MLS Possession with Purpose Week 13 – Plenty of surprises…

Some stunners and bummers this week for plenty of soccer supporters across North America; who’da thought Montreal would get a clean sheet against New England and Real Salt Lake would get completely schooled by Seattle…

Others like Philadelphia reinforced they do not want to be a bottom dweller, as some suspect this year, by beating up on Chivas, and DC United took advantage of a depleted Sporting KC to take three in DC.

For sure this week, like a few others this season, reinforced why games need to be played.

So who was tops this week in Attacking PWP (APWP) – it may surprise you – (Columbus Crew) it did me for a start, but in review, the overall data supports the basic intent of PWP –

    • A documented method for measuring team performance from my six step process.
    • An index that ranks teams for their performance based on this method.
    • The index, while excluding points, comes close to matching results in the MLS league table.

So here’s a look at the top five teams in APWP this past week and some comments to follow for consideration:

Top 5 APWP Week 13
Top 5 APWP Week 13

A couple of things…

Note the Completed passes in the Final Third vs Completed Passes across the Entire Pitch (4th column from the left).  Three teams in the top 5 APWP this week all faced teams who attempted to bunker in; how can we tell that?

By the lower percentage of penetration versus completed passes for Columbus (13.80%); LA Galaxy (14.48%) and Philadelphia Union (16.30%).  And when viewing other teams who have played against these teams the results are similar…

When Seattle played Chivas earlier this year they had just 13.94% of their total passes completed in the final third; against Toronto they did slightly better at 18%.

Columbus versus Chicago was 16.59%, LA versus Chivas was 15%, FC Dallas versus Chivas was 15%, Portland versus Chivas was 14% – so there is clearly a pattern.

It’s probably not as obvious with Toronto as Chicago or Chivas but a realistic assumption can be made that some outputs in PWP will help indicate what pattern of defense a team might encounter.

So how about the attacking portion that really matters – shots on goal and goals scored?

In the case of Columbus and LA both hit the magical 100% and that is what put them in the top five of APWP.

That’s not a bad thing; on the contrary it actually reinforces in my mind how fragile the game of soccer can be when it comes to mistakes and their impacts on the game.

Consider the overwhelming domination that Seattle had this past weekend; their inability to be ‘top of the heap’ in APWP is not a negative on the team.

Where the complete domination shows up is when you add in the Defending PWP…

Defending PWP Week 13
Defending PWP Week 13

It’s pretty clear here that three teams stood out from the rest; Colorado (3-nil clean sheet), Philadelphia (3-nil clean sheet) and Seattle (4-nil clean sheet).  And that defensive dominance will carryover to the Composite PWP Index shown a bit later.

For now though take a look at the #4 team in DPWP – Montreal Impact – many might have considered that 2-nil win against New England a surprise…

But here’s an interesting tidbit of information about New England in Composite PWP this year.

At home New England perform better than their opponent in APWP 2.42 to 1.91 while on the road their APWP is 2.24 versus their opponent APWP is 2.44; in other words New England are far less productive performing on the road than at home.

Given that, and Montreal showing tendencies in performing better at home, perhaps it isn’t such a big surprise after all?

Here’s the differences between home and away for all teams in MLS at this time:

Home versus Away - Who is better and worse in MLS after Week 13
Home versus Away – Who is better and worse in MLS after Week 13

Bottom line here is that Chivas USA are clearly (far right amber bar) much much better in overall APWP on the road than at home; is it any wonder given their average audience is about 5 people… just kidding…

On the other side we already know about New England – but other teams not liking the road, so much in team performance, are Houston, San Jose, Colorado, Real Salt Lake and Toronto.

Road warriors, though not dominate / winning road warriors also include Chicago Fire (don’t forget that 5-4 win in Red Bull Arena), Philadelphia, Columbus and Portland.

The other takeaway here is how strong and equally consistent are Vancouver and LA Galaxy; there’s almost no difference in their PWP on the road versus at home.

One could argue the same for Portland but with them giving away so many PK’s this year, plus Red Cards (to begin with), there really isn’t value in offering up consistency with the Timbers until after they start playing mistake free football.

In closing, here’s the top to bottom in Week 13 Composite PWP…

Composite PWP Index Week 13
Composite PWP Index Week 13

A few final thoughts and an update of sorts in general… 

Portland did quite well in scoring goals in the run of play this week, and they really proved how effective they can play in direct attacking – Adi has added value; when – not it – but when they get mistake free in the back-four they should push their way up the table…

That might be looking at the Timbers through rose colored glasses, so be it… it is what it is.

With respect to my weekly Attacking and Defending PWP Players of the Week; sadly I can longer offer up these awards.  There is simply too much time needed to dig through the new MLS Chalkboard to come up with relevant individual player statistics to support one player over another.

On the one hand some of the new format works well; on the other hand it has completely hampered additional, detailed, defensive analysis…  notice that ‘blocked crosses’ is no longer a statistic that is made publicly available.

Finally, and I’m a bit jazzed about this; I got a phone call late last week from the folks organizing the World Conference on Science and Soccer, asking me to present my Major League Soccer Possession with Purpose Index analysis.  The better part of last week and early this week I’ve been putting the finishing touches to that presentation.

When I get it done and the Conference is completed I will post it here on my blog site.  Really looking forward to listening in to all the presentations.

Best, Chris

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