Sporting KC still has edge in the capital

If you come in from a certain angle, you can hype this evening’s DC United-Sporting KC game as the Eastern Conference’s clash of the week. The two teams enter this game tied for the second seed with two of the best goal differentials in the conference. With DCU playing at home, and Sporting missing half its team, the edge would appear to go to United. But not so fast.

Despite being inseparable by points, DCU and Sporting are about as far apart as two teams can be by Expected Goal Differential. Sporting sits atop the league at +0.62 per game,* while DCU is ahead of only San Jose with -0.33. If we look to even gamestates—during only those times when the score was tied and the teams were playing 11-on-11—the chasm between them grows even wider. Sporting’s advantage over DCU in Even xGD is more than 1.5 goals per game.*

To this point, as early as it is in the season, I have found that winners are best predicted by Even xGD, rather than overall goal differential. Though the sample size of shots is smaller for each team in these scenarios, the information is less clouded by the various tactics that are employed when one team goes ahead, or when one team loses a player.

Of course, Sporting will be missing the likes of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, and Lawrence Olum, as they have for the past three games. The loss of those key players has mostly coincided with their current four-game winless stretch, and it would be tempting to argue that they are not in form. However, over those last three games, Sporting overall xGD is +0.27 per game,* and its Even xGD is +0.68.*

Making predictions in sports is generally just setting oneself up for failure—especially in a sport where there are three outcomes—but I will say this. Sporting is likely better than the +180 betting line I’m seeing this morning.

*I use the phrase “per game” for simplicity, but xGD is actually calculated on a per-minute basis in our season charts. Per game implies per 96 minutes, which is the average length of an MLS game.

PWP: Chicago lights up New York while Montreal feels the Impact of Sporting KC

As noted in my headline, the Chicago Fire simply lit the fireworks with the youngster Harry Shipp leading the way; good for him and well done, son!  As for the new leader in Montreal–and ex-Fire coach–things weren’t quite as rosy.

You’ll recall early last week I published this article on MLS Coaches – showing statistics, not pure speculation, on which coaches have teams that aren’t performing to standard in MLS at this time.  Frank Klopas was one of those Head Coaches mentioned, and sadly his team was the only team in the bottom four of that list who didn’t win this past weekend.

Mark Watson did with San Jose, Frank Yallop did in the obvious thriller in New York, and Wilmer Cabrera saw his Goats absolutely stun Colorado.  Sooner or later the wheat will separate from the chaff.

But back to Chicago.  They didn’t take the PWP Attacking Team of the week by much; Sporting KC was a close second while Cabrera and the Goats were 3rd best and New England rounded out the top 4 with that blowout against Seattle.

PWP Attacking Player of Week #10 – Harry Shipp – surprised?  Not likely, for only the second time this year my PWP Attacking Player of the Week was the same as the MLS Player of the Week… as odd as it may sound I take pride in my PWP Players of the Week not matching those from MLSSoccer.com.

PWP ATTACKING PLAYER OF WEEK 10

PWP ATTACKING PLAYER OF WEEK 10

A busy day for the young lad, and almost too much information to go into my standard PWP Player of the Week.

That said Sporting KC got back on track with another smashing win against Montreal.  And while they scored three goals what stood out most was their smothering defense; a leader in helping that effort was my PWP Defending Player of the Week; Chance Myers.

PWP DEFENDING PLAYER OF WEEK 10

PWP DEFENDING PLAYER OF WEEK 10

Duly noted that some players had some superb passing statistics in this game; here’s a diagram of all the successful passes for Sporting against a hapless Montreal side… and even more intriguing is this diagram (also from the OPTA Chalkboard) of all the unsuccessful passes by Sporting.  WOW!  Not sure I’ve ever seen so sparse a chalkboard as that for unsuccessful passes!

In looking at the defensive side of the pitch Montreal offered up 45 total passes in the Sporting defending third – of which nine were throw-ins… in the area here (just atop the 18 yard box) Montreal had 5 unsuccessful passes and 3 successful passes with two of those successful passes being throw-ins.

Moving on… So this week who’s top and who’s not in Possession with Purpose after 10 full weeks of play in MLS?

PWP COMPOSITE INDEX THROUGH WEEK 10

PWP COMPOSITE INDEX THROUGH WEEK 10

As a reminder, the top five Western Conference teams in the End-of-Season PWP Composite Index were the top five Western Conference teams to make the Playoffs.  In addition, the top five Eastern Conference Teams in the same Index were the top five Eastern Conference teams to make the Playoffs.

Last year’s Champion has finally reached the top spot; will they be able to hold on?  I don’t know, but still-unbeaten Real Salt Lake has shifted from 7th to 4th this week.

Columbus is starting their painful drop while Seattle, LA, and FC Dallas hover, and New England continues to push higher.

What is unique about this Index is it’s not influenced by the “next bright and shiny object” syndrome.  Teams will fade and teams will push higher, but not on a whim; I hate whims…

With respect to the bottom teams in this Index – there is no question that the worst performing team in MLS is Montreal.  I’m not sure how anyone can consider their pathetic team output – across all categories measured – anything other than worst.  

Chivas got a notable win, but one win does not a streak make – falling a bit further this week was Toronto – moving from 6th worst to 4th worst.  Are some other teams in MLS catching on to that ‘mistake driven’ football that Nelson might be working towards?

Hard to say, but with some MLS stars moving off to prepare for the World Cup, there will definitely be important lineup change, and possible some big changes to this Index in the next six weeks.

In closing:

Another busy week coming with the Canada Cup Championship plus two more games for Sporting and Philadelphia.

Two diagrams for your consideration:

PWP ATTACKING INDEX THROUGH WEEK 10

PWP ATTACKING INDEX THROUGH WEEK 10

This is the Cumulative PWP Attacking Index after week 10.

Note that the separation between the top attacking team (FC Dallas) and the 10th best attacking team (Vancouver) is 2.4984 – 2.3365 = .1619.  So when you see the overall Composite Index there really isn’t that much that separates the tenth place attacking team from the 1st place attacking team…

However, small movement is still expected given that a number of teams will be without some key players for at least 5 weeks – we can hope for more for the USMNT’s sake.

PWP DEFENDING INDEX THROUGH WEEK 10

PWP DEFENDING INDEX THROUGH WEEK 10

This information reflects how well the combined opponents of these teams performs in the Defending PWP.

In looking at the diagram what the last place team offers is that the opponents of Chicago Fire, by and large, possess the ball, pass the ball, penetrate with the ball, take shots with the ball, and score with the ball more than Chicago does… if that trend continues it is likely that Chicago will have a very poor record by the end of the season.

In considering Philadelphia for a minute – they are in the bottom half but they are not being dominated by their opponents – sometimes games won and lost or drawn end up being more about a single mistake or… multiple mistakes as opposed to poor team performance.  It’s data like this that tells me, as an analyst, that Hackworth has a reasonable system and plan – its’ just not working because something on the pitch is broken.

I think many would offer that is the same case for Portland this year – most know that 5 points were lost due to PK’s early this year, and perhaps three points were lost this past Sunday when some players simply forgot that they were soccer players and instead decided to be ball watchers…

All for now, Chris

How it Happened: Week Nine

Welcome to my few-days-old review of the weekend in MLS, where I recap three games that I watched in their entirety (well, usually) by picking a stat or Opta image that tells the story of the game for each team. This week I fell short of my usual three games, and I apologize to the legions of Red Bulls and FC Dallas fans who will no doubt be disappointed to read the following paragraph.

FC Dallas 0 – 1 New York Red Bulls

Stat that told the story for both teams: 26 minutes for which I was able to watch this game

This game was hideous. Not necessarily soccer wise: Thierry Henry will be fun to watch when he’s pushing a walker around on opposing half, and this was a very competitive match, from what I saw. But I couldn’t even make it past 26 minutes of this game before I had to give up and turn it off. Between Je-Vaughn Watson’s karate kick of Tim Cahill, the referee’s less-than-stellar control of the game, and players, fans and coaches alike going insane showing their indignation at every whistle, it was absolutely painful.

Sporting Kansas City 2 – 0 Columbus Crew

Stat that told the story for SKC: the ability to switch the ball in one pass

skc9

First, an aside: re-capping the national TV game from NBCSN is next to impossible, but for a good reason. Kyle Martino on the broadcast team does such a fantastic job breaking down the tactics of the match, that it’s incredibly difficult for me to pick out anything that hasn’t been said yet. So I’m going to just roll with something he mentioned, and that Matthew Doyle also mentioned in his weekly column. One of the major differences between KC and Columbus is Matt Besler’s ability to switch the field of play with one ball. It’s an ability that led straight to the first goal (buildup pictured above according to Opta), and it’s one that USMNT fans have to hope pays off in the World Cup. Columbus, for all their admirable qualities, don’t really have a player with the quality to hit that ball. Federico Higuain can do it, and Wil Trapp will from time to time, but with SKC if it isn’t Besler switching fields, it’s Graham Zusi or Benny Feilhaber or Seth Sinovic. All in all, they’re just a more complete team at the moment.

Stat that told the story for Columbus: Jairo Arrieta’s actions

clb9

There’s one other really big difference between the Crew and Sporting KC that spells out why Columbus doesn’t measure up, at least not yet. Jairo Arrieta plays as a lone striker for Columbus. This probably isn’t the greatest role for him, because he’s at his best when combining with others. Sometimes this works well with him and Higuain, but sometimes (like Sunday), he ends up isolated and completely ineffective. Seriously, his action that was closest to the goal against SKC was still about 30 yards away from the endline. The Crew did have some solid moves, generally involving Josh Williams overlapping and sending in a dangerous cross, but the lack of a quality striker really did Columbus in.

Chivas USA 1 – 4 Houston Dynamo

Stat that told the story for Houston: interchanging midfield in the new formation

hou9

I’m gonna play a little trivia game here and see if you can guess which heat map belongs to which midfielder from Sunday’s game for Houston. The telecast called Dom Kinnear’s formation a 4-3-3, but it looked a whole lot like a 4-1-4-1 to me, taken straight out of Jay Heaps’ playbook from last season. I really liked the move: the Dynamo have multiple midfielders who can tuck in or pose a threat out wide, and Giles Barnes and Will Bruin just haven’t worked well together up top. So, might as well drop Barnes into the midfield. It was only Chivas, but the early returns were pretty tough to argue with: the midfield dominated every facet of the game from winning balls to creating chances. We’ll see if the Dynamo stick to the formation, but I liked the innovation from Kinnear. By the way, the answer from top left to bottom right: Davis, Garcia, Driver, Barnes, Carrasco.

Stat that told the story for Chivas: first half midfield struggles: 16/19 recoveries/interceptions in their own half

I’ve written about Chivas a few times in recent weeks, focusing mostly on the midfield. Against the LA Galaxy, they got run over and never stood a chance. Against San Jose, they held their own and really made it a game (seeing the Quakes’ struggles against Vancouver this weekend makes that seem like less of an accomplishment). Against the Dynamo on Sunday, it was back to getting run over. The five midfielders put together a total of 19 recoveries + interceptions in the first half, but 16 of them were in their own half and the other three were miles from the attacking goal. Basically, the Goats couldn’t make up any ground and just got pushed around by the more talented Houston midfield. On the bright side: the second half started better, until another goalkeeper red card finished off any Chivas hopes at a comeback.

PWP Week 7: Zusi has a Sporting impact as Moor Rapidly manages threat of Earthquakes

Week 7 got an early start with a first for New York this year – a win. Was there anything else that stood out this week, and who managed the top spot?

To kick off my PWP for Week 7, and only week 7, here’s my traditional diagram showing the highs and lows and everyone in between..

PWP Strategic Composite Index Week 7

The Capt. Obvious here is the 4-nil thrashing that Sporting KC put on Montreal; if there is a Head Coach on the hot seat, in the early days of 2014, it’s likely to be Frank Klopas; wow…

What may be surprising to you is that Dom Dwyer did not get my PWP Attacking Player of the Week; why?

Because most good strikers score goals – what’s critical in my view is the amount of set-up and overall interaction that goes with creating those goal scoring opportunities.  And as much as I’d like to favor Dom Dwyer, he had just 58 touches with 11 passes, 5 of them unsuccessful for a 54% passing accuracy…  good but not great in my view.

Other teams getting worthy results this week were Seattle, Real, and Dallas in addition to New York, hopeful of taking three points but somewhat satisfied with one point are New England, San Jose and DC United; disappointed with draws were most probably Chicago, Colorado and Columbus.

In considering Sporting KC scored three, plus got an own-goal by Montreal, how did their Six Steps in the PWP Process play out?  Below are the overall outputs:

PWP Attacking Process Sporting KC Week 7

PWP Attacking Process Sporting KC Week 7

In case you missed it one of my newer focus areas this year is passing accuracy.

For now I think there is great value in recognizing how much influence 81% passing accuracy has across the entire pitch; even more so within the Final Third.

For this game Sporting were successful in completing ~71% of their passes in the Final third; that accuracy led to having 58% of their shots taken go on goal and a 57% success rating in having those shots on goal score goals.

In simple terms it almost didn’t matter where the shots were taken that scored (2 outside the 6 yard box and 1 outside the 18 yard box) – plus an own goal (from between the corner of the 6 and 18 yard box).

To get a better picture on that relationship between passing, penetration and goal scoring you may want to read this latest on Expected Wins.

For now here’s my PWP Attacking Player of Week 7:  Graham Zusi.

PWP Attacking Player of Week 7

Some pretty comprehensive play by Graham Zusi.  His volume of touches, passing accuracy, and work within the midfield (in defense) as well as his accuracy (final third) was crucial in creating scoring opportunities for Sporting.  What speaks more to me about Graham is his continued growth in playing on both sides of the ball.  That rigor and discipline will do well to help him and his teammates in the World Cup this year.

Of note is that Graham offered up five successful crosses; that’s more than the per game average for all these teams in MLS this year: Colorado, Chivas, DC United, FC Dallas, New England, Portland, Philadelphia, Real and Vancouver.

By the way, the most successful team in delivering crosses this year is LA; with a 34.06% success rate.

Toronto is next at 32.21% while Sporting is 3rd best at 31.69%.  Bottom of the league in offering up successful crosses per game is Portland at just 16.34%.

Moving on to the Defending PWP team of Week 7:

PWP Defending Process Colorado Week 7

PWP Defending Process Colorado Week 7

This one may have come as a surprise but in looking at the attack of San Jose it’s no wonder Colorado looks this good when defending against them.

All told San Jose had no shots on goal and no goals scored with minimal penetration generating just 6 shots, 2 of which were blocked.

Bottom line is that Colorado basically snuffed out just about everything San Jose had to offer.

So who is my PWP Defending Player of the Week?

All told O’Neill, Piermayr and Klute all had great games with O’Neill completing 49 of 52 passes playing right fullback.  Hard choice this game by my award goes to Drew Moor.

In a league where top flight Center-Backs are needed, Moor did a great job controlling the 18 yard box against a team that loves to cross the ball.

San Jose completed just 5 of 23 crosses – and for a guy like Wondolowski, who lives of crosses, Moor did a stand-up job.

Here’s the highlighted statistics I picked out for him this game.

PWP Defending Player of Week 7

In Closing…

Week 7 has come and gone and the chase continues; some look to be dropping back a bit further while others rise to the top on a regular basis.

Next up I’ll get into the Composite Index for all games played to date.

For now know that it’s getting pretty packed up top – but clarity on the five playoff spots for each conference will take a while to sort itself out, as it should.

Best, Chris

How it Happened: Week Five

Another great week of MLS games went down this past weekend. Even though I didn’t have the pleasure of watching all 90 minutes of Cascadia bliss from Portland (I do my best to mix up which teams I watch for this post, and this wasn’t a Seattle or Portland week), there were still plenty of solid rivalry matches to go around. Without further ado, here’s how it happened for six teams last weekend:

Houston Dynamo 1 – 4 FC Dallas

Stat that told the story for Houston: Ricardo Salazar’s heat map

hou5

If you don’t recognize Ricardo Salazar’s name from the Houston roster, you aren’t alone. He was the referee for this one, and while I refuse to rip on officials because they have a really difficult job, it’s impossible to deny the influence he had on this game (image above shows all the fouls called – three of which turned directly into goals). I actually don’t think Salazar did a terrible job given the circumstances: this game was a true rivalry match where both teams came out and played super physically from the opening whistle. But Houston and Dallas were neck-and-neck until the red card was doled out to David Horst, and the Dynamo almost immediately capitulated once they went down a man. Sure, the red card was a debatable decision, but Houston has to show better composure after going down a man.

Stat that told the story for Dallas: 11 set pieces taken by Mauro Diaz and Michel

It would be easy to pick a stat from the last half hour of this one, when Houston had basically given up and the Dallas midfield had full control of the park. But what’s arguably more impressive from this one was how Dallas was still in this game for the first hour, despite being on the road to a tough opponent in the Dynamo. Truthfully, FCD hadn’t been playing particularly well; Houston was successful in limiting space for Diaz and they had control of the midfield. But even playing mediocre, Dallas had created a number of really good chances and a goal, all from set pieces. Both Diaz and Michel are wizards over a dead ball, and any set piece in the attacking half is a chance waiting to happen for the Hoops.

Sporting KC 0 – 0 Real Salt Lake

Stat that told the story for Kansas City: 16 key passes

kc5

For me, this stat/image is more about where the key passes took place than how many of them there were. KC and RSL have a bit of a history now, and the teams definitely know what to expect when they faceoff. I thought Sporting did a really good job of a couple things: (1) pressing RSL into turnovers and (2) attacking the Salt Lake diamond midfield. I’ll talk more about #1 below, so here’s my take on KC’s attack. They created most of their shots or chances by either playing wide around the narrow midfield or by bypassing it entirely and going over the top. While it didn’t result in any goals for Sporting, that was more of a function of RSL’s great goalkeeping and KC’s mediocre finishing. Overall, I liked the gameplan of Peter Vermes this weekend.

Stat that told the story for Salt Lake: 257/282 (91.1%) of completed passes were in the first two thirds of the field

Real Salt Lake is a possession team, and everyone knows it. They try to pass all over the field, and when they’re at their best they control the ball into and around the penalty area before getting chances. In this one, Kansas City really let them have it with their high-pressing defense. RSL couldn’t find much space anywhere in the middle third of the field, let alone the attacking third, leading Salt Lake to play mostly in their own half. This was particularly the case early in the game: in the games first 40 minutes, 76/113 (67%) of RSL’s completed passes were in the defensive half of the field. It was a bit surprising that a veteran team like RSL didn’t seem prepared for this one, but given the makeshift lineup Jeff Cassar fielded, a scoreless draw has to be seen as a point gained rather than two lost in Utah.

 

Chivas USA 0 – 3 LA Galaxy

Stat that told the story for LA: 131 completed passes in the center of the field by midfielders

lag5

 

Bruce Arena did something that was pretty unexpected this Sunday, deploying a diamond midfield of four nominally central midfielders: Juninho, Stefan Ishizaki, Marcelo Sarvas and Baggio Husidic. The move was a clear message that despite their best attempts, the Galaxy had been unable thus far to find any decent wide play in the midfield opposite Landon Donovan. Instead of trying yet another option out there, LA played their four best overall midfielders in a diamond, and instructed them to figure it out as they went. As the scoreline suggests, this was hugely successful as the Galaxy just overran Chivas in the midfield time and again. The starting midfield completed 131 passes in the center of the field compared to the Goats’ midfield’s 79, and that’s to say nothing of the 2 goals on 8 shots that the midfielders also added. As I’ll note in the next paragraph, Chivas’ midfield is hardly a force to be reckoned with, but early signs on the diamond midfield are strictly positive.

Stat that told the story for Chivas: 1 weird starting lineup

OK, this isn’t a stat, but it’s hard to find anything in particular to focus on when most of the game was Chivas getting run over. There were some decent attacking combinations when the Goats were able to possess the ball and get forward, but those times were few and far between. From looking at the team that Wilmer Cabrera put on the field, it’s hard to imagine a much better result. I know the general narrative surrounding Chivas is that the club is much improved since Cabrera’s come onboard, but this is still a weirdly constructed roster. Trying to fit this team of very few fullbacks and a ton of attack-minded midfielders into a 4-4-2 is quite a task, which is why this week’s lineup looked so weird. The strange fits included featuring midfielder Eric Avila and centerback Andrew Jean-Baptiste at fullback, and Agustin Pelletieri* and mostly attack-minded Carlos Alvarez in central midfield.

*I think Pelletieri is supposed to be more of a holding midfielder, but all I’ve seen of him is an early red card vs. Vancouver and getting run over by LA. Too early to pass judgment, but he wasn’t impressive this weekend.

Agree with my assessments? Think I’m an idiot? I always appreciate feedback. @MLSAtheist

D.C. United: Shooters, Providers and What?

As you might have seen from our twitter stream, I kind of wrote an article on DC United last night. Then I scrapped it. Then, Alex Olshansky dropped this brilliant mess concerning Michael Bradley, and I was like “that’s basically what I was doing… on a team level!” So it kind of nudged me to at least put forth an effort to finish it…only not really.

What I did was basically compiled stats for four “core” attacking players on three different clubs. Two of those clubs (Sporting KC and Houston Dynamo) have shown consistent success the last two years, while D.C. United…well, you know, they have kind of stunk the place up.

The rest I submit to you without further inane commentary.

 

D.C. United

DC-Four

SH=shots, KP=Key Passes
SH/KP = Shots/key passes ratio
ShCPG =Shots created per 90 minutes played
%ofTeam= the total percentage of the teams shots that the individual created

 

 

 

Houston Dynamo

Hou-Four

SH=shots, KP=Key Passes
SH/KP = Shots/key passes ratio
ShCPG =Shots created per 90 minutes played
%ofTeam= the total percentage of the teams shots that the individual created

 

 

 

Sporting Kansas City

SportingKC-Four

SH=shots, KP=Key Passes
SH/KP = Shots/key passes ratio
ShCPG =Shots created per 90 minutes played
%ofTeam= the total percentage of the teams shots that the individual created

MLS Possession with Purpose Week 4: The best (and worst) performances

The beauty and maybe the curse of Possession with Purpose (the weekly update) is that it completely ignores past performance and only gives you a view on how things went this weekend.

For me, I like that, as it helps point out how well a team performs against their counterparts as a snapshot in time. The value in seeing that weekly effort then has more grist when viewing those positive and negatives in a cumulative effort week to week.

So without further ado here’s how the teams stood toe to toe in Week 4:

PWP COMPOSITE STRATEGIC INDEX FOR WEEK 4

Observations:
Considering the complete blowout that Real Salt Lake had against a supposed “elite” Toronto team, it’s no wonder those guys headed the composite Index this week.

Like many things, there is a tendency to over-embellish on occasion when things look really good for a team early in the season, and those reminders on how far FC Dallas fell last year – from first to eighth in about 3 months – you just can never tell how good a team is until they go up against the likes of a team like Real Salt Lake.

Last year we saw Salt Lake lose out on both the Open Cup and the MLS Championship Cup – they have been consistent in their consistency for a consistently long time; Toronto may have done well in the first couple of games but as noted in an editorial of mine the other day, the word ‘elite’ really doesn’t belong to a team like this just yet.

In taking a further look at this Index, note again how far down the rung Portland is; it indeed was a close match and there were many chances for the Timbers, but an Index like this points out that the weaknesses in defending far outweigh their strengths in attack. If the Timbers are to turn this around (quickly) then a run of clean sheets is in order. No better way to test that than in their next game when they host the Sounders at Providence Park. If their blood doesn’t boil up for this game, it may be a very long season indeed for Portland.

So after seeing the Composite winner, who actually took top honors in the overall team attacking department? You may be surprised that it wasn’t Real Salt Lake—lest it’s forgotten, the Index above points out the overall difference between Attacking PWP and Defending PWP.

Here’s the PWP Attacking Index:

PWP STRATEGIC ATTACKING INDEX WEEK 4

Observations:

First out of the blocks this week is Sporting Kansas City – and yes; they did pull a Lazurus this week by scoring the late winner in stoppage time. When they scored their goals doesn’t matter to this Index, as it is context neutral in that respect. The fact that they came from behind to defeat a worthy Rapids team speaks more to the overall outcome and all the compelling work that went with it.

And yes – their defense gave up two goals. So, no – you won’t find them in the top ten in the PWP Defending Index.

Other teams doing well in attack this week were FC Dallas, Columbus (also with a late winner) and Chivas USA (who lost 2 points by giving up a late equalizer to New York).

By the way – that’s a pretty good run so far for Dallas and Columbus; Higuain should probably be on your fantasy team, as should Diaz; as a Timbers supporter it was hard to acknowledge that it was a blindingly good ‘turn and strike’ Diaz had against Portland yesterday.  It’s like Diaz turned on a dime and struck it home – unfortunately it appeared that dime was in Pa Modou Kah’s pocket.

As for Real Salt Lake – no surprise they are in the top three given their 3-nil win against Toronto.

Perhaps another surprise for some is DC United being in the top 5 – if you watched the game, like me, there were moments where DC really looked good in attack. A 2-2 draw was worthy and should give Olsen some breathing room for a wee bit longer; note – having a passing accuracy of 93.50% in that game ‘will’ influence the Index just a wee bit.

On to the internal process data for Sporting and the PWP Attacking Player of the Week:

PWP STRATEGIC ATTACKING PROCESS WEEK 4

Observations:

Critical data in the PWP analysis hinges on (but doesn’t solely rely upon) Possession percentage, passing accuracy and the ability to leverage those two primary statistics in ‘creating and scoring goals’; Sporting were 4th best in accuracy, 2nd best in possession, and 2nd best in scoring goals based upon shots on goal.

Those outputs had strong influence in them being top of the Index this week.

The individual team leader in Possession percentage this week was Columbus (shaded somewhat given the red card to Traore) – Passing accuracy was tops with DC United at a whopping 93.50% while Chivas USA made the best of their chances by scoring one goal from one shot on goal while the other five were blocked…

Graham Zusi is my top PWP Attacking Player of the Week #4:

PWP ATTACKING PLAYER OF THE WEEK 4

Observations:

If you had Graham Zusi in your Fantasy team you should have gotten some pretty good points from him – I don’t, so I have no clue how well he really did.

It’s not hard to see how outputs like that correlated to a big three points in Colorado.

And even more compelling was his motor – he had two interceptions, one clearance and two recoveries in the defending half – some good evidence that he played on both sides of the pitch today.  Saborio will probably get all the notoriety this week – so be it. Sometimes things work out that way…

On to the defending part of this game. Recall RSL were top in the overall Composite Index – here’s why:

PWP STRATEGIC DEFENDING INDEX WEEK 4

Observations:

A clean sheet is a clean sheet is a clean sheet – and when you can go a whole game without conceding one foul in your own defending third, it’s no wonder Toronto were held scoreless. Even more so when considering how many PK’s have already been awarded this year (16) {is that a record already?}.

Bottom line here is the bottom line: Toronto, a team not known for liking to possess the ball, did not really possess the ball, and indeed had just 3 shots on goal with 15 shots taken. Playing counter against Real simply doesn’t work – just ask the Timbers of 2013.

Here’s how Real Salt Lake scored in the PWP Defending Process:

PWP STRATEGIC DEFENDING PROCESS WEEK 4

Observations:

Pretty compelling – but what stands out most to me is not the Real Salt Lake defense as a whole, but rather that Toronto have yet to break the 70% Passing accuracy percentage total this year – they had 67% accuracy in Seattle, 59% accuracy against DC United and 54% accuracy against RSL. If anything, perhaps those first two wins for Toronto were more of an oddity than a trend of things to come? Guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.

One other, more devious consideration, is that Toronto are simply refusing to make attempts at engaging a possession-based approach. Instead one might offer that, if the conditions aren’t right for a counter-attack, they simply just push it back into the opposing teams’ half any way they can, and then ‘wait’ for the right moment to engage an attack when the opponent is a bit more disorganized.

I’ll have to watch for that a bit more closely – and given Nelson has been in Europe for a while, he may have picked up a few things that are a wee bit different, tactical wise, than how things have been played here in the States.

The PWP Defending Player of the Week was Kyle Beckerman – and here’s why:

PWP DEFENDING PLAYER OF THE WEEK 4

Observations:

Gotta love that picture – anyhow – some very compelling information here with Kyle on both sides of the pitch – he’s in the central defending midfield role with perhaps the most responsibility of anyone on RSL, and here he is with 2 key passes, 80% accuracy in passing, with 6 interceptions and 14 recoveries.

Bottom line this week is that Kyle Beckerman basically ate Toronto for lunch.

All that said, there is always next week, Toronto; for now this game and others already played this year by Beckerman do him well in his opportunities to continue to play for the USMNT.

In closing…

In about a day or two I’ll be offering up the Cumulative PWP Composite Index and all that goes with it.

All the best,
Chris