MLS Week 3 Recap – Sporting KC Continues to Crush Competition

With three more points in a home win, against the early season nomads of Toronto (first eight games on the road), Sporting KC is solidifying an early season position as the team to beat.

Not only in the Western Conference league table but in the MLS Composite PWP Index (through Week 3) at the end of this article.

Here’s the CPWP Index just for Week 3:

MLS CPWP Index Week 3

Rounding out the top five teams in overall performance this week:

  1. FC Dallas get the top honors this past weekend.  Many have figured Dallas would be at or near the top all season and it’s reasonable to assume that Pareja was happy with those three points.
  2. A huge surprise, perhaps, is the appearance of Philadelphia Union in the top five.  They had a solid 2-nil victory over a slumping Revolution and Curtin is sure to be pleased with CJ Sapong getting a brace.  Ride that wave as long as you can Sons of Ben!
  3. For the first time this year Columbus appear in the top five; much of that may be down to their possession-based attack but I’d offer it’s more about their defensive tenor.  It’s the Crews’ first point this year and none to soon.
  4. Colorado Rapids – Fourth best, and a team that many considered a cellar-dweller. It’s always a good thing but perhaps, in four to five weeks, its’ a two points lost and not one point one.  DC United, as you’ll see later, are in an early season swoon.  Another plus for the Rapids is the addition of Tim Howard.
  5. Last but not least – the first time this year the LA Galaxy break the top five in my weekly Index.  Some folks observed that the Earthquakes defense is pretty paltry and gives up lots of shots in prime locations.  That may be the case – but it’s reasonable to offer that two of the Galaxy three goals came from outside the prime hot-spot.  I’d put that down to stellar attacking play – not poor defensive play on the part of San Jose.

Bottom dwellers for Week 3:

  1. If FC Dallas were best in Week 3 then it shouldn’t surprise many that Montreal were worst in Week 3.  Across the board their team numbers suffered.  They finished near bottom in Attacking PWP and mid-table in DPWP.  More to follow a bit later.
  2. New England Revolution were next worse and Jay Heaps should be worried.  They had a goal fest against Dynamo and only got one point.  Question – if they have an early season slump, to go along with an expected mid-season slump, where exactly do they finish?
  3. Chicago Fire are third worst this week.  Even so. I remain steadfastly stubborn, or stubbornly steadfast, that things will improve.  Bottom line here is they ceded possession and weren’t able to score on the counter.  When a team takes an approach like that it’s likely they’ll finish near bottom in CPWP.  On the bright side – Defense first – and a shot out against last years’ Eastern Conference Champs is a good thing; at least for now.
  4. DC United are fourth worst even though they got a draw this weekend.  Here’s the sad part – when looking at their volume of passes in the attacking final third they had 142 of them.  A 66% completion rate with 19 shots taken.  If you’re a Timbers supporter it’s likely those numbers sound familiar.  Bottom line here – lots of shots and lots of penetration – but no patience…
  5. San Jose got beat in a number of ways this weekend by LA.  If you’re going to cede possession it’s probably wise to be a bit tighter just atop the 18 yard box.  They weren’t and they paid for it.

In shifting to strictly Attacking PWP – here’s how the teams line up in attack:

MLS APWP Index Week 3

Best of the best were:

  1. LA Galaxy – They completely dominated the attacking side of the game.  The last two weeks I’ve offered that a poor performance by the Galaxy this year could see Bruce Arena end his stint as the Head Coach.  In speaking with Wendy Thomas last week it may be Bruce’s last year anyway.  Wendy offered Bruce may opt to move into the front office; guess we’ll see.
  2. New York Red Bulls had a goal fest against Houston.  All told they got four and barely won the game.  Lesson learned for future Houston opponents – you need to score, and score a lot, to beat Houston.
  3. Colorado Rapids were third best in overall attack.  They got their goal and one point on the road.  But as noted earlier – this might have been 2 points lost not 1 point won.
  4. Portland Timbers got two goals from 26 shots.  Wow…  Lots of possession and penetration.  If Real Salt Lake doesn’t throw the game away, with two red cards, it’s quite possible the Timbers are on the back end of this Index.  In recalling last year – the Timbers had a huge volume of shots taken but found it hard to find the back of the net – till late on.  So this shouldn’t be a surprise this year.  The challenge, I think, is how long does Caleb continue to stick with this horse (4-3-3) before showing some more flexibility in running a single or double pivot 4-4-2? Question – is it too early to think the opponents have had enough time to plan on defending the 4-3-3?
  5. Philadelphia Union were fifth best in attack this week.  Getting three goals usually gets you in the top five.  Unlike the one point, the Rapids got against DC United, the Union did not wind up with a draw and a potential loss of two points.  This was a very good win for the Union!

Worst of the worst in attack:

  1. Chicago Fire – Figure this as a no-brainer now…  If you don’t look to possess the ball that much, and you don’t execute the counter-attack that well, it’s likely you’ll finish quite low in this Index.  Bottom line is they got a point against a very strong Columbus team (at least last year they were strong)!
  2. Montreal Impact were second worst.  The more to follow from earlier…. Only 16% of their completed passes, in the attacking final third, ended up leading to a shot taken.  And of those shots taken, only 33% were on goal and none of them hit the back of the net…  It was an away game, and it was against FC Dallas.  I wouldn’t panic about the Impacts’ result this week.
  3. Toronto FC – I’m still trying to figure out if this team needs Jozy Altidore.  I saw a small part of this game, and granted he’s been injured, but it just seems reasonable to me that the attacking focus comes from Giovinco.  And since Altidore isn’t really a passer I wonder if he’s more of a spare part that doesn’t really fit.
  4. New England – If you thought the Impact results were poor – get this.  With nearly 57% possession, a 74% completion rate within the final third, (equaling ~150 passes completed) they generated just nine shots taken.  That’s a 6% penetration to shots taken ratio – probably the lowest ratio I’ve seen in three years.  Terrible – and a great indicator the Union defense was stellar!
  5. Columbus Crew – With such a vast amount of possession they too were paltry in shots taken per completed pass in the attacking final third.  They finished on 8% compared to the Revolutions’ 6% – I’d say that speaks volumes about the Chicago Fire defense too.

Defending PWP:

MLS DPWP Index Week 3

Defense usually wins games  – for this week three of the top five got three points.

  1. Columbus Crew – If your opponent doesn’t really possess the ball then it’s sometimes a good bet they won’t score either.  For the Crew this week that was the case.  Berhalter likes his possession-based game and he should feel good his team got a clean sheet.  But – with Chicago running a 3-5-2 it kinda seems reasonable they wanted to get at least one point – so maybe the Crew finishing high here is more about what the Fire didn’t do than what the Crew did do?
  2. FC Dallas was second best this week in defending.  That’s not usually the case with this team as their counter-attacking style usually cedes possession and means the opponent has a better passing accuracy percentage.  That was not the case with Montreal this weekend.  And it’s very timely given the five-nil loss against Houston last weekend!
  3. Sporting KC- Did I mention last week that both Nagamura and Feilhaber still haven’t played yet?  I think I did, but at the risk of repeating myself Sporting KC sit on nine points with two of their best midfielders out!  Hmmmmm…
  4. Philadelphia Union – Is three nil and three points a worthy output against the Revolution?  You betcha – the question for me is are the Union really that good in defending or are the Revolution really crap in attacking?  We should know more about that in five to six weeks.
  5. Chicago Fire – They employed their 3-5-2 last weekend and it got them one point against last years’ Eastern Conference Champions.  Worthy result – if your happy and you know it clap your hands #CF97.

The worst of the worst:

  1. I’ve already talked about San Jose so let’s move on to Houston.
  2. Houston has been scoring goals left and right.  They did this week too – but gave up four as well.   If Coyle wants to continue to get points he either needs to have his team increase their three goals a game average or get his defense to improve.  I’d expect him to work on the latter of the two.
  3. DC United – Does the swoon predicted in week 1 continue for DC United this year – like 2013 – or do they get better.  First order of business is to get a Kitchen sink….
  4. Real Salt Lake – I put this down to two red cards and a complete lack of discipline.  In watching this game from start to finish I’d offer Nick Rimando and company had the tactical game plan to win this game.  They blew three points, and with the Western Conference expected to be very competitive this year – they may really regret those two red cards.  On the other hand, as a Timbers supporter – brilliant!  Even more brilliant is seeing that City up North at the bottom of the table!
  5. New England Revolution – A number of gaps in this team.  They can’t score and they can’t really defend.  Are the Revolution the new Chivas USA?  Wow – never figured I’d offer that question for this team…..

So how do the teams stack up after three full weeks?

MLS CPWP Index 2016 To Date Week 3

Is it any surprise Sporting KC are at the top and that city up north is at the bottom?

  • Not really…  for me the early season surprises are Colorado and Houston 2nd and 3rd – while DC United and New York Red Bulls are 19th and 18th respectively.
  • A good thing to remember about my Index – there is no subjectivity…  so what happened last year stays with last year!

Some fun facts after Week 3.

  • The ‘r’  for Composite TSR is .56 – well below the CPWP Index.
  • Average passing accuracy 75.55%
  • Average shots taken per completed pass in penetration 16.14%
  • Teams that win have a higher average passing accuracy than teams that lose
  • Teams that win average slightly more possession than teams that lose.
  • Away teams have taken 29 points and average 386 passes per game with 11 shots taken, 4 shots on goal, and 1.13 goals scored.
  • Home teams have taken 53 points and average 438 passes per game with 15 shots taken, 6 shots on goal, and 1.87 goals scored.
  • It still pays to play at home…

A new feature this year; what was the +/- for each team after Week 3 compared to Week 2?

MLS CPWP Index 2016 Week 3 Compared To Week 2

Biggest movers are the plus side were FC Dallas, 6 places, while Colorado, LA Galaxy, and Columbus Crew moved up 3 places.  Those dropping the most included San Jose losing 6 places, with New England dropping 5 places, and Toronto/Montreal each sinking 4 places.

Best, Chris

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