Consistency of Purpose – MLS Through Week 26

Before digging into a different view on Major League Soccer team performance, this week, I’ll offer up my Possession with Purpose Index for consideration.

A few changes after this week see Columbus jumping past Sporting (rightly so given the Crew won and Sporting didn’t).

In addition, Portland was passed by FC Dallas while a few other teams swapped places.

I wonder if Will Johnson really knows how odd it looks to see him run willy-nilly across the pitch at times, wasting energy, and then offering up an emotional blow-out like he did on Sunday, that simply won’t do as a leader…

The team that had the biggest gain was Philadelphia Union – moving up three spaces and right into the Playoff race – taking six points from a demoralized Toronto side certainly helped.

CPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26

A reminder – the two yellow stars indicate mid-season coaching changes.

Now for a different view:

In preparation for my analysis on Consistency of Purpose a few details to set the stage up front:

  1. This approach takes a look at Attacking only.
  2. The statistical analysis will measure Standard Deviation.
  3. Standard Deviation – A low standard deviation indicates that the data points tend to be very close to the mean (also called expected value); a high standard deviation indicates that the data points are spread out over a large range of values.
  4. In other words I will look at team Passing Accuracy (for each game – for each team) and identify the standard deviation (variation) that team has in being (regularly) near their average versus not being near their average.
  5. For example, a team averages 75% passing accuracy – a lower standard deviation would mean that the team regularly comes close to hitting that average (a close pattern say +/-4%).  A higher standard deviation would mean the team could have a high difference (say +/- 20-25%) on creating that average.
  6. What this translates to – is consistency of purpose.  Are you consistently near your target on a regular basis or are you sporadic and “disorganized” in hitting your target on a regular basis.
  7. The lower the better when it comes to viewing this as a measure of consistency.
  8. Areas evaluated include Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch, Passing Accuracy within the Final Third, Penetration percentage into the Final Third based upon overall possession, Shots taken per penetration percentage, Shots on Goal per Shots Taken and Goals Scored per Shots on Goal.

To begin:  Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Passing Accuracy.

Consistency of Purpose Passing Accuracy Week 26

The team with the most consistency (least variation) in Passing Accuracy through Week 26 is Columbus – on the other end of the scale there’s Chicago Fire Soccer Club.

Columbus Crew also have the best overall passing accuracy of any team in Major League Soccer – so they are not only the best in accuracy (81.40%)  – there are also consistently performing the best, week in and week out.

Toronto recently sacked Ryan Nelson – in overall Passing Accuracy Toronto are third worst in average (74.35%) – in addition they are also the 2nd worst team in consistently hitting their expected value – i.e. no consistency and very poor performance compared to others.

Perhaps some might see that as useful information in understanding why the Toronto Front Office sacked Ryan?

Vancouver – for now Vancouver average 79.49% Passing Accuracy per game (4th best in MLS) but they are 10th worst in consistency of hitting their expected value (mean).   So while they are pretty good when it comes to average Passing Accuracy – they lack consistency in hitting that expected value on a regular basis.

 Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Passing Accuracy Final Third.

Consistency of Purpose Passing Accuracy Final Third Week 26

The team with the most consistent level of Passing Accuracy within the Final Third is New York; their variation is less than 5% with what is expected, given how they’ve performed this year.  

The worst team in this category, for consistency, is Sporting KC (>9% variation from game to game).  In total their overall average is 64.67% – so through the course of the season Sporting have had a very large variation in the in creating that average.

Interesting here, again, is Toronto – they are 7th most consistent in hitting their expected Final Third Passing Accuracy percentage – the problem is that better level of consistency is based upon an average that’s just 62.73%; the 5th worst in MLS.

Again a pattern of consistency – but consistency with respect to poor performance – another nail in the Nelson coffin?

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Penetration Percentage Per Possession.

Consistency of Purpose Penetration Percentage Per Possession Week 26

Atop the queue, again, is New York – they lead MLS in the consistency when it comes to in penetrating the opponents final third per possession.

In other words New York expects to hit a target of ~ 22% per game – and their variation in hitting that target is quite small; especially when compared to Portland.

For Portland they’ve been as high as 44% (yesterday against San Jose) and as low as 8.69% against Houston, game 8.

Given that wide disparity, it’s no wonder their standard deviation hovers near 9%.  Put in other words they are not really that consistent, game to game, in hitting an expected value like New York is.

Might a large  variation here mean the opponent is controlling more of how much Portland penetrates than Portland themselves?

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Shots Taken Per Penetration.

Consistency of Purpose Shots Taken Per Penetrating Possession Week 26The team most consistent in this category is Real Salt Lake (just over 4% variation for the season so far).   Note that New York are up here again.

In considering how consistent New York has been in hitting their expected values might this mean they are more predictable in what outcomes they might generate?

I’m not sure at this stage but I’ll look into that after the season is over.

For now know that Vancouver are on the bottom end of this scale – and given their results of late perhaps this high amount of variation means one of two things.

Either they aren’t getting the appropriate free space and time to take a shot – or – the players are looking to take a more perfect shot than is reasonable?

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Shots on Goal Per Shots Taken.

Consistency of Purpose Shots on Goal Per Shots Taken Week 26

Ah… at last, Toronto makes it to the front of the queue.  An interesting note here – quality usually beats quantity in this league and when it comes to the bottom line – a critical piece of that puzzle is putting shots taken on goal.

So this is a good thing for Toronto… or is it?

At this time Toronto are third worst in putting shots on goal from shots taken (34.51%).

So what this really means is that they, again, are consistent in being consistently poor compared to other teams in MLS.

Is this another nail in the coffin on why Ryan Nelson may have been sacked?

As for the others near the top – note again New York is right there; as are Sporting, Portland, and Seattle.

On the other end is San Jose – by a large margin.

Perhaps a reasonable view here is that the teams on the lower end are simply taking harder, or more frequent shots that don’t hit the target… might more patience change that?

I think so but that might be pretty hard to prove…

As for DC United and New England being on the lower end… it would appear these two teams might have some tendencies that vary given home and away games; when the season ends I’ll look into these attacking Standard Deviations again.

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Goals Scored Per Shots on Goal.

Consistency of Purpose Goals Scored Per Shots on Goal Week 26

Real Salt Lake lead the league in consistency here – but when it actually comes to scoring those goals they are 7th worst in MLS.

That being said, if predictability were specifically focused on goal scoring only; it seems pretty likely Real Salt Lake would be the most predictable.

On the flip side that means the team with the greatest variation in expected goals is FC Dallas; given their high volume of Red Cards this year perhaps that makes sense?  Others may have a different view…

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Ranking.

Consistency of Purpose Attacking the Opponent Least Combined Deviation Ranking Week 26

In case you are interested the team who has the most, combined, overall consistency in hitting expected values is New York; the team that has the most variation in hitting expected values is New England.

As noted – this could mean that a team with greater variation, while winning, is harder to defend against than a team who is consistent in hitting expected values.

I’ll leave that for others to decide.

For now I’d simply offer that New York is pretty predictable in what they will do when they play a game – as is Real Salt Lake…

In Closing:

If you had to choose which team statistic you’d like to have as the most consistent, which would it be?

For next week I will include a look at Defending Consistency of Purpose.

In the following week I’ll chart MLS, as a whole; the intent there will be to use that information as a comparison when viewing the same outputs for the English Premier League, Bundesliga, and La Liga.

For me, the greater the variation in Passing Accuracy across all those leagues might help create a more realistic ‘apples to apples’ comparison between the leagues…

Best, Chris

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