicator.

Like last time there remains a difference in the R2 between winning teams, teams that draw, and losing teams; with draws now having greater correlation than wins.  Why?  I’m not sure – but as noted by the closeness of all the data points there still remains a fine line between winning, losing and drawing.

Last time I felt that helped explain the difference between mistakes or unlucky breaks – I continue to sense that is the main difference.  So might this be an indicator of luck – I don’t know – what do you think?

I have seen discussions of late, on Telly, and in some articles written elsewhere, that focus more on ‘space available’ as opposed to just Shots Taken…  hopefully that trend continues!

I also remain hopeful that OPTA and other statistical web sites will offer up more critical events taking place in the Final Third…  One other article written since XpW 1 is my analysis (as promised in Xpw 1) on defensive indicators; here’s a link to Hurried Passes and those details.

In closing:

I still don’t have enough data, in my opinion, to offer additional thoughts on individual team performance relative to home and away games; that probably won’t have statistical reliability until the midpoint of the season (game 323 – events # 646).

There are trends but I’ll save that for another article, enough for now.

Best, Chris

 

 

 

How It Happened: Week Six

I know, I know, week seven is already starting. It’s not my fault the schedule-makers started putting games on Wednesdays – I can barely finish catching up on the previous week’s games before the next weekend begins. Here come my thoughts on the three games I caught from last weekend:

DC United 1 – 0 New York Red Bulls

Stat that told the story for New York: 135 passes; 36 crosses; 19 shots in attacking third

ny6

 

This game wasn’t too much different than any others for New York this year – they played passably but were lackluster, especially in the final third. As the image above shows, Red Bulls certainly saw enough of the ball in the attacking third to get a goal. But far too many of the possessions in attack were basically in slow motion. The Red Bulls sent in 36 crosses, yet none of them led to a goal. To build to these crosses, New York slowly passed the ball around for two minutes then fiiinnnaallllyyy got the ball to the flank to be sent in. This slow play let DC’s back line get set and ready for any attack. If New York wants to regain last year’s Supporters’ Shield form, they’ll need to find some urgency in attack and build some moves before allowing the opposition to get settled.

Stat that told the story for DC: 1675 career MLS games played by starting eleven

This game wasn’t terribly interesting from a DC standpoint (they nicked an early goal from a set piece, then defended resolutely to eke out a 1-0 win), so I’m going to use this space to wax philosophical about this team and the state of the league. United re-made their roster this offseason with veteran MLS players, so much so that the starting lineup this week averaged 152 career games. And that includes two guys who drastically bring that number down: Cristian Fernandez (new to the league this year) and Andrew Dykstra (the team’s usual backup ‘keeper). Now, experience doesn’t mean talent, and a criticism can be made that DC lacks difference makers. But if you took this same roster and put them in the 2010 MLS season, I have trouble imagining that they would miss the playoffs. Here in 2014, they’ll likely be in a season-long scrap for one of the final playoff spots. I don’t mean this shpiel to diminish DC or their roster; I just want to make a point that MLS has clearly improved over the last several years to a point where even a very solid roster will have trouble making the postseason.

Toronto FC 0 – 1 Colorado Rapids

Stat that told the story for Toronto: 134 recorded actions for Kyle Bekker; 85 recorded actions for Jeremy Hall

tor6

 

Not all 1-0 soccer games are boring, but this one definitely was. Sorry. The biggest thing that I gleaned from this one about TFC had to do with their central midfield. Kyle Bekker, a high-potential but so far low-performance Canadian, put in a fantastic performance for the Reds. This is only one game and I’m prone to hyperbole, but he kind of looked like a young Michael Bradley in the way he commanded the game. Contrast that with the performance of his midfield partner, the veteran Jeremy Hall. Hall isn’t the same type of player as Bekker, better suited to playing sound positionally than creating chances, but he was clearly less influential than Bekker. This isn’t meant to be a criticism for either player or Toronto as a club – the fact is, these are the team’s third and fourth central midfielders, which means they’re pretty well off as far as MLS teams go.

Stat that told the story for Colorado: 4 central midfielders in the starting lineup

For the second game in a row, Pablo Mastroeni started a midfield of Jose Mari, Nathan Sturgis, Dillon Powers and Nick LaBrocca. All four of those guys are central midfielders by trade, putting them in a diamond shape that doesn’t provide much width. The fullbacks (especially Thomas Piermayr) and forwards (especially Gabriel Torres) did a decent job of providing that width, but the cramped midfield still struggled at times. Moving the ball through the midfield was a task for the Rapids, and switching the field from one side all the way to the other flank was quite a task for the squad. It comes as no surprise that the game’s only goal came from one of the few successful switches of field that the Rapids pulled off; they’ll need to continue doing that in the future whether they stick with the diamond midfield or not.

LA Galaxy 1 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps

Stat that told the story for LA: Robbie Keane & Landon Donovan’s heat maps

LAG6

 

Last week I wrote about LA’s diamond midfield and how successful it was against Chivas. I left out a big part of why this was successful: the interchanging of the forwards with that diamond midfield. In Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, the Galaxy have a couple of special players who don’t fit the mold of any particular type of striker. Both of these guys’ heat maps were all over the place against Vancouver, and it was their checking to the midfield and midfielders’ willingness to run forward into the space that made them hard to defend. LA only scored once, but they looked dangerous on many other occasions thanks to this interplay.

Stat that told the story for Vancouver: Russell Teibert: 5 recoveries, 3 interceptions, 2 clearances

Vancouver has been starting two defensive midfielders for most of this season, generally featuring Matias Laba and Nigel Reo-Coker. Reo-Coker’s poor play to start the season led to his benching in Los Angeles, and they were forced to throw regular winger Russell Teibert into that role this weekend. He looked better there than the usual guys, mostly because he has so much ability as a chance creator. Teibert gets pigeon-holed as a pure attacker, but he actually showed a real good ability to break up midfield play and keep possession in the holding role. Teibert played there some for the ‘Caps in preseason as well, so I’m not sure where he fits in their long-term plans. I for one would vote that he sees more time in a holding or box-to-box role: he was a major reason Vancouver wasn’t stampeded a la Chivas in Week 5 and brings a spark going forward that can also be helpful in that position.

Agree with my thoughts? Think I’m an idiot? Let me know. @MLSAtheist

MLS Prediction Contest – We Have a Winner!

After two weeks of Major League Soccer wins, losses, and, this week, mostly draws, the best predictors were…

MLSAtheist and timbertyler tied for first place with 13 correct answers each (out of 20). Normally, we would have gone to the tiebreaker to determine the grand prize winner, but MLSAtheist, a valued contributor to American Soccer Analysis, graciously decided to withdraw his prize eligibility. That leaves timbertyler as the winner of a subscription to MLS Live 2013!

Congratulations to timbertyler; maybe Portland will follow his lead and start amassing some wins of their own.

ASA Fantasy League Update Round 2: A Terrible Case of the Nagbe’s

This is your weekly reminder that you’re doing MLS fantasy, and if you’re taking part in our league you should probably set your rosters so you have an opportunity to win something TBD. And really, since you’re probably not doing any work with the NCAA tournament going on, you have some time to make sure your lineup is good to go this week. If you aren’t in our league yet, and for some reason you feel the strong need to join, you can do so by figuring out how to use this code: 9593-1668. We grade on a pass/fail scale. If you get in you passed.

Here is the current week’s worth of data. It’s in a jpeg format because, frankly, tables show up for crap on our site and we’ll be moving soon enough to this other site that… well, we’ll tell you more when we’re at that stage.

week2MLSFANTASYHere are the main take aways for this week.

– Stop making Darlington Nagbe your Captain.

– Will Bruin continues to make me look stupid.

– I’m average, and if you are below me, you are not doing yourself any favors.

– I’m ahead of both Matthias and Drew, so while I’m the idiot of the podcast I’ve so far shown to be the better fantasy player.

– I totally lucked out with Zack MacMath this week.

Now the below image is for the week 2 “dream team” which is basically how you could have gotten the most points last week. Interesting that no one from our league sported a 3-5-2 formation this week and that three main formations were kind of cycled through for everyone.

DreamTeam-week2

Good luck to you all, and we’ll see if we can ever catch up to either Bazzo, Cris Pannullo or Chris Gluck. They look poised to possibly run away with this thing. Hopefully this week will set them back so the rest of us can feel better about ourselves.

How It Happened: Week Two

I’ll be frank: either week two of the MLS season was much less exciting than week one, or I did a poor job of picking games to watch and analyze this week. My bet is that both are true. Anyway, onto the show in which I take a look at three games from the weekend and pick a stat or Opta chalkboard image for each team that tells the story of how they played (last week’s version is here if you missed it):

Sporting Kansas City 1 – 1 FC Dallas

Stat that told the story for Dallas: outpassed 418-213, including 103-41 in the game’s first half hour

A thought occurred to me when watching this game: Sporting Kansas City has to look a lot like a prototype of what Oscar Pareja wants out of his teams. From the formation to the high-pressing, KC has long made their money by manhandling opponents as soon as they get on the ball and not letting them get comfortable. In this game, Sporting came out fired up at home and simply punched Dallas in the mouth (not even completely a figure of speech – this game was brutally physical). The high-pressing from KC’s entire team had FCD out of sorts for most of the first half, particularly the first 30 minutes, when they mustered only 41 completed passes.

But the Hoops managed a road draw against the defending champs, so the game wasn’t completely a story of getting worked over. As the game wore on and Sporting found it difficult to keep up the constant pressure, Dallas was able to grow into the game a bit. They certainly were never dominant, but another very good game from Mauro Diaz and some smart counter-attacks allowed Pareja’s team to stem the tide for the majority of the game. In the end, it was fitting that the slugfest of a game saw just two goals, both from set pieces, but Dallas should feel good about how they played as the game progressed and were able to steal a point.

Stat that told the story for Kansas City: lack of production from forward line: 15 offensive actions in attacking third

kc2

Sporting KC won MLS Cup last year and has unquestionably been one of the league’s best teams for the last few seasons. But few would argue that this success is built on a very strong defense and midfield. The forward line has often been sort of an Achilles’ heel for this squad, especially now that Kei Kamara has moved on. In this game, Graham Zusi was held out so he could stay fresh for CONCACAF Champions League action, and DP forward Claudio Bieler only came on for the last 13 minutes. But the five players who saw time at a forward spot for KC (Bieler, Dom Dwyer, Sal Zizzo, CJ Sapong and Jacob Peterson) combined to register 15 offensive actions in the attacking third. 

To be clear, that ‘offensive actions’ stat that’s illustrated above might have been made up by me just now, but it encompasses successful passes, dribbles, and all shot attempts. Too often on Saturday, and really for the last few years, Kansas City has dominated the game until the last thirty yards of the field, where they lack ideas. Getting Zusi back will likely help, as would playing Claudio Bieler for a full 90 minutes, but Sporting will need some more creativity and production from their forwards if they hope to lift another trophy this season.

Chivas USA 1 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Stat that told the story for Vancouver: only 53 passes in the offensive third (23 of which were after Kekuta Manneh came on in the 60th minute)

I tuned in for the Chivas-Vancouver matchup excited to see an offensive battle between two sides that combined for 7 goals in week one. Instead, I saw an early red card to the Goats’ Agustin Pelletieri followed by a lot of dull possession for Vancouver against a surprisingly organized team in red and white stripes. After looking so deadly in attack against New York, the Whitecaps looked completely lost for ideas on Sunday, with the only forays into the offensive third seeming to come from chips over the top from the superb Pedro Morales. That all changed when Kekuta Manneh came on, as he attacked the Chivas defense with and without the ball, causing fits for Eric Avila and eventually scoring the equalizer for the ‘Caps. Still, after playing 87 minutes against 10 men, Vancouver has to be rightfully disappointed at only earning a point.

Stat that told the story for Chivas: Mauro Rosales turning back the clock: 151 actions

chv2

The Seattle Sounders traded Mauro Rosales to Chivas this offseason because he was too expensive and too old to fit into the club’s plans for 2014. Nobody even really argued with the decision, though Rosales is undeniably a classy player and won the league’s Newcomer of the Year award in 2011. So far in 2014, playing in the red and white of the Goat Zombies, Rosales has looked a lot like the 2011 playmaker that Sounders fans knew and loved. Playing down a man, Rosales was everything you could hope from a smart, skilled veteran; he hoofed it up field when in trouble so his team could get organized, he led smart counter-attacks and he kept the ball when possible (with the help of Erick Torres, who also played very well). All in all, he registered 151 actions in Opta’s chalkboard, 12 more than any other player and a whopping 47 more than his nearest teammate. Not bad for a washed-up 33-year-old.

Houston Dynamo 1 – 0 Montreal Impact

Stat that told the story for Montreal: Marco Di Vaio‘s non-existant heat map

mtl2

I’ve watched about 120 minutes of Montreal Impact soccer in the season’s first two weeks, and just about every one of those minutes has been more impressive than I expected from the Impact this season. Despite having zero points from their first two games (both on the road), they’ve actually looked pretty good on the field. Justin Mapp is doing Justin Mapp things (like this awesome run & assist from week 1), Hernan Bernardello and Patrice Bernier are pinging beautiful balls to open up space, and Felipe and Andrew Wenger are getting in pretty good goal-scoring spots. So what’s the reason behind the zero points? Well, not putting chances away against the Dynamo killed Montreal. ASA’s shot numbers had their xGF at 1.15 this week, but there were plenty of other times that they wasted dangerous opportunities (one particular Wenger near-breakaway early in the first half stands out). If All-Star Italian striker Marco Di Vaio wasn’t suspended, I have a hard time believing the Impact gets shutout last week.

Stat that told the story for Houston: 8 fouls conceded in the defensive third

This was another game where what I ended up watching did not line up with the expectations I had going in. After an open, attack-filled opening game with New England, Houston came out and didn’t really do much offensively against Montreal. It was actually sort of a gameplan of old-school Dom Kinnear, as the Dynamo got an early goal thanks to a deflected Will Bruin shot, and then packed it in and made themselves hard to beat. They sat in two organized banks of four so that only the perfect ball from Montreal would be enough to beat them, and when it looked like they might get beaten, they did the professional thing and took a foul. Eight of Houston’s 14 fouls conceded were in their defensive third, and while I can’t offer much perspective on whether that’s a high proportion compared to league average, I can tell you that many of them occurred when Montreal players were breaking away and getting ready to provide a scoring chance.

Agree with my assessments? Think I’m an idiot? I always enjoy feedback. @MLSAtheist or MLSAtheist@gmail.com