What did Philadelphia do different in beating New England this past weekend?

What, if anything, did Philadelphia Union do that was different from their historical averages so far this year?

If you’re reading this article first – you may want to check out this article on Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP) Predictability Index, results for Week 16 in Major League Soccer, first to see why I am offering it.

There are many supplemental data points to PWP – here’s a few general observations / potential difference makers I see after reviewing the data I collect:

When Philadelpia has won, in the past, their opponent possesses the ball slightly more.

Philadelphia defeated Sporting KC on the road where SKC had ~66% of the ball and in this last game New England had ~57% of the ball.

The only home win Philadelphia have is against New England where the Union dominated possession (~60%).

The other road game was against Chivas USA and, like everybody else in MLS, the Union dominated possession (~64%). – Hence that ‘slightly more’ percentage is deceptive.

In the Union victory over New England, this past weekend, the Revolution had 103 unsuccessful passes across the Entire Pitch; ~64% of those unusccessful passes came in the Union defending Final Third.

In other words the Union gave up possession and gave additional space and time to New England outside the defending Final Third.

Their average number of Tackles Won supports that as well.

When the Union lose they average 15 Tackles Won per game.

When they draw they average 20 Tackles Won per game.

In this game they had seven Tackles Won – supporting the idea that they applied less pressure and relied more on defending Final Third spatial and time control than physical control.

Their average number of Clearances also support that view as well.

When the Union lose they average 20 Clearances per game; when they draw they average 24 Clearances per game.

In this game against New England they had 42 Clearances – by far their largest single game output in Defensive Clearances.

For me this also indicates that they gave away some space and time outside the 18 yard box.

Additional information for consideration…

In games where the Union have lost, their opponents have averaged 17 crosses per game with a 26% success rate.

In games where they draw the Union opponents average 17 crosses per game with a 30% success rate.

In this game, against New England, the Revolution offered up 25 crosses (fourth most of all Union opponents this year) with a 32% success rate (also fourth best this year).

But with the higher than average number of clearances, success in those crosses is deceptive – the space was made available for the cross but the crosses were less effective and the higher than average number of Clearances would support that.

Finally, when looking at Shots Taken, the Revolution took 22 shots that game with only 8 on goal – that is the most shots taken against the Union this year.

Basically, that nuance about teams that take more shots have a lower percentage chance of scoring a goal paid off.

In closing…

That analysis probably doesn’t touch on every nuance that was different about this game and perhaps explain why the Union won – bottom line is they scored 3 goals and New England didn’t – but it does paint an interesting picture that supports how the predictability of each game doesn’t account for different tactical changes a Head Coach might make.

Best, Chris

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