Quality in MLS – is it on Par with top European League Teams?

All teams have passed the one-third mile marker this year so I figure I’ve got enough reasonable information to draw a new comparison for your consideration.

How well is Colorado playing this year, in terms of quality, versus some of the top teams in Europe for 2014/2015?

I want to look at two ways to answer that question; one from an attacking perspective and one from a defending perspective.  

My comparison teams are Manchester City, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona:

quality in attacking


Pretty striking in comparison if you’re a Rapids supporter; Colorado:

  1. Are dead even with Bayern Munich in percentage of penetration versus overall possession,
  2. Have the highest percentage of shots taken per completed pass within and into the attacking final third than any of those other teams,
  3. Exceed Manchester City in shots on goal per shots taken, and
  4. Are right there with the big boys when viewing goals scored per shots on goal.

In other words – when viewing overall productivity (quality/efficiency in the attacking final third) Colorado show just as much quality in execution (by percentage) as some of the best teams in the world.

Here’s how Colorado compares to those same teams in quality defending against their opponent’s attack:

quality in defending

At first glance Colorado obviously cede more possession but when it comes to the other categories measured Colorado:

  1. Faces roughly the same level of passing accuracy, if not higher, by their opponent’s,
  2. Have a greater percentage of opponent penetration versus overall possession,
  3. Have near equal percentages in opponent shots taken per penetrating possession, and
  4. Compete against opponent’s who are more accurate, than opponent’s of Manchester City, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona.

All told – with the real exception of possession percentages – the quality of Colorado defensive play, in Major League Soccer (compared to their opponent’s) is on par with those top teams in Europe.

In Closing:

I wonder what those percentages looked like for Leicester City last year?  Might those numbers be similar?

If they are, might those outputs signal a change in the dynamics on how teams can win more in top leagues without possession?

Might we see these same characteristics begin to unfold, more, in the World Cup?

  • If you recall from the 2014 World Cup Colombia and the Netherlands performed quite well without possessing the ball.
  • And Atletico Madrid did quite well in the UEFA Champions League too…

However viewed – this analysis is not an attempt to convince others that the skill level of players in Major League Soccer matches that of players with these teams in Europe.

But it should continue to reinforce to Head Coaches across the world that possession is not the only way to win…

In addition it should also support that defending against the opponent’s penetration and finishing skills is just as critical as finding the right mix of your own penetration and finishing skills.

Perhaps less obvious –  with less accuracy in passing, and less possession on the ball, first touch is even more important in MLS than in Europe.

Best, Chris

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