I fielded this question on Facebook today from Phil Mitchell, a soccer pundit in the great northwest:
Based on your data collection, in your best non biased view, can you give me a prediction for Seattle? Why? They are technically ahead on total points in the table than the year they won the cup and fans are using that as a means to believe nothing is wrong.
To provide some context – his questions stem from this diagram I recently provided in an article here:
Here’s my take in answering Phil’s question(s).
At the midway point of 2016 and 2017, both championship run seasons the Sounders were sitting on 17 and 20 points respectively; not much different than their current point total of 16 at the midway point this year. (So technically they are not ahead on points compared to the year they won the cup as noted in Phil’s question above).
Here’s where they stand today (updated as of 6 August, 2018); they’ve moved from 7th bottom (17th position) to 12th position (game 22) since game 17.
Anyhow, what’s different?
A considerable difference (for me) comes in possession (control with and without the ball).
- 2016 and 2017 saw them possess the ball 54% and 55% of the time, respectively, this year possession percentages hover around 50% or less.
- In addition, in previous years their passing accuracy was 82% while this year it hovers just above 79% while the opponent’s passing accuracy has increased by a full percentage point to 81%.
- In the last half of those years Seattle still out-possessed their opponents by a margin of 3%-5% while sustaining a higher passing accuracy in 2017.
Another difference was their finishing percentage (goals scored per shots on goal).
- In the first half of 2016 their finishing was 15.20% but ended on 43%. That is a considerable increase in goal production.
- This year their finishing was 22.5% by game 17.
- Meaning the Sounders need to more than double their goals scored production while sustaining the same numbers in goals against.
- Be better in attack/possession meaning their opponent sees less control of the game.
Can Seattle turn it around this year like they did in 2016 or 2017?
In their three most recent games Seattle has possessed the ball over 50% twice, scored four goals, and earned seven points while their opponent’s have scored once.
- It would appear the tactics have changed – they’ve been better in attack/possession while their opponent has had less control of the game.
If they continue these tactical changes they have a shot at making the playoffs.
Who will get in their way for 6th place or better?
- Probably Sporting KC (who are on a down-turn), Real Salt Lake, or Houston.
If they don’t make the playoffs there is a bright side; they can retool next year (with more money) given MLS policies of rewarding teams for being mediocre!