Category: Direct Attacking

Gluck: Porter Pulls out of Portland

Serving as a head coach in Major League Soccer is not easy – the rotating door of coaches leaving seems non-stop.  So the departure of Caleb Porter doesn’t surprise me.  I sense there may have been multiple reasons but I’ll set the stage for one – main reason – a reason you won’t see published by Major League Soccer nor the Portland Timbers.

To do that I sense it’s worthy to spend about four minutes and four seconds sharing some information on the topics below.  Perhaps this approach will help others better understand why I believe what I believe?

  • Our first encounter
  • Our relationship over the last five years
  • Major League Soccer and the Portland Timbers over the last five years
  • The current state of soccer styles in Major League Soccer
  • In closing – why I think Caleb Porter left Portland

Our first encounter:

I first met Caleb Porter at spring training, held in Arizona, February 2013.

  • I was nervous (really nervous) – here’s me – someone who’s been out of coaching for over 10 years looking to have one of the top college coaches and newly crowned lead of Portland be my sounding board for a new analytical approach I was developing for soccer.
  • I introduced myself and he gladly accepted the opportunity to chat – his first words to me, said with a smile, “you’re a soccer junky”…
  • I said, (with a smile) well maybe, but I consider myself someone who’s passionate about the game and I want to help others better understand the nuance of soccer, the statistics, how they can be misinterpreted and what greater value there may be in evaluating ‘team’ performance not individual performance – he agreed and listened.
  • At the end of our meeting, 40 minutes later, he wished me the best and said stay in touch I want to hear how things go.

My takeaway was – wow – great guy – he had chatted with me for quite some time, he was open, forthright, honest, and above all welcomed the opportunity to share what he’d experienced and how it helped him shape his style of play.

I did stay in touch; over the last five years:

  • We regularly exchanged thoughts on my progress on “Possession with Purpose” (now published globally) with him even mentioning during one press conference after a previous game “that was pure possession with purpose – Gluck would be proud of that”.
  • We met many times to share (unfiltered thoughts, documents, and video) on players, upcoming games, tactics, scouting reports, and the dynamics on style of play in Major League Soccer, sometimes we met for lunch at the Timbers training facility sometimes we just chatted after their training session.
  • Most recently he agreed to be a reference for me on my coaching resume and gave me the go-ahead to share older video data with my high school team when teaching controlled possession-based soccer; my style of play too.
  • At all times, inner discussions about the Timbers were confidential.

My observations about Major League Soccer and Portland Timbers over the last five years:

  • Some outputs of soccer played in Major League Soccer are an aberration.
  • No league, I’ve measured, in the top European countries, or at the World Cup level, sees lower levels of passing accuracy and possession rewarded with post season adulation – or entrance into a ‘champions league’ the next year.
  • In Major League soccer mediocrity in the league table is rewarded.
  • For me, it’s simply unacceptable that teams who FAIL to win more than 50% of their games are considered good; not even College Soccer does that!
  • To hear others justify that it’s (okay) is offensive to me and …maybe to others?
  • Each year Caleb Porter has had to adjust his style of coaching soccer given the construct of the league and the nature of the franchise where player acquisition is limited due to the salary cap or disturbed due to ‘expansion’.
  • In the last five years over 91% of Portland Timber player acquisitions have failed – the most recent and obvious being the $5M drop on Lucas Melano – a player with no first touch what-so-ever.
  • Yes… Portland won the MLS Trophy in 2015 – but they’ve played better soccer in years they didn’t even make the playoffs, if that makes sense???

The current state of soccer styles in Major League Soccer:

  1. Build from the back using a controlled possession-based system that sees controlled possession leading to controlled penetration, creation, and goals scored plus there are instances where the team possesses the ball simply with the intent to possess and prevent the opponent from possessing the ball. In other words a majority of the game is controlled by controlling the ball.
    • Major League Soccer teams CANNOT and DO NOT effectively execute this style of play; okay – maybe one team – New York City FC.
  2. Play somewhat more direct with variations in your line of confrontation as well as your depth of defending, recognizing that controlled possession with the intent to possess is not a tactical option but direct attacking possession with the intent to penetrate is.
    • Major League Soccer teams, show, on rare occasion (Toronto, New York, Columbus, Kansas City, and Portland) varying levels of ability in executing this style of play
  3. Cede possession with the intent to counter via direct attacking; pretty much throwing out the idea that controlled possession is needed at all.  In short ‘controlled possession’ for these teams is a string of three, four, or five passes leading to a shot taken – with the initial pass originating from anywhere on the pitch.
    • Major League Soccer teams almost always show tendencies in trying to execute ONLY this style of play.

It’s my firm belief that to be great at #3 you must first know, understand, and have the ability to execute #1 (first) and then #2 (second)…

In other words – knowing how to play soccer is knowing how to use /create time and space anywhere on the pitch.

If you only play styles #3 then #2 you only educate your players on using/creating time and space available given those short/mid-term scenarios.

Meaning you aren’t maximizing your teams’ (learning) ability to use/create ALL the potential time and space available anywhere on the pitch.

I hope that makes sense?

In Closing:

After taking into consideration my own personal knowledge of Caleb, our discussions, and  current conditions on style of play in Major League Soccer I’d offer…

Caleb left because he was frustrated with the style of soccer he had to coach instead of the style of soccer he wanted to coach.

What tipped the scales this year might have been his approach to the front office saying I want to redo the entire team organizational structure to develop and acquire players who can play a more possession-based style of soccer and the front office said no…

Hence the “fundamental difference”.

I don’t sense Caleb Porter is ready to take on the United States Men’s National Team yet.

But IF HE DOES – I’ll bet he “drives” (with a passion unmatched) United States soccer towards being a controlled possession-based team – and that, in my view, is the ONLY way this country can challenge at the highest levels of international soccer.

FACT: The best national and domestic teams “regularly” play controlled possession-based soccer building from the back….

 

I wish Caleb Porter the very best as he carves out his future in coaching at the very highest levels of our profession.

Best, Chris

 

Gluck: Who should Head Coach the #USMNT in @USSoccer?

I’m sure there’s many ways to determine what Head Coach might best lead the US Men’s National Team out of darkness…    

I’ve narrowed my scope of who might fit best by limiting the selection pool to those who currently lead a team in Major League Soccer.  This obviously includes a broad band of candidates – you need to start somewhere.

In today’s environment, world class national and domestic teams are great at “controlling the ball” AND/OR great at “controlling the opponent when they don’t have the ball”.

I’ve taken that statement and converted it into measuring four categories of possession:  

  1. Points per game a Head Coach averages where their team has equaled or exceeded 55% possession,
  2.  Points per game a Head Coach averages where their team has possession greater than or equal to 50% possession but less than 55% possession,
  3.  Points per game a Head Coach averages where their team has possession greater than or equal to 45% possession but less than 50% possession, and
  4.  Points per game a Head Coach averages where their team has less than 45% possession.

My intent is to try and quantify/qualify three basic styles of play:

  1. Possession-based with controlled possession starting from the back,
  2. A mixture of controlled possession and controlled counter/direct -attacking, or
  3. A team relying solely on “controlling the opponent when they don’t have the ball” and offering counter/direct attacking as a method of penetration.

My relationships between the four measured categories of possession and three styles of play are:

  • #1 with #1,
  • #2 & #3 with #2, and
  • # 4 with #3.

Its’ not perfect, but then again, soccer isn’t perfect either.

Note:  Prozone has identified ~ 7 styles of play – I try to keep things simple.

I’ve made a list of five Head Coaches for consideration:

  • Gregg Berhalter,
  • Oscar Pareja,
  • Caleb Porter,
  • Peter Vermes, and
  • Jesse Marsch

Why didn’t I include Jason Kreis?

He’s been relieved of coaching duties twice and failed to make the playoffs with Orlando City.  Something, somewhere isn’t working…  nothing personal.

Here’s their initial PPG by each category from 2014 to 2017 (excluding the final two games):

The cells highlighted in green show which Head Coach had the highest PPG (per year) in the four categories listed.

It’s pretty clear those five coaches having varying strengths in earning points relative to the four categories of possession.

Here’s their average PPG over the last three years in an attempt to quantify/qualify their “consistency of purpose” – a phrase usually associated with Dr. Deming:

So how do their teams perform against conference opponents?

An attempt to measure how well each coach’s team performs against a “known quantity”; similar to the US Men’s National team playing “known” CONCACAF opponents…

Note the 2017 data excludes the last two games of this season.

Finishing Touches:

Jesse Marsch shows best (“consistency of purpose”) in:

  • Earning points per game in three of four possession categories over the last three years,
  • The Total Soccer Index versus “known” opponents over the last three years,
  • Goal differential versus “known” opponents over the last three years,
  • Earning points versus “known” opponents over the last three years.

Who’s your choice?

 

Best Chris

You can follow me on twitter @CoachChrisGluck

Gluck: Forward into the Past: Dealing without Darlington

I’m sure many feel the Timbers were unlucky this weekend – perhaps rightly so. 

For now, at least, I’m not convinced.

In the post-game press conference Caleb Porter offered these thoughts about missing Darlington Nagbe; they struck a chord with me, perhaps they will with you too?

Porter: “And I think today missing Darlington you could see that we just aren’t quite as good in possession. Sometimes you don’t know his impact until he’s gone. It’s not always the goals, but his ability to float around and find pockets and help us keep the ball and get out of tight spaces. In the attack I think we’ve been missing a little bit of chemistry in there and it’s because we haven’t had the group together.”

Well… I would agree the general public might not know his impact but I’d offer most Timbers Army supporters do. 

I’d also offer the entire coaching staff, front office, and physio folks know what Nagbe brings to the pitch.

 

 

So why the mystery on setting up the team for success without Nagbe?

I’m not sure, but to try and scratch the itch let’s review a team statistic the Timbers pay attention to (possession percentage) on a regular basis to see if that helps crack the nut.

In the two most recent games the Timbers had ~ 45% possession (at San Jose) and ~30% possession (at home to Atlanta).  In those two games I’d submit it’s a reasonable conclusion there was intent to cede possession.

The starting lineups, in both games, included two wingers.

  • Darren Mattocks and Dairon Asprilla against San Jose with Sebastian Blanco and Dairon Asprilla against Atlanta.
  • Substitutions in San Jose included Jack Barmby (a connecting midfielder) and Victor Arboleda (a winger).  In Atlanta the only substitution was Darren Mattocks (a winger) for Dairon Asprilla.
  • In the post game press conference against San Jose Porter acknowledge the possession and connection between the midfield and defense as well as Adi was better after Barmby entered the game.
  • In the Atlanta game Blanco did drift central, as did Asprilla.  Asprilla had minimal success in penetrating the center and Blanco, while offering some good penetrating/attacking passes from the center didn’t provide connection nor drift into pockets of space to create space for others.

In other words, with the exception of adding Barmby the last 35 minutes against San Jose Porter didn’t have players, on the pitch, who could emulate (at any level) what Nagbe brings to the pitch.

Forward into the past:

When trying to figure what right looks like sometimes there’s value in looking at history.

2016 was not a successful year for the Portland Timbers, they failed to win on the road and they failed to make the playoffs; but… was the entire season a failure?

No…

 

At no point, in 2016, did the Timbers ever lose, or even draw, at home, when ceding 55% possession (or greater) to the opponent. 

(Six games played – Six games won  ///   12 goals scored – three goals against)

To be glib that’s pretty successful.

Perhaps more appropriate is “stunningly successful”…

Of note, two of those home games were against San Jose… the others were against Columbus, Sporting KC, Toronto, and Real Salt Lake.

A blend of teams who play possession-based, direct, as well as counter-attacking – in other words a pretty good sample to draw on for comparison.

Was there any pattern of players selected that stands out as being different than the last two games the Timbers have played?

Yes…

In everyone of those games, even in the game Nagbe didn’t start, the Timbers starting line-up consisted of two midfield connecting players, either Nagbe and Valeri or Grabavoy and Valeri.

Pretty much confirming the player selection against San Jose and Atlanta ignored the Timbers pattern of stunning perfection in 2016.

What’s disappointing from all this is the Timbers coaching staff (collectively) – quite possibly ignored their “chemistry” successes of 2016 and didn’t start two ‘connectors’ or at least have one of the wingers play deeper/more narrow.

Even more perplexing is the organizational mid-week decision to play the one player, who could add connecting capability, a full 90 minutes in a USL T2 game.  Pretty much meaning the coaching staff had reached a conclusion that Barmby’s added value for the weekend was minimal.

Moving forward.

I don’t see Jack Barmby in training, but I do see him play, on occasion, and he adds value as a connector – why he isn’t getting more meaningful minutes is a decision the coaching staff have made.

If he’s not worthy to slot in as a starter to connect with others in a team role then I’d expect the Timbers to be shopping for a midfielder who can… to date all we’ve heard about is the anticipated arrival of a new center-back.

Darlington Nagbe is expected to return to the starting lineup against Montreal this weekend.  That’s probably a good thing.

It gives Caleb Porter and his entire staff more time to evaluate the historical, individual player and team performances, with and without Darlington Nagbe in order to better prepare for his absence again.

Finally, an observation for your consideration.

In the Timbers first seven games, without Liam Ridgewell on the pitch, the team gave up nine goals (1.28 goals against per game).

With Liam Ridgwell on the pitch, the last four games, the Timbers have given up seven goals (1.75 goals against per game).

Is it fair to say the Timbers have been less effective in defending with Ridgewell leading the defense?

With the Timbers shopping for a new center-back is it reasonable to consider that the player replaced is not Lawrence Olum or Roy Miller?

Best, Chris

@chrisgluckpwp

Gluck: Mistake Free Football? Not Likely

Over the course of a season, in Major League Soccer, it is likely every team will have players and head coaches/managers who make mistakes that cost a team three points or two points.  In a league with a salary cap it’s almost expected.

The critical piece is not making the same mistake twice.

In the Portland Timbers last game against San Jose Earthquakes there were multiple mistakes – not only on the pitch but off the pitch.

To say the tenor of the game was etched in stone before kickoff isn’t fair as the game was yet to be played and the opportunity, for individual player excellence, was there.

But as shown in yielding two (soft) first half goals and an early second half goal, player excellence did not come to the fore… instead we saw disjointed passing and a defensive outcome similar to the days of Portland under the leadership of John Spencer.

What I’d offer, after witnessing that game, is Portland is NOT a two wing football club.  Their survival, and great results, stem from a strong attacking center with support from the wings.

Perhaps put another way – there are issues with this football club when both Diego Valeri AND Darlington Nagbe are missing… And given Nagbe is likely to get more playing time with the US Men’s National Team this year and next – it’s likely to happen more often than supporters like.

So about the other night…

I’d offer both Dairon Asprilla AND Darren Mattocks shouldn’t start together on the wings; one needs to give way to a player who’s a connector.

And since Ned Grabavoy retired, the next player up is Jack Barmby; a left footed player who can drift inside – kinda similar to Darlington Nagbe but not as gifted in dribble penetration… yet?

Some may disagree, but myself and at least one other previous Timber player, with pedigree, believe he’s shown the grist, grit, and a willingness to take players on, while offering an ability to drift inside and show good positional play/awareness, along with vision, nous, and a great first touch.

If you recall when Barmby entered the game, followed up about 10 minutes later, by Arboleda, the complexion of the midfield changed… for the better.  Even Porter, in his post game presser, acknowledged the substitutions made a positive difference in the game.

And while some may say Barmby forced the issue, on occasion, I’d submit he did that with the intent to force opponent mistakes in the Timbers attacking half, not due to slack play. It’s also worth mentioning in his 33 minutes of play he had just as many recoveries as Asprilla and Mattocks combined.

All told he offered risky play in attack – perhaps not ideal when it’s 1-1, but when down 3-nil it’s a worthy gamble; especially in the attacking half of the pitch.

From a tactical standpoint I’m not sure that clears the plate of mistakes.

I’m wondering about the rationale for removing Dairon Asprilla, first, over Darren Mattocks.

I felt, saw, and sensed Asprilla played better and even though statistics never tell the whole story they do tell a story.

  • Previously (against FC Dallas) Mattocks, was a second choice starter behind Asprilla, yet in this game Mattocks saw three times more of the ball than Asprilla.
  • Mattocks offered 21 passes with seven incomplete (four in the defending half) compared to just seven passes offered by Asprilla with one incomplete.
  • In defending the wings, San Jose penetrated (roughly 66% of the time) down Mattocks side; a high percentage like that usually indicates the opponent sees that wing as the weaker of the two wings.
  • That consistent wing penetration, down Mattocks side, led to 66% (six of their nine) of their key passes originating from that side.

So why was Dairon Asprilla pulled first?

Perhaps Asprilla was pulled first simply because Porter has greater confidence in Mattocks since Darren has history with him through Akron?  It wouldn’t be the first time some have felt Porter shows preference to players he coached in Akron.

It’s not hard to forget Steve Zakuani or Ben Zemanski getting meaningful minutes when others may have warranted more play.

However viewed, Portland attempted to attack down a less productive wing and that volume of ball play, on the left, directly supported the attacking strategy of San Jose.

What’s a positive from this substitution?  

When Porter made the decision to bring in Jack Barmby that signaled, to me, Porter recognized his two wing attack wasn’t working.

In closing.

I’m not sure what the health status of Nagbe and Valeri will be this weekend against a very strong attacking side like Atlanta United.

I’d venture to offer the Timbers won’t show a two-wing attack and you can bet they’ll be thinking defense first.

If Nagbe and Valeri are both out perhaps we see Jack Barmby start?  Or… perhaps we see Porter go with Amobi Okugo, Diego Chara, and David Guzman with a slightly more narrow midfield presence headed by Sebastian Blanco?

Best, Chris

@chrisgluckpwp

 

 

Caleb Porter vs Oscar Pareja

Portland Timbers visit FC Dallas

Perhaps the two most prolific head coaches in Major League Soccer Soccer meet again this weekend for what many are hoping will be a precursor to the Western Conference playoff finals this year.

Some will say the gloss and glamour of this match will be lost with Mauro Diaz and Diego Valeri, arguably the two most talented attacking midfielders in MLS, missing the game due to injury.

I disagree – if anything – with both maestro’s missing I think we’re in store for a great game.

Both head coaches need to adjust, or do they?

Pareja more likely has the advantage given Diaz has been out for some time and adjustments will be few, if any.

We already know his method of success is rock-solid – NO team in MLS has executed the counter-attack better.

And with (probably?) the strongest center-back pairing in the league it’s likely the space created atop the 18 yard box, or across the face of the 6 yard box, will be at a minimum.

But Porter has shown in the past he’s got a strong record for in-season adjustments.

The most blindingly obvious was a tactical shift two years ago when Porter finally bent to the will of a few local pundits, and in–house staff, when he shifted Darlington Nagbe inside left.

We saw, even last week, another shift, of sorts, by Porter.

This too, was influenced by player availability.

And while some may be thinking it was the addition of Darren Mattocks, and his game winning goal that led to the victory I’d offer it was a bit more than that…

Dairon Asprilla for one, Vytas for two, the return of the oft-cynical leader/captain Liam Ridgewell three, and the sleeper in all this (me thinks) is how well Jeff Attinella showed in replacing the injured Jake Gleeson.

So on to the kickoff…

Portland: i’d offer Dairon Asprilla starts on the left, with Seb Blanco right, Darlington Nagbe across the middle and Fanendo Adi up top… the back six should remain as last week…

FC Dallas: I’m figuring Urruti up top, with Lamah, Morales, and Akindele in support…  their back six should also remain as last week.

In essence both teams start in a 4-2-3-1 versus a 4-2-3-1… that sees them both convert to a 3-3-4 in attack and a 4-5-1 in defense…  the trick here is the depth of the back four for both teams.

Dallas, at home, will probably play higher up the pitch – with a high press across the midfield – I’d imagine Portland plays slightly deeper hoping to create additional midfield space for retaining possession.

Run of play…

While Porter will spread things wide, on occasion, my instincts are suggesting he’ll look to play down the middle as much as possible.

  • For one, the team has had success in attacking the FC Dallas middle,
  • And two – if Portland keeps possession in the middle of the pitch it means potential turnovers are central to the defending unit and not out wide – which could pull them apart and yield acres of space for Dallas.
  • This does not mean we won’t see crosses – but it might mean we see less advanced penetration by Powell and Vytas.
  • Bottom line here – Portland are the fourth most effective team in seeing successful crosses positively influence the outcome of a game.

With Pareja missing Diaz the central play-maker role falls to Morales, who’s talented – no doubt – but he doesn’t have the nous of Diaz or Valeri…

  • This likely means Dallas play it wide, keep it wide, and play through-balls/gap passes to a laterally running Urruti… or…yes – put in crosses.

  • Like Portland, Dallas have shown successful crosses will positively influence the outcome of a game… they are sixth best in that category this year for MLS.

In closing…

Two things:

  1. Word has it from an associate outside the Portland pundit arena that Sebastian Blanco isn’t quite showing the capacity and capability to play both ways…
    • I’m not sure I agree so my player to watch this week is Seb Blanco…
    • And with Dairon Asprilla, CLEARLY, continuing to show two-way grist, Blanco needs to show more as a DP…

2. It’s early days – I figure Portland comes in and plays to their strengths and challenges Dallas to stop them in as much as Dallas does the same…  regardless of the outcome in this one both teams will learn, adjust and look to their next match as the real chess game…

Best, Chris  @chrisgluckpwp

 

 

 

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

COPYRIGHT – All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

 

 

 

Gluck: Changes envisioned 2 years ago come to pass in College Soccer

Two years ago I wrote this article, it had widespread readership across the college soccer coaching establishment and it appears to have had considerable influence with US Soccer too.

I’ll leave everything as is and let you read it anew…

Original article offered in January 2016.

If you’re anywhere near being an enthusiast of Major League Soccer, or soccer in general, the tides of potential change in College Soccer should be a welcomed sight.

And this latest article from MLSSoccer.com should be mandatory reading to get a feel for how things are progressing.

For me, that progress comes as no surprise.  And in case you missed it here’s what my thoughts were earlier in 2015:  Major League Soccer – Can it truly reach the heights of top European Leagues by 2025 .

So with those two articles, plus two interviews Stephen Brandt and I have had on the Yellowcardedpod with Jamie Clark (Head Coach University of Washington) Interview with Jamie

Jamie Clark

Jamie Clark

& Jeremy Fishbein (Head Coach University of New Mexico) Interview with Jeremy Fishbein

Jeremy Fishbein

Jeremy Fishbein

it should help us carve out some questions as we spend time with Sasho Cerovski (Head Coach of University of Maryland) later this month.

Sasho Cirovski

Sasho Cirovski

My intent, through questions and discussion, is to touch base, in one way or another, with how College Soccer might better envision topics like these (below) as part of a successful end state (perhaps before 2025)? 

And yes, the NCAA is a tough nut to crack, but if colleges are really set up to help those, who attend, to better prepare for their lives in a professional environment then it only makes sense to seek out better ways to prepare students for the real rigors of professional soccer.

I don’t claim to have all the answers or even all the questions but if there is intent, true intent, to make the United States a leader in soccer then it’s worthy to consider that changes need to be made at the college level.  It is… after all… the most beautiful, individualized, team sport in the world and it’d be rude for the NCAA not to consider how it can better serve their students who wish to play professional soccer.

  1. A college soccer season that mirrors the length and rough number of games played at the professional level.  (Being worked as of February 2018)
  2. A college soccer ‘rules of law’ that mirrors that of FIFA and US Soccer. (Accepted and part of new ‘test’ in College Soccer Division I – February 2018)
  3. A soccer competition (that US Soccer supports) where College teams can potentially play against Professional teams for the US Open Cup – and yes amateur leagues across THE REST OF THE WORLD compete in national cups.
  4. A training environment where players can experience the same type of physical training and game tactics they’ll face in the professional leagues.  In other words get rid of count-down clocks and multiple player substitutions as well as the silly rules about what constitutes soccer training versus workouts in the gym. (Accepted and part of new ‘test’ in College Soccer Division I – February 2018)
  5. A coaching environment where coaches can experience the same types of tactical nuance that professional coaches face.  In other words, again, ditch the multiple substitution rules.  Thereby forcing head coaches to have their players experience tired legs, which in turn, can change the tenor/tactics of a game.  Meaning it isn’t simply about playing – with fresh legs for all players – a full 90 minutes.  This then translates to better understanding possession with purpose – possession for the sake of possession – versus possession for the sake of penetration – or – (put differently) non-possession where you lure your opponent into untenable defending positions if/when they lose the ball in attack.  (Accepted and part of new ‘test’ in College Soccer Division I – February 2018)
  6. A refereeing environment where referees gain valuable experience in governing a game relative to the rules of FIFA and US Soccer…  I think most would agree, the greater the pool of eligible referees to manage professional soccer, the greater the likelihood that refereeing in this country will get better.  (Accepted and part of new ‘test’ in College Soccer Division I – February 2018)

If you did read my article, or previous articles I’ve written on these topics, you should know there are roughly 1900 college soccer teams in the United States; that equates to roughly 41,800 players playing outside the governing rules of FIFA and US Soccer.

That also equates (if each college team has 1 Head Coach and 3 Assistant Coaches) to 7,600 coaches not coaching and managing tactics (successes and failures of those tactics) they are likely to experience as a professional head coach.  This isn’t to say coaches are not aware of those different types of tactics – it’s only to offer that having the regular experience of managing, relative to those tactics, may be different in the professional ranks as opposed to college ranks.

Finally, every game needs a referee and two assistant referees, plus a fourth official on the sideline.  So that equates to 7,600 referees managing games outside the governing rules of FIFA and US Soccer.

Bottom line, that means the single greatest level of amateur soccer in this country is failing to properly prepare players (in their prime), coaches, and referees for professional soccer.  

So… Jurgen Klinsmann and Sunil Gulati – if you’re really going to espouse to a greater success of soccer, across this nation, then I’d expect you need to focus on supporting college coaches, as much, if not more, than MLS.  Others may disagree…  (NOTE: Jurgen Klinsmann and Sunil Gulati are both OUT at US Soccer)

What are your thoughts?

Best, Chris

New York City – For Kreis Sake?

Much could be subjectively offered here on the strengths and weaknesses of Jason Kreis and the decision by New York City FC to sack him; but not knowing the details behind the decision means it’s not worthy to comment.  

Instead – some analysis using the foundation of Possession with Purpose – on the why and how those team performance statistics highlight some issues that their leadership may need to address now that the season has ended.

A few caveats:

The overall PWP Index correlation, to points earned in the league table, wasn’t quite as high this year (.76/2015) as in previous years (.84/2013 & .85/2014).

I put that down to greater parity – meaning teams that didn’t possess the ball (as much) or teams that had lower passing accuracy (across the entire pitch) were just as likely to take three points as teams that didn’t.

Finally, there is no intent to point out individual player performance here either – like having no awareness of internal decision-making I also had no access to witness training sessions nor the in-depth tactics Kreis asked his players to perform.

To start – New York City fell into a category of teams who possessed the ball with higher than average passing accuracy (3rd highest and 6th highest respectively).  

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

 

That 3rd highest in possession translated to 2nd highest away from home and 5th highest when playing at home.

Only New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew exceeded them in overall possession.

In terms of passing accuracy they were 4th highest on the road and 9th lowest at home.

To put some additional context to this – like last year – eight teams averaged more than 50% possession this season; three of them failed to make the playoffs – New York City, Real Salt Lake, and Orlando.

Those same three teams were also in the top ten for passing accuracy – and as in possession – they were the only teams who didn’t make the playoffs out of those top ten.

But high percentages in passing accuracy and possession don’t necessarily mean you make the playoffs – this past year all three of the top three teams out west failed to exceed 50% in possession and only Portland finished in the top ten for passing accuracy.

So is the demise of New York City, not making the playoffs, down to poor attacking?  No…

Overall, they finished in the top ten of the APWP Index and nine of those top ten teams made the playoffs.

In conclusion, I sense it’s reasonable to offer that their combined quality, with respect to possession, passing accuracy, penetration, shot creation, and goals scored per shot creation, was good enough to get them in the playoffs but it didn’t.

Meaning there is need to look elsewhere… Team Defending.

 

When viewing defending team performance indicators the one that sticks out the most is New York City allowed their opponent’s the highest percentage of shots taken per penetration.

Even more disturbing, is even though opponent’s had the third lowest overall possession they also had the highest volume of shots taken…

In other words, their opponent’s didn’t have much of the ball, but when they did, they not only created quality shots per penetration they also generated the most shots regardless of volume in penetration.

So in terms of both quality and quantity New York City were left wanting in defending, and those opponent totals lead to the highest goals against, per game, in MLS (1.76).

But like possession and passing accuracy, my intent isn’t to pidgeon-hole one or two specific team performance indicators but to look at the breadth and depth of overall team performance in defending.

Overall, New York City were 8th worst in team performance defending.

And of the bottom ten teams in the Defending PWP Index only five made the playoffs.

Of note – the top four teams in the DPWP Index were Seattle, New York Red Bulls, FC Dallas, and Vancouver.

And all four of those teams made the playoffs with New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas tying for most points earned in MLS; defense matters… even in a league rife with parity!

New York City moving forward:

The big picture:

First things first – just because Manchester City is extremely successful in a possession-based attack doesn’t mean that same tactical philosophy works across the pond.

Major League Soccer is NOT the English Premier League – parity thrives to a far greater extent in this league than in England.

Meaning – from my viewpoint – if New York City is going to continue to work towards a possession-based style they will need to find better defenders and midfielders who defend without the ball as well as with the ball.

And with a number of foreign players already in the mix, it’s likely those new players may need to be Americans!

So here we potentially have an organization, founded as part of the Manchester City organization, one with an extensive pedigree in developing players, that is most likely going to have to find Americans to bolster quality (in defending as much as attacking) as they look to improve their possession-based attack where passing and first touch are a premium.

Others may disagree, but I think that bodes well in this country – and – eventually – it should help strengthen further development for our national team.

The little picture:

Changes in players are needed – who goes and when and who replaces them is not for me to figure out – but given the pedigree of the Manchester City statistics and scouting department I imagine they’ve got a few players in mind.

As for Jason Kreis:

There are a number of different paths forward for this very good Head Coach – perhaps he gets picked up by Chicago?  I’d imagine everyone who follows #CF97 would love to see that.

Or perhaps another twist – Jason returns to Real Salt Lake – or…

As we spoke about on the Yellowcardedpod the other night, with Thomas Rongen, maybe Sigi Schmid retires and Garth Lagerway calls on Jason Kreis to lead Seattle?  Personally I hope not (#RCTID)

It was good to see Jason Kreis move to the Eastern Conference – if you ask me Chicago is the place to be – not that city up north from Portland.

However viewed, I don’t think Jason will remain out of employment very long.

Best, Chris

 

Vancouver and beyond???

While the result, and how that result was achieved, will certainly not be lost on the soccer world I do feel and think there is a cause for concern to consider as the Timbers prepare for Vancouver, and beyond, this Sunday.

Lucas Melano

The decision to replace Lucas Melano with George Fochive in the 85th minute.

As a caveat, this view is not intended to be a player-specific critic – but more about the general team performance (reaction) given the substitution, what might be drawn from it, and how the impact of that substitution might influence decisions made as the playoff run continues.

And no – no heat maps or passing charts – you need video analysis for this assessment.

In watching the overall tenor of the game (before and after the 85th minute) I’d say the ability of Sporting to possess and penetrate was better, not worse, after George Fochive came on.

George Fochive

And for most of us this shouldn’t be  a surprise.

Throughout the course of this season the Timbers have played somewhat deeper (ceding possession) in working a double-pivot tactical strategy that plays more to counter-attacking than possession-based attacking.

This approach has been a two-edged sword; usually the opponent comes away without scoring a goal, but alas, so it also goes for the Timbers.

That said, unfortunately, we have seen some teams win – and win big – (Philadelphia, FC Dallas, and LA Galaxy come to mind).

So should we really be surprised that Sporting got the equalizer near stoppage time and a second goal in extra time?

I don’t think so, and that remains a cause of concern for me as the Timbers move forward against Vancouver, and beyond.

First off – I sense it is reasonable to expect that over the course of a season, when playing one basic tactical approach, players will develop patterns of behavior (on field habits) that they’ll play to, regardless of some finite, tactical adjustments made by the head coach during the game.

In addition, it’s my belief that the tactical move to replace Melano had a negative impact on Darlington Nagbe’s ability to influence the game – if the Timbers are working towards more attacking, and possession-based ball movement with five attackers, then it stands to reason they’ll be doing less of that with four attackers.

Meaning Sporting is going to have more of the ball.

So, when you’re up one goal with less than 15 minutes to go, at home, do you really want to set the conditions for the opponent to tactically, by default, and through general pattern of behaviour, have more of the ball?  Not really…

In thinking about this game it brings to mind an example of what I mean.

Recall the devastating draw the US Men’s National Team had with Portugal in the 2014 World Cup.

Jurgen Klinsmann made (in my view) a decision that was also cause for concern, that many missed.

He pulled Graham Zusi and replaced him with Omar Gonzalez – in other words he pulled an attacking midfield player, on the left side, and replaced him with a central defender.

This decision meant (tactically) the US Men’s National Team had no-one occupying, and therefore defending, the same exact zone where Ronaldo delivered the cross that got Portugal the equalizer.

Almost the exact same thing happened last night…

Melano got pulled and replaced with Fochive.

In turn, after the initial corner ball was cleared (to the zone one might expect Melano to patrol after a defensive clearance) Zusi delivered an equalizing cross where he was under absolutely no pressure – he had clear time and space to deliver his cross just like Ronaldo had against the US Men’s National Team!

But the real issue here isn’t that specific example, it’s bigger than that and also cause for concern; especially if this (up one goal) scenario occurs again.

So while all the hoopla goes towards the stunning, and heart stopping result, of yesterday Caleb Porter has much to consider.

For me, I think it’s worthy that the Timbers will be conducting some in-depth video analysis to better understand (throughout the entire game) how the impact (and influence) that Melano had on the game compared and contrasted with the impact (and influence) Fochive had on the game.

And I don’t mean with respect to the individual player’s and their execution but with respect to the overall tenor of team performance, in attacking and defending, for both Portland and Kansas City.

Bottom line here:

The game had a great scoreline, with the players and tactics used up to the 85th minute.  Did the change in tactics (with that player substitution) alter the construct of the game enough to create a condition where Sporting may have been more likely to score a goal?

I think it did but my view isn’t the one that matters.  So as an analyst – I would submit that question needs to be asked – and I sense Caleb will do that.

In closing:

Perhaps another, less talked about decision, was Caleb Porter’s decision to open in a single-pivot.

For me, that sets the stage on his intent to continue with that approach, as a first choice option; others may view that differently.

And while I think and feel that is a very reasonable path forward, in battling the teams who like to counter-attack, I also think it’s sets the stage for future player decisions.

By that I mean, if you run (by choice) a single-pivot, do you really need five central defending midfielders on your roster?

And can you sustain a reasonable attacking path forward with just two players (Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri) who can command the attacking responsibilities associated with that approach?

I’d say no…

So all the while the playoffs are happening there oughta be someone in the front office looking at attacking central midfielders to shore up what appears to be a very good tactical shift on the part of Caleb Porter.

Best, Chris

 

 

 

Portland Timbers and the MLS Playoffs

It’s the final game of the regular season in MLS and those of us in Portland are hopeful the season continues.

In preparation for tomorrow a couple of questions come to mind given their latest form as well as their overall performance this year.

First off – and perhaps foremost on everyone’s mind is the answer to this question – will the Timbers trot out in the most recent formation given the comprehensive win in LA and the very solid performance in Salt Lake?

  • No…  for a couple of reasons – the one most reasonable to share with you is this one – the best 11 players Caleb indicated he’d rely on to start this game don’t fit the single pivot.
  • Those best 11, in my view, at this time, are Jorge Villafana, Liam Ridgewell, Nat Borchers, Alvas Powell, Diego Chara, George Fochive, Rodney Wallace, Lucas Melano, Fenando Adi, and Adam Kwarasey.
  • No Michael Nanchoff?  Aye; and not because he isn’t a good player.
  • For Caleb it’s down to evidence of information in team performance throughout the course of the season.  Be it good or bad Michael simply doesn’t have quality minutes and a portfolio of games played to substantiate he’d be able to start and replace what Diego Valeri can bring in such a huge game.
  • So the recourse is to rely on George Fochive, working with Diego Chara, while Darlington Nagbe steps in as the attacking midfielder.  As to where Rodney Wallace and Lucas Melano line up – figure that one is more about setting up the best individual match-ups that take advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses or mitigate their strengths.
  • So – hypothetically – what if Diego Valeri hadn’t drawn the silly yellow?  Yes, it is likely the best 11 players would have led to Caleb leveraging the single pivot.

Second – is Caleb Porter likely to overlook Colorado as an easy victory?

  • No… for a couple of reasons – the one most reasonable to share with you is this one – Caleb knows that parity runs rampant in this league and as just proved last week anyone can win anywhere – who’da thought five goals?
  • I could offer up a couple of team performance statistics to support that claim but the one most are familiar with is my Possession with Purpose Index.
  • To set the stage for this game I think there is value in looking at 2013, 2014, and then now (week 33 of 2015).

First off 2013:

End of Season 2013 MLS Coaching Changes

Note the number of teams falling in the range of +/- .05 (6 of them) while the difference between first and worst is .60.

A couple of other thoughts while looking back at 2013:

  • Note the different colored stars – the red stars indicate coaching changes where the coach was sacked and the yellow stars show where a coaching change was made mid-season.  Not pictured, but relevant to the question of parity, is the correlation (r) of this index to points earned in the league table – it was .84 – pretty high and the highest index correlation of any index in modern day soccer.
  • Also note that the Timbers finished at the very top of the Index – most would agree the Timbers were very much a possession-based team that looked to control the tempo of the game through possession, passing and quality penetration leading to quality shots, shots on goal and goals scored.

Next up is the end of season CPWP Index for 2014:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

Note the number of teams falling in the range of +/- .05 (2 of them) and like 2013 the difference between first and worst is .60.

A couple of other thoughts while looking back at 2014:

  • While there aren’t any stars on this index it should be noted that Chivas USA is now defunct and that Houston, Toronto, and San Jose sacked their head coaches while Montreal and Chicago sacked their head coaches, roughly mid season, this year.  Also note the (r) (incorrectly labeled R2 here) is .85.
  • Meaning that in both 2013 and 2014 the overall quality (performance of a team relative to percentages in possession, passing, penetration, shot creation, and goal scoring) of a team had a very good correlation to that team earning points.
  • For the Timbers:  Note the slight drop compared to 2013.  If you followed my analysis of 2014 you’ll know the defense wasn’t that sharp to begin and Caleb had to adjust the depth of his back four and the general tenor of the attack.
  • In doing this the Timbers dropped deeper in the final third of the season (probably not soon enough) and began to play a bit more direct (as a real attacking option).

Now to 2015:

MLS Week 33 CPWP Index

Notice the number of teams falling in the range of +/- .05 (10 of them) while the difference between first and worst is .41.

This pretty much means that the overall team performance (the composite percentages in quality from start to finish) are separated by less than 5% for 10 teams – compared to just two teams in 2014 and six teams in 2013.  So for me that means more teams are more equal, in quality performance, than in previous years.

And the difference between first and worst has dropped 19% moving from .60 to .41.  This difference, for me, means the overall quality of performance between the worst to the first team is smaller, and that smaller equals greater parity….

A couple of other thoughts about 2015 relative to what we’ve seen in previous years:

  • This year we’ve seen much more in the way of direct play – especially for teams in the top half of the table.
  • Note FCD is fifth best here but tied with the Red Bulls for the Supporters Shield.
  • Also note that both DC United and Vancouver are much further down the index – another indication that teams playing more direct (as in with more of a counter-attacking approach that cedes some possession) are earning more points than 2013.
  • Last but not least – the leading indicator for all this, if you will, is the (r) – the correlation of the index to points earned.  It’s .71 – a full 14% points different from 2014 and to me the statistical indicator that substantiates parity.
  • How about the Timbers?  Instead of being first (2013) or third (2014) in the index they now sit 10th… and they play more direct.  Two other teams who’ve also seen a considerable shift in their index position are Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake; their drop in this index is just as considerable as the Timbers – so statistically – the data is representative.
  • Finally, the other trend on head coaches, as noted both Montreal and Chicago already sacked their head coaches.  If the index continues to be a leading indicator then it’s likely we see a coaching change in Philadelphia as well as Colorado – and – perhaps – if things don’t change we also see a coaching change in Houston and Orlando some time next year?

Third – What was the second half speech about?

  • I didn’t ask Caleb this – members of the media want there to be something special said when it’s highly likely nothing special was said at all.
  • When a team has a 1 goal lead or deficit it is highly unlikely a coach will make major changes to their game plan or make a major speech that ‘motivates’.
  • There may be tweaks here and there to tactics but to expect that there’s a magical phrase or two that can better attribute a five goal outburst is bollocks.
  • And speaking from personal experience – the real tactical changes (when down 1 goal) are more likely to manifest themselves on or around the 60 minute mark – and maybe as late as the 75th minute mark – not at half time.
  • For a head coach to make major adjustments at the half it means he’s failed to establish an effective game plan to begin with or he’s simply selected the wrong players to play the tactical approach he’s selected.  And when that’s the case the scoreline is more like being down two or three goals – not one goal – especially a one-off goal like Keane scored.
  • So for the media to perpetuate something magical happened (in the locker room) that lead to five goals in a span of 25 minutes is silly…

Opinion:  

I hear talk of MLS media beginning to develop their votes for player award selections at year end…

Liam Ridgewell

If rumor is true that Liam Ridgewell is to garner some votes as defender of the year then don’t count me in as a supporter of that.  If anything he’s been the most inconsistent defender this year.

Jorge Villafana

My vote goes to Jorge Villafana – he’s a hard worker who’s got a huge responsibility and many folks simply have no idea how valuable he is in allowing Caleb Porter the flexibility to play a guy like Lucas Melano.

Darlington Nagbe and the USMNT – Word has it that Nagbe will soon be called up.  While some may disagree I don’t.

Nagbe Bags a Whale of a Goal

The USMNT needs a possession-based player.  Their current attacking form is pathetic and has shown no real improvement in the four/five years Klinsmann has led the team.

By bringing on Nagbe the USMNT gets a guy who can accurately pass the ball while also offering up the ability to dribble-drive.  In other words he offers something not currently present in the USMNT midfield.

Best, Chris