What went wrong in Montreal?

It’s way too early to imagine what sort of impact Montreal will have next year – simply too many variables, least of which is the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Nevertheless – in order to get a better idea of how they might impact the Eastern Conference next year here’s my look at how 2014 went and some thoughts on what positional weaknesses they may need to fill to get better.

As always I’ll start with my End of Season Composite PWP Strategic Index to give you a (non-results) view on where the Impact attacking and defending team performance compared to the rest of Major League Soccer:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINEDMontreal (MIFC) are shown here just above San Jose and just beneath Colorado.

If you’ve missed other team analyses links are provided at the end of the article – for now know that I am working worst to first excluding Chivas USA.

In my view that organization was a complete embarrassment to the league (not the players – the owners) as such it’s not worth my time to analyze a team that wasn’t a team…  the sooner they are forgotten, as an organization, the better.

Again – this is not an intent to disparage the players or Wilmer Cabrera – it’s intended to disparage and embarrass the owners!

As with all my end of season analysis I’ll begin with the basic statistics most rely on to tell the immediate (results based) outcomes:

Points Per Game (PPG) = .82; Goals Per Game (GPG) = 1.12; Goals Against Per Game (GAPG) = 1.71; Goal Differntial (GD) = -.59

The worst PPG of any team in MLS this year!

Given the huge disparity in team performance across all of MLS in away games versus home games here’s what those numbers look like for Away and Home Games:

Away:  PPG = .29; GPG = .82; GAPG = 2.00; GD = -1.18 (the worst Away PPG of any team in MLS this year).

Home:  PPG = 1.35; GPG = 1.41; GAPG = 1.41; GD = 0.00 (tied for third worst Home PPG with Colorado and Chicago).

Bottom line here is their results were terrible – a complete and utter failure when it came to results; so is there any light at the end of the tunnel when peeling back their team attacking and defending performances, exclusive of results?  Let’s see…

Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

There’s MIFC, tucked in-between Vancouver and Colorado; interesting – especially since Vancouver made the Playoffs.  Perhaps there is some light that shines within?

Possession Percentage:

Overall 46.92%.  We already know from previous analyses that possession percentage on its own has no relevance – it’s only when you begin to combine that percentage with other key PWP indicators that patterns begin to take shape.

And since my analysis also peels back how teams perform away and at home here’s the info for those categories as well.

Away 48.07% versus Home 45.78%.

Without going further it would appear that the Impact looked to cede possession a bit more at home than on the road – that being said, given the high GAPG (2.00) on the road that higher percentage of possession might be deceiving.

The most reliable way to eliminate wasted possession is to look at passing accuracy and passing volume within and into the Attacking Final Third versus Outside the Attacking Final Third.

In away matches Montreal averaged 94 passes within and into the Final Third from 397 average passes attempted; when playing at home those figures are 93 and 405.

Knowing those figures let’s move on to Passing Accuracy to see what differences there were.

Passing Accuracy:

Overall 76.41%.  12th highest or 8th worst (glass half full – half empty?)   However viewed their passing accuracy was not the best – and the lower the overall passing accuracy the less likely the team will possess the ball for greater lengths of time.

Shorter passing tactics usually mean more passing – great examples include FC Bayern, Barcelona, Chelsea, Galaxy, etc…

Away 75.93% versus Home 76.90%

In away matches passing accuracy within and into the Final Third was 58.96%; while at home it was 62.01%; higher at home – in truth that’s probably 5 more passes completed at home versus on the road.

So… that three percent higher amount of possession, on the road versus at home, was probably down to wasted possession.

In other words they possessed the ball more on the road due to passes being completed outside the attacking final third – not inside the attacking final third.

Penetrating Possession:

Overall 18.36%; the worst percentage of penetrating possession in MLS this year.

In away games their successful penetrating possession with 18.23% while for home games it was 18.49%

Looked at from a different angle – the potential penetrating possession target would have been 24% if successful on all attempts – but they weren’t.

Most probably meaning the passes, attempting to penetrate the attacking final third, were probably harder to complete.

For many that usually indicates a direct attacking approach; i.e. playing longer balls on a more frequent basis.

It might also intuit a less accurate counter-attacking style – (perhaps?) meaning the players being asked to play to a particular style weren’t skilled enough in that style – or…………. the Head Coach chose the wrong tactical approach given the skill level of players on the pitch???

Or… the Head Coach had no choice but to play to that style given the skill levels of players on his team.  But!  Frank Klopas also played that style with Chicago…  so was it by choice given the players – or was it by choice given the inclination of the Head Coach to play direct attacking football?

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

Overall 21.37% – the highest percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession in MLS!

Away games 22.01% (worst/best?) Home games 20.73% (3rd worst/best?)

What this is showing is that they had the worst penetrating possession in MLS and the highest percentage of shots taken per penetrating possession.

In other words they were terrible when it came to penetration and they compounded that ‘terribleness’ by showing no patience what-so-ever in taking shots.

Another nail in the Direct attacking coffin – AGAIN – speaking to either having the wrong style/skill level of players playing a direct attacking tactic – or… the Head Coach played the wrong tactics given the skills of his players?

Shots on Goal per Shots Taken:

Overall 36.49% (8th highest)

Away games 35.17% (12th highest) Home games 37.82% (8th highest)

With the high percentage of shots taken per penetration and then a significant drop in shots on goal, given that high percentage, it again reinforces that the Montreal Impact were taking far too many shots that had no real value.

I’m not sure of their shot location selection but this pattern has been seen before with teams like Houston, Chicago, Chivas, and other bottom dwellers…  in this case I’d also offer their strikers were probably less patient on the ball in finding good open space and time to take better shots.

Goals Scored per Shots on Goal:

Overall 30.22% (10th highest)

Away games 24.60% (5th lowest) Homes games 35.83% (8th highest).

Not bad at home – but not good on the road.  Reinforcing that the road tactics were worse in getting results than the home tactics.

Attacking summary:

In away games the percentages just get worse and worse – yet they possessed the ball more in away games.

In my view that is pretty much confirming that this team gained no value in having more possession of the ball in away games.

Indeed, I’d offer that they had the wrong tactical approach – throughout the entire season – just like Houston!

As for at home, clearly less possession worked – but they still averaged just 1.41 GPG (5th worst)… meaning that same direct attacking approach was just as ineffective at home.

So – (perhaps?) a more brutal assessment of the Impact is that, in attack, they were ineffective not only in results but in team performance.

Meaning, in my opinion, they either had the wrong style of players to play a direct attacking tactic or they had the wrong tactical approach by the Head Coach.

If thinking about finances… would it be cheaper to find a new Head Coach that will use a more appropriate attacking tactic, to fit the players on the team, or would it be cheaper to bring in a whole new suite of attackers to fit a direct attacking tactic that is way past its shelf-life!

Defending PWP Strategic Index:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Third worst in MLS.

A few thoughts before the details:

With a 2.00 GAPG in away games and a 1.41 GAPG in home games does it seem reasonable that the Impact didn’t have enough players behind the ball, even with a direct attacking approach?

Or does it seem reasonable that the Head Coach have a defensive tactical approach that was pear-shaped?

Before attempting to answer those questions here’s the bottom line on how the opponent performed against Montreal this year:

Opponent Possession Percentage: 53.08% (5th highest)

Opponent Passing Accuracy: 79.50% (2nd highest)

Opponent Penetrating Possession: 22.88% (10th highest) – Opponent Passing Accuracy within and into the Defending Final Third 67.58% (highest).

Opponent Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession: 17.25% (12th highest)

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shots Taken: 38.63% (4th highest)

Opponent Goals Scored per Shots on Goal: 31.63% (12th highest)

So those are the percentages against – how about the volume against?

Opponents of Montreal averaged 456 passes per game (2nd highest).

They also faced the 5th highest volume of passes within and into their Defending Final Third (123 per game).

In terms of shots taken against – 13.47 (8th highest).

Shots on goal against 5.26 (2nd highest).

Defending summary:

Across the entire spectrum of defending the opponents pretty much possessed the ball when they needed to and had plenty of time and space to make accurate passes; not only outside the Defending Final Third – but inside as well.

That freedom of time and space allowed the opponent more patience in taking better shots that were more often on goal and resulted in more goals scored against.

Given the poor team team performance, and poor results, I’d offer this team needs at least 3-4 new defensive minded players.

In going back to the initial questions about not having enough players behind the ball – it would seem to me, given the high volume and high percentages against, the Impact didn’t have enough players behind the ball.

But the interesting thing is that with a more direct attacking tactic you’d think the Impact would have more players behind the ball because fewer players are used in that attacking tactic!?!

So what went wrong?

In Closing:

I’d offer (perhaps too harshly?) that the tactical approach (in attacking and defending by the Head Coach) is what went wrong.

How can a team have, statistical team performance wise AND results performance wise, so many weaknesses with roughly the same players that made the playoffs the previous season under different leadership?

Easy – the front office made a bad decision in sacking  Marco Schällibaum.

For me this is another great example of how losing organizations, in the front office, fail to hire Head Coaches who are flexible in their attacking and defending tactics.

Frank Klopas is not only the Head Coach but the Director of Player Personnel, meaning his direct attacking style will not only manifest itself on the pitch it will also manifest itself within the bowels of the organization!

While I’m not an Impact ‘hater’ I really have to ask myself how I could continue to support a team like this if I lived near St. Catherine Street in the heart of Montreal.  And yes, I do know the city a wee bit having proposed to my missus, in 1987, at the Old Munich Beer Barrell Hall on St. Denis Street.

In case you missed it – here’s my other MLS End of Season Analysis:

Chicago Fire – Candle Burned at Both Ends

Houston Dynamo – Dynamic Dynamo De-Magnetized as Dominic Departs

San Jose Earthquakes – Earthquakes, Shake, Rattle, and Roll-Over

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

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