MLS Week 2 Recap – Dynamo Decisively Dump Dallas

Five -nil and eight goals in two games – the Dynamo are Coyled to strike from anywhere with anyone, to include using the opponent to score for them!

All told, Houston have two goals from Andrew Wenger, and one each from Will Bruin, Ricardo Clark, David Horst, Cristian Maidana, Giles Barnes, and Matt Hedges (FC Dallas).

Would it be reasonable to expect Houston Dynamo are at, or near the top of my MLS CPWP Index this week?  

MLS PWP Index 2016 Week 2

Yup…  we have:

  1. Houston – the epitome of a team who’s doing extremely well in attacking possession with purpose while defending one of the best attacking teams in MLS.
  2. Colorado – Marco Pappa was the perfect sub!  What’s going on in the mind of Bruce Arena after this week?
  3. Montreal Impact – The only team in the Eastern Conference to break the top five barrier.  All this WITHOUT Didier Drogba.  Scary…
  4. Real Salt Lake – they defeated that city up north.  Many before this season began probably didn’t envision that.  On paper LA look good – but Seattle don’t even look good on paper.  Am I making more of this three points now than I might in ten weeks time?
  5. Sporting KC sit fourth best for this week and they’ve yet to see Feilhaber, Opara, or Nagamura on the pitch.  Seems like Vermes continues to work his bench magic.

Okay, those are the Gallant’s for this week – what teams fit the mold of Goofus?  

  1. FC Dallas is bottom – not only did they fail to score for themselves they were also very generous in scoring for Houston.  Communication was an issue it would appear.
  2. LA Galaxy – an odd game perhaps?  LA Galaxy did not dominate possession and were, by far, the worst of the two when it came to passing accuracy.  Was this an attempt by Arena to play a counter-attacking game?  It’s hard to tell from the highlights.   One thing is for sure – you have to play the full 90+ minutes and the Galaxy didn’t.  I mentioned this last week and I sense it’s worthy to mention this again – is it too early to offer that Arena might not make it to next year if the Galaxy don’t make the playoffs this year?
  3. New York Red Bulls – two games against Eastern Conference foes and two games lost – week 1 wasn’t good and week two was worse.  Hmmmmmm…….
  4. Seattle Sounders – that’s two weeks in a row where their strikers failed to produce. Like last week I mentioned the loss of Obefemi Martins – I guess it’s worthy to mention his departure again.
  5. Vancouver Whitecaps – something’s not right up north.  Is it ego and that belief that since they had so many great results last year they expected to have those same results again this year?  I don’t know – but as LA Galaxy have already shown this year – paper is not good enough to get you three points.

Now for my Attacking Possession with Purpose (APWP) Index:

MLS APWP Index 2016 Week 2

 

Yes.

  1. Houston Dynamo – Is it any wonder the team who got five goals is top of this Index?  They completely dominated the counter-attacking approach by Pareja.  I wonder if those video sequences will add value to other teams looking to beat ‘cede possession bandwagon’?
  2. Montreal Impact – Steady as she goes.  Three goals is a good thing – Mario Biello is working some magic.
  3. San Jose – Given that the Timbers approach also centered on ceding possession is it any wonder San Jose were 3rd best here?  No…..  and it’s pretty reasonable to expect the video from this game will be studied by those looking to beat the ‘cede possession bandwagon’.
  4. Sporting KC – For me this speaks volumes about Peter Vermes.  In both games they broke the 560 pass barrier and both games saw them taking three points.  The art and science of winning, with possession, is not lost.  And most amazing of all is that Sporting is doing that without Feilhaber and Nagamura.
  5. Real Salt Lake – a grinding three points for the Lakers and a grueling loss of three points for that city up north.  Workmanlike comes to mind; especially after being down a goal so early in the game.

The debbie-downers in APWP this weekend were:

  1. LA Galaxy – as noted in the overall CPWP Index, Arena looked to have his guys playing counter-attacking so their possession and passing numbers were likely to be lower.  What I’m sure he didn’t expect was seeing the Rapids perform well in defending.  For those who did follow the Rapids last year it wasn’t their defense that sucked.  Overall, they finished 5th best in DPWP.  Arena got it wrong this game.
  2. DC United – last week they were 5th worst in APWP and this week they’re second bottom.  Going from bad to worse?  It looks like it.  I’d almost offer they’ve throw away everything other than the Kitchen sink… oh wait a minute – Kitchen is gone isn’t he?
  3. Seattle Sounders – echoes of last years strong attacking team resound no more in the Puget Sound.  There’s much to do with that team and if Morris isn’t the answer – who is?
  4. New England Revolution – last week they scored three goals and finished in the top 5.  This week they couldn’t score a goal against DC United – who actually finished at the bottom of DPWP last week.  Consistency is not a word to describe New England. The question is – will it ever be?
  5. New York Red Bulls –  if Montreal sits near top in APWP it shouldn’t come as a surprise the Red Bulls sit near bottom.  Last week they failed to score with reasonable possession and penetration.  This week was no different.  Not the type of improvement you want.

As with everything in soccer – there are two halves to the game.  How well you perform in attack and how well you perform in defending against your opponents’ attack.  

Here’s my Defending Possession with Purpose (DPWP) diagram this week:

MLS DPWP Index 2016 Week 2

The top five teams in defending were:

  1. Colorado – as mentioned earlier this should not surprise many people.  If you are surprised you’re reading too much bollocks from others.  And a clean sheet against LA Galaxy, at least for now, should speak volumes…  at least for now.
  2. New England – I’m not sure how well this goes down with some.  DC United were shut out and a clean sheet is a clean sheet is a clean sheet.  But with the Kitchen sink gone in DC United, this shut-out might not carry much weight later this year.
  3. Real Salt Lake – as noted with New England – no goals against is always a good thing. Even more so when the opponent isn’t dominating across the entire pitch.  I may ask this more than once; are Seattle missing Obefemi Martins yet?
  4. DC United – it seems reasonable that if New England fit into the top five in DPWP then DC United would too…  They did – as noted earlier a clean sheet is a clean sheet. More to follow later this year I imagine.
  5. Montreal Impact – perhaps shutting out the Red Bulls won’t be such a big deal later this year?  Who cares.  It’s now and the teams play for now.  A clean sheet is always worthy – what makes it better for Montreal is they scored too.

The dregs of defending were:

  1. FC Dallas – anytime you give up four goals to your opponent, and your defense scores for them as well, you gotta figure that team will be at or near bottom of DPWP.  They were.
  2. New York Red Bulls – Two goals against in week 1 and three goals against in week 2. The Red Bulls haven’t even taken a step forward – just two steps back.  In this case most opponents would like to think they could dance with a team like this all year. How long does Sal Zizzo start at fullback and can they find a solid replacement for Perrinelle?
  3. Portland Timbers – if you watched this game it seemed pretty clear, at least to me, that neither Taylor nor Valentin did well.  Their first combined error appeared to me as a lack of communication in tracking one of the best poachers in MLS; Wondolowski.  The second combined error was a contest on who could get out of position the quickest when trying to win the ball against Amarikwa.  I’m sure those low-lights will be on the video hit list for Caleb Porter this week.
  4. Vancouver – they were third worst in DPWP last week and third worst this week.  Consistency seems to be a word I can use here – not the best type of consistency and surely not the type of consistency New England will be wanting either.
  5. Seattle Sounders – the two most telling statistics against that city up north come down to the Lakers high passing accuracy, across the entire pitch (78%), plus the two goals scored with just four shots on goal.

With two weeks gone how do things stack up for the season so far?

MLS CPWP Index 2016 To date

Last year the CPWP Index “r” hovered around .6 to .7 – this year the “r” (correlation of the CPWP Index to Points earned without using points in the equation) sits at .83.  The higher the better this Index relates to points earned in the league table.

The top five shows as:

  1. Montreal – five goals for and no goals against; near 80% in passing accuracy (4 % above the league average) and 67.5% goals scored compared to shots on goal.  You can’t ask for a better start than that!
  2. Sporting KC – like Montreal have six points in two games.  I think it’s worth mentioning again – all this has occurred without Feilhaber and Nagamura on the pitch.  Could a reasonable question be – does Vermes start either of those two once they are healthy?  Insane… but maybe not?
  3. Houston Dynamo – last week they got three and gave up three – this week they got five and gave up none…  I think they are worthy as number three on this list.  How high do they finish on the MLSSoccer.com list?
  4. Real Salt Lake – I’d offer a number of pundits expect them to miss the playoffs this year – four points is a solid start – still 32 games to play.  Can they sustain?
  5. Colorado – Well………  I suppose I could say “ibid” here.  But perhaps a different question – was the three points against LA Galaxy a shocker or not?  We probably don’t know the answer to that question until week 10 or 15.  Buckle in for a wild ride on the Rapids this year.

The cellar dwellers are:

  1. New York Red Bulls – shut out twice and five goals against.  Plainly stated – the attack isn’t working and neither is the defense.
  2. Seattle Sounders – right now the only team my predictability index shows the Sounders beating are the Red Bulls.
  3. DC United – they need to find a new Kitchen sink!  Fast!
  4. Vancouver Whitecaps – Last year the Whitecaps were 5th worst in DPWP and 6th worst in APWP.  When all said and done they still finished 8th best in CPWP and 2nd in the Western Conference league table.  If they are going to continue to play counter-attacking football they need to get better in defending.  Five goals against kinda infers the space they cede in the mid-field doesn’t translate to turnovers, and quick counter-attacking from their defensive final third.
  5. Chicago Fire – first time we’ve talked about them this week.  It seems like last year they were the team getting all the negative press.  I think their position in the CPWP Index is more about the four goals they gave up at home to NYCFC and not the well deserved draw they got in Orlando last weekend.

In closing, some fun facts:

  1. Away teams have taken 20 points while home teams have taken 35 points.
  2. Passing accuracy across MLS averages 75.70%; a slight drop from last week.
  3. Teams that win average 50.84% possession while teams that lose average 49.16% possession.
  4. Finally, teams that win have a higher average in passing accuracy (76.47%) than teams who lose (75.80%).
  5. Teams that win take fewer shots per penetrating possession (17.26%) than teams that lose (19.73%).
  6. Teams that win average more shots on goal per shot taken (46.95%) than teams that lose (31.55%).
  7. Those same teams that take fewer shots per penetrating possession score more goals per shot taken (44.75%) than teams that lose (12.29%).
  8. In other words, more patience in the attacking final third, like last year, the year before, and the year before, means more shots on goal AND more goals scored.

All for now – what are your thoughts on the top and bottom five so far this year?

Best, Chris

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