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

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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

ASA Fantasy League Update Round 1: Gotta Have Higuain

MLS Fantasy players, it’s that time of the week to make your transfers–if you haven’t already–and get that starting XI ready for the weekend. Obviously the big winners of the week are basically anyone who owned either Mauro Rosales, Mario Diaz—or to go in a different direction, less ‘M’ related direction—Federico Higuain. Didn’t have any of those picks? Not a big deal, now is a team to reload and get cleaned up. We’ve got round 2 this weekend with some interesting match-ups.

Here is the dream XI for last week:

DreamTeam-week1

And here are the current league standings as of round 1.

# Team   Manager    RD   %AARd    TOT     Team$     Captain    Points
1 Khal Jogo Bazzo 79 1.927 79 119.3 Rosales 12
2 This Stuff Kicks Cris Pannullo 75 1.829 75 120.7 Keane 4
2 Major League Clowns Tom Worville 75 1.829 75 118.8 Higuain 22
4 Bridgeburners FC Chris Gluck 74 1.805 74 120.2 Valeri 4
5 Cal Poly FC Emil Barycki 73 1.780 73 115.2 Higuain 22
6 En Fuego e margolis 70 1.707 70 120.3 Nagbe 6
7 LingeringwithIntent Jason Onorati 69 1.683 69 119.1 Higuain 22
8 The Other Higuain Jacob Beckett 64 1.561 64 119.7 Urruti 4
8 A.S. Trincamp Martin F 64 1.561 64 119.3 Higuian 22
10 DallasTilIDie Benjamin Hester 62 1.512 62 116.6 Keane 4
11 Real Sporting Utd FC Eric J. Walcott 60 1.463 60 118 Valeri 4
12 WOMBATZ Casey Cannon 59 1.439 59 114.6 Higuain 22
13 NotToBeFeared Harrison Crow 53 1.293 53 119.6 Keane 4
14 PasarChino! Jason Poon 48 1.171 48 120.2 Higuain 22
15 Amrodg Mick Lathrop 44 1.073 44 116.2 Martins 4
16 PDX Hoosiers Brad Snook 39 0.951 39 120.2 Nagbe 6
16 Draft Code United Louis Pardillo 39 0.951 39 119.5 Beiler 0
18 PortlandatHeart Forrest Ellis 34 0.829 34 118.7 Valeri 4
19 Tootie Urruti Drew Olsen 33 0.805 33 118.6 Magee 0
20 letskillrobots Bill Vegas 22 0.537 22 117.6 Magee 0
 Averages 56.8 1.385  56.8 118.62 9.4

RD: Round Points

%AARd: Percentage Above Average Round Points

Team$: How much the team spent on their players

A quick thought—and my heart goes out to our own PasarChino! for this one—you gotta start Rimando, buddy! You sat the highest point total in the league. Ouch! As for our crew here at ASA, most of us (Jacob, Drew, Jason, myself and poor Bill) did okay, with the most notable stand out of the bunch being Cris Pannullo and a bit farther down Chris Gluck. We’ll head to the next round and see if those two can distance themselves from the rest of the ASA community.

Again, this is for an undisclosed, not-yet-valued prize that is available to all whom play. It could be a Meatloaf interactive blu-ray, it could be a soccer ball, it could be a scarf of your choosing. Matty might spend a couple hours on Skype teaching you how to use R. Who knows what we’ll come up with. The only promise is that it won’t be terrible. Code to enter is 9593-1668, should you care to join in the fun/recklessness that is fantasy sports.

The three teams that are noticeably absent this round are Columbus Crew, DC United and LA Galaxy. I’m sure this will kind of cause a bit of reshuffling to occur as many, including myself, had been sporting Robbie Keane as their captain, and it will most certainly require some movement along the bench. But this is where you earn the coveted prize. No, not the Sheva, though I’m sure we can come up with an equally inspiring annual trophy name.

I’m sure you all have better advice/thoughts than what I have for MLS fantasy, so I’ll point you towards a couple of sites that have some stats and feed back on last week.

– Mr. Fantasy, Ben Jata, recaps the hap’s with round 1.

Big D Soccer does a nice preview of not just Dallas FC players but also some thoughts on MLS as a whole.

– Sticking with the Texas theme, Dynamo Theory has some fantastic numbers/stuff that deserves recognition for their work. Great job by TraviTheRabbi and I would say give him a follow on twitter but I don’t see any such thing connected to his account, and that makes me a sad panda. Anyways…go read the article here. Solid, solid stuff.

I leave you with the current top-50 hottest players being selected as of 10:30 last night. I’ve equipped you to make some good decisions. Now go forth and conquer. The catch is that only one of you will win. Anyone have any top secrets for how they plan on winning the league? I hear finding people that stop goals and in return score goals are really good to have? Any other methods or suggestions?

Player  Team   Pos   Selected   Price   Round   Total 
Sarkodie HOU DEF 33.9% $6.6 9 9
Remick SEA DEF 33.8% $4.1 8 8
Fagundez NE MID 28.9% $8.0 3 3
Yedlin SEA DEF 26.0% $7.5 7 7
Kennedy CHV GKP 25.6% $4.5 4 4
Fondy CHV FWD 24.9% $4.0 0 0
Rimando RSL GKP 23.3% $6.1 15 15
Magee CHI FWD 21.5% $10.5 0 0
Bruin HOU FWD 21.2% $8.2 15 15
Zusi KC MID 20.6% $11.0 3 3
Plata RSL FWD 20.1% $7.0 9 9
Griffiths COL DEF 19.3% $4.0 0 0
Moor COL DEF 18.6% $7.0 0 0
Collin KC DEF 18.0% $10.0 3 3
Loyd DAL DEF 17.9% $5.5 0 0
Jewsbury POR DEF 17.7% $6.5 2 2
Nagbe POR MID 17.1% $9.5 3 3
Juninho LA MID 17.0% $7.0 3 3
Keane LA FWD 17.0% $10.9 2 2
Cronin SJ MID 17.0% $6.5 0 0
Porter DC MID 16.7% $5.0 1 1
Ricketts POR GKP 16.7% $6.0 5 5
Harrington POR DEF 16.5% $7.5 3 3
Jimenez CLB MID 16.0% $5.5 6 6
Rosales CHV MID 14.7% $7.6 12 12
Hall HOU GKP 14.3% $6.0 8 8
Valeri POR MID 14.1% $10.5 2 2
Wondolowski SJ FWD 13.6% $9.5 0 0
Higuaín CLB FWD 13.5% $10.5 11 11
Burling CHV DEF 12.7% $5.1 9 9
McNamara CHV MID 12.6% $4.6 7 7
Ashe HOU DEF 12.6% $7.1 11 11
Malki MTL MID 12.6% $4.0 0 0
Donovan LA MID 12.5% $11.0 7 7
Moffat DAL MID 12.2% $5.9 0 0
Palmer-Brown KC DEF 11.6% $4.0 0 0
Defoe TOR FWD 11.6% $10.5 0 0
Horst HOU DEF 11.5% $5.6 8 8
Melia CHV GKP 11.1% $3.0 0 0
Parke DC DEF 10.7% $6.9 2 2
Martins SEA FWD 10.7% $9.5 2 2
Bradley TOR MID 10.4% $10.0 0 0
McBean LA FWD 10.0% $5.0 0 0
E. Miller MTL DEF 9.8% $4.5 2 2
MacMath PHI GKP 9.6% $5.0 3 3
Manneh VAN FWD 9.6% $6.5 1 1
Urruti POR FWD 9.4% $7.0 2 2
Messoudi MTL MID 9.0% $4.0 0 0
Henry NY FWD 8.9% $11.0 0 0
Franklin DC DEF 8.8% $7.9 2 2

Season Preview: Houston Dynamo

Since the club arrived in Houston Dominic Kinnear has built himself an empire, but not one built off big names or flashy play. Playing on the smallest pitch in MLS, the club is built on sound fundamentals. Defense might not necessarily win games but it can secure points on the road. Combine that with the fortress that has been the Orange’s BBVA Compass stadium–where they went an MLS record 36 home games without a loss stretching multiple seasons–and Houston can get points anywhere consistently. They’ve made the playoffs 7 out of their 8 years since arriving in Space City, so the goal of 2014 isn’t just to make the playoffs. It’s about getting back to the MLS Cup and taking it back for the first time since 2007.

2013 Starting XI

HoustonXI

Players In Players Out
D David Horst Trade (Portland) F Brian Ching Retired
D A.J. Cochran MLS SuperDraft M Bobby Boswell Out of Contract
M Tony Cascio Trade (DC) F Calen Carr Out of Contract
F Mark Sherrod Trade (Chicago) D Mike Chabala Option Declined
GK Michael Lisch Loan (Stoke City) M Alex Dixon Option Declined
F Cam Weaver Option Declined

Roster churn: Houston returns 82.84% of its minutes played from 2013 (5th most in MLS and 4th most in the Eastern Conference)

2014 Preview

HOUINFO

The core of Houston has always been built around their defense, but this season may prove to be a bit of a departure from that theme. The club chose to decline Bobby Boswell‘s contract and instead went with a rotating duo of veterans at centerback to be paired with Jamaican stalwart Jermaine Taylor. Eric Brunner and David Horst, both 28, aren’t the sexiest names in regards to defense, but then again defense is generally the least sexy place on the pitch. When you consider the fact that this is normally a strength, falling backwards now to Brunner and Horst is probably a less than appealing subject for those in Houston.

Hou-RosterThat said, I established a rule two years ago. I have a series of rules that I generally come up with in dealing with life in general. These rules aren’t so much rules as just helpful guidlines that generally keep me from more problems. High on that list is to never, ever bet against Dominic Kinnear. (Right after never betting at all because it’s a misdemeanor in Washington). The guy just knows A) how to get to the playoffs and B) how to put together a roster. Probably in the opposite order, though.

The cheaper tandem along the backline helps them conserve cash while still providing depth and coverage at an important position. Considering the club failed to make the CCL this year, they were faced with a smaller budget to keep the players they had and still find reasonable depth for the season. There is, of course, the question about how big of a defensive drop off they are going to experience from Boswell to someone like Brunner. But considering our numbers have Tally Hall as one of the top goal keepers in the league, and they don’t even pay him anywhere near it, the Dynamo should remain a top defensive team.

While everyone likes to rant and rave about Brad Davis and his left foot, as the career leader in both assists and goals for the club, it’s easy to pass over Oscar Boniek Garcia the other major attacking threat from the midfield. OBG led the club in key passes with 76 and added 18 total shots, as well.

Another one of those is lesser heralded moves was Alexander Lopez being added from Honduras. Lopez, a member of the U-23 national team and possibly an option for the Honduras World cup team, was brought into the club last summer. Though Lopez was mostly invisible to the scoring operations taking place in Houston last season, Garcia has taken him under his wing this off-season and is helping to groom his fellow countryman.

Adding to the fire that is burning bright with the under-appreciated pieces that Houston has assembled, there is plenty of talk around what another season with Warren Creavalle might mean to the Orange. He’s a Swiss-army-knife-like defensive piece in a love-child-like mix of Brad Evans and Geoff Cameron.* The former Georgia product is growing by leaps and bounds over the last 12 months. He may not be a clear cut choice to start at this point for the Dynamo’s XI, but he’s going to be the first player off the bench to fill into just about any position in the midfield or defensive back line, and that flexibility has huge value over an entire season.

*Editor’s note: The editor is just going to let this sit there.

The remaining question is how Will Bruin performs in 2014. The dancing bear should be good for about 10 goals or more this season. He’s put up near 3 shots per 90 minutes played each of the past two years, and while those chances becoming goals is dependent more on location, he’s seen a bit of bad luck strike him at times where, in the year previous, those balls bounced his way.

Paired along side English journeyman Giles Barnes–who looks to have perhaps found a home this past year, scoring 9 goals on 97 shots through 2500 minutes–Houston has multiple wonder-strikers from distance. It’s one thing to be lucky; it’s another to find goals because of the courage to continue to fire the shots.

The Dynamo found a way to keep the group of players they recruited for 2013 together for another run of it in 2014, despite declining payroll and allocation funds. They’ve got youth on their side with a touch of growing strength, added to one of the most brilliant coaches in the league managing them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a top-3 finish with a boring run through the schedule. The other side of things is that they’re going to have a tough time of it with the likes of Philadelphia, Toronto, DC and even Columbus all being improved sides, that they could end up on the outside looking in when the playoffs come rolling around. It’s definitely a tough year to be in the East.

Crowd Sourcing Placement

4th place in Eastern Conference; 75 of the 404 5th-place votes (18.56%), with 207 of 404 (51.23%) thinking Houston will make the playoffs this season.