Disheveled Defense has Dominic’s Dynamo in Disarray

Orange uniforms are normally considered a great color for a couple of reasons – the first team that ever comes to mind when you see Orange are the Dutch, (Holland/Netherlands) and if you watched the World Cup 2014 they reinforced just how strong and (to be feared) the men in Orange should be.

Another, less obvious reason for Orange is simply this – the color stands out on a green pitch – the more your team uniform stands out, from the pitch, the more likely you are to pick out your teammate just a tad bit quicker…  that’s why I never get why teams choose Green!

However you view the kit color doesn’t matter today.

What matters is trying to better understand the weaknesses that have a strangle hold on Houston and what things supporters of the Orange might want to track in hopes that their results improve.

Hopefully, as I walk through my Possession with Purpose, and supporting data analyses, I can show where weaknesses exist, and then in turn offer potential opportunities for improvement.

Bottom line up front (BLUF) = To be clear – The frequency of opponent penetration into the Dynamo defending third has absolutely nothing to do with their current issues.

The Dynamo have ceded the 5th lowest amount of overall penetration of any team in MLS this year – 1st lowest in ceding volume of penetration is…  Sporting KC, 2nd lowest is Chivas USA and 3rd lowest is New York.

On it’s own the statistic is not a good indicator but when viewing outputs of team indicators it may help derive other weaknesses.

So what drives the Dynamo down the path of a destruction in defense?

In short – team execution – here’s some examples of how Houston is executing in some key defensive areas compared to others in MLS…

  1. Houston are 8th worst in opponent shots on goal becoming goals and -18 in Goals Differential – the most effective, single, statistical indicator in Soccer with an R2 of .83 (the closer to 1.0 the better the relationship).
  2. Houston are 5th worst in garnering ‘off-side’ calls against their opponent as they penetrate – in other words the statistical appearance of ‘trapping the opponent’ in an off-side position isn’t there.  Basically translating to the back-four not being very well organized in function as well as communication; Sporting KC – on the other hand – are 5th best.
  3. Houston are 6th worst in committing fouls within their own Defending Final Third – basically they are doing the same thing as Portland – beating themselves.  Obviously the more set-pieces they give their opponent the more opportunities their opponent has for jamming the 18 yard box with bodies.  This statistic alone could render that 5th fewest penetrations per possession by their opponents useless.
  4. Houston are the 2nd worst team in conceding Penalty Kicks; again like committing fouls in their own defending third, they don’t discriminate – they also make a habit of committing fouls in their own 18 yard box.  This not only speaks to poor tackling habits it also speaks to having a habit of being out of position – somewhat of the same ilk as being poor in trapping the opponent in off-side positions.  This statistic ‘alone’ does render the low volume of opponent penetration useless.
  5. Houston are 3rd worst in preventing their opponent from offering up successful crosses – bascially meaning they are pretty good at allowing the opponent to deliver crosses into the 18 yard box as a way to generate shots taken.
  6. Houston are 3rd worst in the frequency of defensive clearances.  What magnifies this issue even more is the Dynamo being 3rd worst in preventing successful crosses.  In other words a superb reason why their opponent’s are so successful in delivering crosses is directly related to how poor they are in clearing those crosses.  Issues like this are usually due to two reasons – sometimes unrelated – 1) the fullbacks and or outside midfielders simply don’t close down the wings appropriately – or 2) the centerbacks and fullbacks at the near/far post are in a poor position to clear the cross.  Both bad and both correctable – but usually with new players; especially if it’s a habit repeated over 19 games.

Houston have the worst Defending Possession with Purpose Index number of any team in MLS… here’s where they stand with respect to the  six process steps in the DPWP Index:

  1. Opponent Percentage of Possession = 51.37% (7th highest opponent possession) – in other words Houston cede possession and are therefore not very good at possessing the ball with the intent to possess and control the flow of the game + possessing the ball with the intent to possess – in other words if the opponent doesn’t have the ball that is a good form of defending.
  2. Opponent Passing Accuracy = 78.19% (3rd highest opponent passing accuracy) – in other words the opponent is doing a very good job of moving the ball both inside and outside the Defending Final Third.
  3. Opponent Penetration per Possession = 20.87% (as noted earlier – 5th best in preventing opponent penetration per possession by volume – they are also 5th best by percentage) – in other words, less is better, and the opponents may be working a counter-attacking approach in order to beat Houston given the low volume and low percentage of overall penetration.
  4. Opponent Shots Taken per Penetration = 20.98% (3rd highest opponent success in generating shots taken per possession penetration) – in other words the opponent doesn’t need a high volume of penetration in order to take shots.  The time and space is already there…
  5. Opponent Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken = 38.33% (2nd highest opponent success rate in MLS) – in other words, even with the lower number of shots taken, by their opponents, those shots taken are being directed on goal; meaning (as noted above) the time and space to take those shots is more readily available for the opponent – translating to the back-four – again – being out of position to make those shots taken harder to put on goal.
  6. Opponent Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal = 33.63% (8th highest opponent success rate in MLS) – in other words Tally Hall is actually doing a great job given the amount of time and space the opponents are getting to put shots taken on goal.  At this stage I would offer Tally Hall is probably the only defensive player who is doing their job.
  7. Bottom line at the bottom = > Houston Goals Against are 1.90 per game – the worst in MLS.

In closing…

Yes – the last statistic speaks for itself – but – without the other information to support it you really don’t know exactly why…

I’d offer that the weaknesses aren’t just with one or two players – the defensive scheme is broken and adding DaMarcus Beasley won’t hurt but it might not help that much either.

I would submit the organization may be very short-sighted, indeed, if they think just one player will rectify all the comprehensive defensive issues this team has…

I’d also offer they need additional players, with at least one of them being a Center-back, and (perhaps?) even one of them being a defensive minded midfielder.

Breaking news today (25th of July) Houston Dynamo have just signed a Central Midfielder (Luis Garrido). Here’s what Dominic Kinnear had to say about him in this article posted on MLS Soccer…

“I think he is a good player,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said in a club statement. “He has a good amount of bite in the middle of the field, good energy and is a good passer of the ball. We have watched him for a few years in the CONCACAF Champions League and World Cup qualifiers, and he showed well in the World Cup. We think he is a player that will fit in with the way we play and it a good opportunity to bring him here.”

Seems the front office also recognizes that just one player won’t fix the issues in defense…

Trading/Moving Tally Hall would not be a solution to this issue.

Best, Chris

Retweets appreciated.

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