Category: Standard Deviations

Consistency of Purpose – Defending – Major League Soccer

Consistency of Purpose – as a business analyst I know that organizations usually strive for consistency in performance.  The general idea behind this is that before you can really begin to assess what improvements need to be made you first need to have some sort of ‘control’ over the effort.

In laymen’s ‘statistical’ terms – the lower the standard devation of an activity the more control there is in the effort – and therefore a better opportunity to actually improve the output.

For me, this approach should also apply in soccer team performance – the less standard deviation you have (from the mean/norm/average) the better; the worse the variance the more ‘out of control’.

So in keeping with my previous article on Consistency of Purpose (In Attack) I’m offering up the standard deviations for teams as they defend against their opponents.

In preparation for my analysis on Consistency of Purpose a few details to set the stage up front:

  1. This approach takes a look at Defending only.
  2. The statistical analysis will measure Standard Deviation.
  3. Standard Deviation – A low standard deviation indicates that the data points tend to be very close to the mean (also called expected value); a high standard deviation indicates that the data points are spread out over a large range of values.
  4. In other words I will look at how consistent the opponents are in my six primary PWP measurements (for each game – for each team) and identify the standard deviation (variation) that team has in being (regularly) near their average versus not being near their average.
  5. For example, a team’s opponent averages 75% passing accuracy against them – a lower standard deviation would mean that the team regularly comes close to hitting that average (a close pattern say +/-4%). A higher standard deviation would mean the team would have a high difference (say +/- 20-25%) on creating that average.
  6. At this stage, the variation will not address home versus away games – nor will it filter volume of passes the opponent offers – I’ll do that at the end of the season.
  7. What this translates to – is consistency of purpose.  Are you consistently near a target on a regular basis or are you sporadic and “disorganized” in hitting your target on a regular basis.
  8. The lower the better when it comes to viewing this as a measure of consistency.
  9. Areas evaluated in how the opponent performs against you include Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch, Passing Accuracy within the Final Third, Penetration percentage into the Final Third based upon overall possession, Shots taken per penetration percentage, Shots on Goal per Shots Taken, Goals Scored per Shots on Goal, and Goals Against.

Before kickoff here’s how all the teams line up against each other in Composite PWP through Week 27:

CPWP MLS Through Week 27

LA Galaxy remain atop the CPWP Index – statistically speaking the R2 is .817 – the highest correlation so far this year to Points in the League Table.  And from what I have seen, in other statistical analyses approaches, this Index continues to remain the most relevant independent (publicly generated) Index in Soccer…

Of note; my next article to be published, following this one, will againt take a different look with this Index – what I will do is split the Index into two parts – the first CPWP Index will look at how well the teams perform that:

  • Exceed 425 Passes per game (the league average) versus
  • Fall below 425 Passes per game

The intent will be to look and see what teams perform better or worse given their general volume of passes; the results may surprise some folks…

Anyhow – I digress – here’s the first of seven diagrams plotting the Standard Deviations of team’s as they defend against their opponent with respect to Passing Accuracy:

Consistency of Purpose Opponent Passing Accuracy Week 27

Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch:

The team with the lowest (best) standard deviation is Houston – as noted earlier in the year Houston made two defensive acquisitions – Garrido and Beasley – in case you missed it I think they have taken seven out of nine points since those players were added.

Chivas USA are next up for consistency – like Houston, consistency here relates to being poor in team defending against opponents passing accuracy – as such it should be pretty easy to point out all the weak links if that level of consistency, in being poor – with respect to final results – continues.

Near the top are both Columbus and LA Galaxy – if you recall from the Consistency of Purpose, in attacking, Columbus were pretty consistent in their own Passing Accuracy (most consistent) – and likewise they are up top again.

As noted in that article, a ‘beat’ writer had labeled them as ‘over-achievers’ – that’s not only complete bollocks when looking at their consistency in attack – it’s also complete bollocks when looking at their consistency in defending…

What’s scary here is that LA Galaxy are 4th best – so with a superb record – they are also superb in consistently managing the opponents passing accuracy… can you say MLS Champion?

At the opposite end is Colorado, and oddly enough, Real Salt Lake – why is that?

For Real Salt Lake, I’d offer that this may relate to the different styles their opponents take when either playing them at home or on the road – more to follow when the season ends on this one.

As for Colorado – they’ve had a number of injuries this year and they will, at times, cede possession to gain better effect on their counter-attack / direct attack – with that I’d expect their team to vary greatly in how well the opponent passes against them.

What to look for is more consistency as the data points narrow down to shot taken, shots on goal, and goals scored.  More to follow here…

On the other hand, Portland don’t really look to cede possession to often, so what might be impacting this level of inconsistency in managing the opponents passing accuracy – knowing that their Goals Against is one of the worst in MLS?

Are they more or less consistent in defending as the pitch gets smaller?  And might that level of consistency help or hinder their chances of making the playoffs?  More to follow…

Opponent Passing Accuracy in the Final Third:

Consistency of Purpose Opponent Passing Accuracy Final Third Week 27
The one that stands out the most is Colorado – so the hope that the variation decreases isn’t occuring with Colorado; they have an even greater deviation, from the norm here, than they do with Passing Accuracy (7% versus 12% here).  Is that a surprise?

For me, no.  And here’s why…

Also trailing at the end is San Jose – like Colorado they try to play for counterattacking – and since they are also a direct attacking team it’s reasonable that these two teams would be here.

As for Vancouver – hmmm… I’m not sure – perhaps at the end of the season this will take better shape when viewing home and away tactics/outputs a bit more?

In looking again at Columbus – more consistency of purpose – and what makes this even better for the Crew is that where they have one or two players who aren’t performing, it will make it easier to “see” who they are…  a much stronger and more reliable way to help the team ‘fix’ what’s not working…

Percentage of Penetration versus Possession:

Consistency of Purpose Opponent Penetration Per Possession Week 27

In looking to understand New England – the most consistent team here – figure the more consistent this team is in defending against penetration the easier it may be for them to plan on what defending tactics they will execute game in and game out.

The more predictable the opponent is in how frequent they penetrate the easier (in theory) it should be to defend against them…

On the other end of the scale we see New York – I suppose, for many, a high variation is no surprise here.

Many would not consider Petke a defensive minded coach – and the tougher it is to manage the midfield, prior to penetration, the tougher it may be to sustain consistency as the opponent looks to score goals.

For me, as a defensive minded guy, it would be this primary statistic I’d look at first.  But not until filtering out the differences between home and away as well as volume of passes faced; as noted earlier – I’ll do that at the end of the season.

Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession:

Consistency of Purpose Opponent Shots Taken Per Penetration Possession Week 27

Here’s where the real rubber begins to meet the road…

In my view teams that have a wide variance here gets down to what inconsistency that team has in rgularly limiting time and space for shots to be taken – OR – it’s a reflection of how impatient some teams may be against that team in taking shots given more or less opportunity.

In looking at San Jose being the most consistent here I’d offer this gets back to how effective they are in managing the zone defense they have – recall that both San Jose and Colorado were pretty inconsistent when it comes to opponent passing accuracy within and outside the final third – here those numbers translate to more consistency of purpose in managing the opponent as they actually penetrate with the intent to score.

On the flip side Columbus were pretty consistent in managing the opponents passing within and outside the final third – yet that consistency begins to translate to more varation as the opponent looks to take shots.

Do they get better or worse in their variation?  More to follow…

Opponent Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken:

Consistency of Purpose Opponent Shots on Goal Per Shots Taken Week 27

Sadly, for Colorado, that consistency seen in looking to manage Shots Taken per Penetrating Possession doesn’t translate to a matching level of consistency in Shots on Goal per Shots Taken.

In other words Colorado is more likely to yield more time and space to the opponent as they take their shots – hence more of their opponents shots are on goal than San Jose – who’s above average in consistency.

The most telling level of consistency here is Portland – and what’s really sad about this is that they are consistently bad – I can say that because their Goals Against is one of the highest in the League.

If there was ever a compelling piece of evidence – given goals against – I’m not sure.  Others may have a different view on this.

The flip side to this is that it should make it easier to analyze where the consistency in weakness comes from – therefore menaing it should be easier to correct for the future.

With respect to LA Galaxy, and being the most inconsistent – I’m not sure why that is and perhaps it will show better when I split the analysis up based upon opponent’s passing volume or their home versus away variations.

In considering Philadelphia – a likely impact  here is the change in leadership – as Hackworth was replaced perhaps the team  made some intergral changes in their defensive approach?  Like LA, I’ll look for that when the season ends.

Opponent Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal:

Consistency of Purpose Opponent Goals Scored Per Shots on Goal Week 27

Up near the top, again, in consistency for this indicator is Portland.

Really reinforcing, for me, that their consistency in being bad in defending (poor positional play in ceding time and space) continues… some might even offer that this translates to the need of bringing in a new goal keeper as well???

For me, it also supports the volume of individual mistakes made, consistently, at the wrong time… given their high Goals Against.

There’s San Jose, again near the best when it comes to consistency.

So that consistency in yielding time and space, for the opponent to pass and penetrate, also translates back to consistency in what goals the opponent scores versus Shots on Goal.

I’d offer this should give Watson, and the front office, pretty good background statistical information to fix what defensive issues they may have as the season closes and/or in preparation for next year.

Colorado, on the other hand, who was consistent in yielding time and space for the opponent to move the ball, continues to show how poor they are in managing that opponent consistency as they enter and create/generate shots that score goals.

Perhaps that is down to injuries?  I’m not so sure – I’d offer it may be down to an imbalance they have across the back-four; along with support from their midfield.

On the tail end is Real Salt Lake – with the World Cup and injuries I suppose this isn’t too much of a surprise.

But with the fourth lowest Goals Against (35) in MLS, that variation is probably not too much to worry about.

And with Jeff Attinella having over 700 minutes of playing time, compared to Nick Rimando’s 1800 minutes, perhaps that variation is more a reflection of good goal keeping versus great goal keeping?

Note how low Sporting KC is here – perhaps that is more about the volume of red and yellow cards they’ve recieved more than anything else???  As the season ends I’ll peel this back a bit more too…

Opponent Goals Against:

Consistency of Purpose Opponent Goals Scored Against Week 27

Although Ryan Nelson was sacked, it would appear that his overall approach in managing a consistent level of defending was best in MLS (with respect to results), at this time.

What that means is that – going into most every game – Ryan Nelson could expect, with some level of consistency, how many goals the opponent might score.

That, in turn, should help him devise what attacking approach he might use to maximize points.

Indeed – he was third in the Eastern Conference league table when he got sacked – now Toronto is seventh…

In considering Colorado – things just go from bad to worse – consistency in ceding possession and penetration has not resulted in consistency when it comes to managing the bottom line.

While perhaps somewhat cynical, I’d offer this inconsistency, as the pitch gets smaller, will make it very hard for them to piece together a final playoff push – as in the bottom line – they really can’t rely on a consistent performance from their defense.

In retrospect – with the Timbers being much more consistent in their defensive weaknesses it may actually be easier for Caleb Porter to manage what expectations he has going in… thereby easing the stress; it is what it is…

In closing:

NOTE:  A compelling issue here with respect to ‘standard deviations’ is that there is the potential for the variations to be a FUNCTION of which conference a team is in.

It should be noted that a number of teams play counter-attacking and direct versus those that play possession-based soccer; that is why I will be filtering this data, at the end of the season, by volume of passes.

No doubt the consistency of purpose will look different when teams have completed the season and additional filters are in place (i.e volume of passes faced or home versus away).

But there are patterns and some sense can be made based upon what is seen that is normally unseen…

The screws tighten even more…

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

 

Possession with Purpose – Revised Introduction

It’s time to offer up another revised version of my Possession with Purpose Analysis.

My intent here is to:

  1. Provide an update that may help simplify this effort, and
  2. Update new links to articles most have found to be of great interest in the last year.

To begin… Possession with Purpose (PWP):

The End State, as always this is good to know up front:

Create an objective Strategic Family of Indices, with publicly made available data, that has relevance and helps identify (explain) the strengths and weaknesses of team performance ‘outside’ the realm of Points in the League Table.

Of note; this analysis has been presented, and received with great interest, at the World Conference on Science and Soccer of 2014.  So it’s not a fly-by-night attempt to offer up analysis that can’t translate back to the soccer and science industry or help inform the general, or well educated, soccer community (both here and across the pond) about Footy…

The Intent:

Create a Family of Indices that measure the ‘bell curve’ of strategic activities that occur in a game of football (soccer); recognizing that in order to score goals the following activities usually need to occur:

  1. Gain possession of the ball
  2. Move the ball
  3. Penetrate the opponents defending final third
  4. Generate a shot taken
  5. That ends up on target and,
  6. Gets past the keeper

From a statistical (measurement) standpoint those activities are organized into these six categories:

  1. Possession percentage
  2. Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch
  3. Passing Percentage within and into the Opponents Final Third compared to overall possession (i.e. = Penetration)
  4. Shots Taken per Percentage of Penetration
  5. Shots on Goal per Shots Taken
  6. Goals Scored per Shots on Goal

It’s not a secret formula but I do retain Copyright.

The Family of Strategic Indices – there are three of them:

  1. Attacking Possession with Purpose (APWP)
  2. Defending Possession with Purpose (DPWP)
  3. Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP)

APWP Index:  How effective a team is in performing those six process steps throughout the course of a game.  Example:

APWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

DPWP Index:  How effective the opponent is in performing those six process steps, throughout the course of a game, against you.  Example:

DPWP STRATEGIC INDEX BUNDESLIGA WEEK 17

CPWP Index:  The mathematical difference between the APWP Index and DPWP Index.  Example:

CPWP Strategic Index Week 22

The Analysis:

Simply stated, the analysis stemming from this effort is a comparison and contrast between how a team performs (in the bell curve of these activities) relative to other teams in their league “without” including points in the league table.

Statistical Correlation:

Last year the CPWP Strategic Index Correlation (relationship) to Points in the Table, for Major League Soccer, was .77; this year, at the end Week 26, the R is .85.

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

In returning back to the End State:

“Create an objective Strategic Family of Indices, with publicly made available data, that has relevance and helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of team performance ‘outside’ the realm of Points in the League Table.”

Given the very high level of Correlation these Indices have, I’d say this Family of Indices has considerable statistical relevance; and I should point out that although the PWP approach is an Explanatory Model it can also be leveraged as a Predictability Model.

After speaking with a number of folks at the World Conference on Science and Soccer (2014) it was agreed that the most effective way to turn this into a Predictability Model is to remove Goals Scored (in both Indices) and ‘see’ how the Composite Index takes shape after that.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

CPWP Predictability Index Week 22

A word or two of caution…

From a purely statistical viewpoint I do not see this as a Predictability Model that has direct relevance yet… why?

For the simple reason that there have not been 15 games played for all teams both Home and Away – teams show a tendency, for the most part to behave slightly different at home versus on the road…

Why the number 15?  I suppose it comes down to Confidence Level in the number of samples that are needed in order to forecast the future based upon the past…  with 34 games played in Major League Soccer you really need 15 games to reach that 95% Confidence Level limit in samples…

All that said, it is extremely inviting/inticing to see that even when Goals Scored (both for and against) are removed the CPWP Predictability Index still has a correlation (R) of .84…

Links to articles that have had extensive views over the last year and a way to get a taste of how PWP analyses might be able to help you, as a writer (through collaboration with me), better inform your audience about the nuance of soccer:

In Closing:

Others in mainstream media sometimes offer up subjective opinions that may not be substantiated with objective data; I won’t do that.

Every shred of analysis offered here will include some sort of objective data to support an opinion or conclusion.

Like any other mainstream business; statistical analysis provides objective data as a tool to leverage when looking to make business decisions.  It is not a substitute for the seasoned leadership needed to make final decisions.

I don’t advocate that this analysis is the ‘answer’ or the only tool that substantiates one view – in a soccer match, with 40,000 supporters in attendance, I’ve learned that those 40,000 supporters have 40,000 sets of eyes that see things differently.

On this site, this information and analyses presented, is merely my view, from my eyes, in how I see the game – hopefully, in order to make my future articles of better value, others will add their comments, thoughts, and questions.

Finally, I’m not sure how this will develop but I’ve been approached to provide a manuscript for this analytical effort – for publication in a Sports Science Journal.   More to follow on how that goes.  

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

NOTE:  All data used to generate this analysis stems from OPTA through a number of open/public websites across Europe and America.

My thanks to OPTA and all those open websites for helping to facilitate my own analysis and potential improvements that may arise from this effort.

Colorado Rapids Ripped, Sundered, and Shredded – MLS Soccer through Week 26

It’s been awhile, I suppose, since a score-line of 6-nil has popped up in Major League Soccer and given the rarity, at least this year, I figured it’d be a worthy way to peel back how things are going in my traditional review of Major League Soccer each week.

As for the last time a score-line like that happened I haven’t got an historical clue but it’s the biggest difference in a score-line I’ve seen since analyzing team performance on Possession with Purpose.

In fact I do recall a five – nil win earlier this year, by New England, over Seattle.  And a five – nil win, by Montreal, over Houston last year, but nothing comes to mind for a score-line of six – nil.  (Perhaps?) others may know of a really lopsided win like this one in the history of MLS.

In all the games so far this year this was the most dominating ‘result’ and ‘outright team performance in possession with purpose’ of anyone; in case you were wondering – in the Timbers game against San Jose, this past weekend, their APWP for that game was 2.6938.

So when I mean comprehensive – I mean from, square one to the opponents goal, comprehensive… Only seven times have teams shattered the 3.0 barrier in the APWP Index this year; here they are in order:

  1. LA Galaxy 6-nil win over Colorado, Week 26 = 3.1740
  2. FC Dallas 4-1 win over Houston, Week 5 = 3.1032
  3. LA Galaxy 5-1 win over New England, Week 16 = 3.0858
  4. Columbus Crew 3-nil over Houston, Week 25 = 3.0675
  5. Chicago Fire 5-4 win over New York, Week 9 = 3.0302
  6. Sporting KC 3-nil win over Montreal, Week 9 = 3.0062, and finally
  7. DC United 3-1 win over Chivas USA, Week 19 = 3.0008

Note: the games in bold print, with italics, are games where the losing side had a Red Card.

For me, this reinforces that my ‘not‘ counting Red Cards, as a separate data point, to influence this Index, is appropriate.

If I were to add Red Cards, to the Index equation, a team would be penalized twice.

With that offered here’s the overall Composite PWP through Week 26:

CPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26I’ve already touched on some observations here in my article earlier this week, about Standard Deviations, so just a couple of additional bits and pieces.

The R2 (correlation of this Index to Points in the League Table) is .79 this week; compared to .80 last week…

Relation to the League Table:

  • Five out of the top six Eastern Conference teams, in this Index, are currently above the red line in the League Table; with Philadelphia and New York swapped in this Index compared to the League Table.  (80% accurate)
  • Five out of the top five Western Conference teams, in this Index, are currently above the red line in the League Table.  (100% accurate)
  • Gentle reminder – the End State of this Possession with Purpose Analysis is to create an Index that comes as close to matching the League Table, as possible, without using points earned from wins or draws.

Moving on to the Attacking PWP Strategic Index:

APWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26

As expected, the top team in APWP remains LA Galaxy – all told a 10% lead over all other teams in MLS.  Chivas USA, and Wilmer Cabrera (bless him for trying) remain bottom.

The worst team in attack specifically for Week 26 (only) was Vancouver; with DC United 2nd worst and Toronto FC 3rd worst.  DC United and Vancouver played to a nil-nil draw so that’s probably no surprise.

As for Toronto – well, who bloody knows?

As offered by my friends Stephen Brandt (along with Keith Kokinda) on this latest podcast it appears to many in the northeast that Toronto is battling hard to become the Chivas USA of Canada; seems they are doing a pretty good job of that!

In concerning Portland, who had some records this past week in Shots Taken and Shots on Goal.

We already know, this year, that a critical element to scoring goals (that isn’t really measured publicly) is Time and Space.

In watching that game there is no question the Timbers had time or had space – but rarely did they have both…

As much as it may pain some folks San Jose, believe it or not, were in the right place at the right time (given the volume of shots faced) more often than not…  after all they did block nine of those 32 shots offered.

And if you didn’t know, Portland have four games where their opponent has blocked nine or more shots this year.  Only one other team has had that many shots blocked in more than one game – LA Galaxy; twice.

Seattle has the record this year – they had 12 shots blocked by, guess who, San Jose in Week 23!!!  And guess who one of the teams was that blocked nine or more against LA – yup – San Jose!

Can you say ZONE DEFENSE?

So I’m not sure I completely agree with Caleb Porter when he indicates it’s not about tactics anymore (to paraphrase).

I would offer he really knows it is – but when dropping two points, at home, again… I can certainly empathize with him voicing that in a press conference.

For me, what that translates to is this… given the amount of time left in the season there is absolutely no value and benefit going over technical weaknesses in detail.

They are known, understood, and they need to be filed, recognized for what they are, and move on.

In other words – roll the sleeves up and just bloody get on with the job in hand – win…

Come this next weekend, against Colorado, who were COMPLETELY humiliated by LA Galaxy – you can bet Mastroeni is not only wanting his team to win to get back in the race – but he’s also probably wanting his team to win in order to keep his chances of running the Rapids next year a reality…

With that said, here’s the Defending PWP Strategic Index through Week 26:

DPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26

I read somewhere, here, that Columbus Crew were the biggest over-achievers in Major League Soccer and slow in defending; bollocks… complete and utter bollocks.

You simply can’t convince me that this team performance Index, with a -.7o correlation to points in the League Table, supports Columbus being “over-achievers and slow in defending”…

Let’s not forget that Columbus is the most consistent team in passing accuracy across MLS (least standard deviation i.e. consistency of purpose)

Indeed, as the Composite PWP Index points out at the beginning of this article, the Columbus Crew are simply a strong team that has been consistently strong throughout the year.

  • At Week four they were best in the CPWP Index
  • At Week seven they were 2nd in the CPWP Index
  • At Week 12 they were 3rd in the CPWP Index
  • At Week 18 they were 5th in the CPWP Index
  • And at week 22 they were 5th in the CPWP Index
  • Now – they have climbed back up to 3rd best in the CPWP Index
  • Not sure there have been many teams, besides LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, who have been as consistently strong in consistency of purpose.

So like I said – bollocks to them being pidgeon-holed as over-achievers… and while many may disagree, for me, this is just another example of how poorly the mainstream media do in really knowing, understanding and communicating what football (soccer) is all about.

In regarding Houston… and their position in DPWP.

The addition of Luis Garrido has added value; they have pushed up past Chicago Fire SC, and are mere thousandths of a point behind both Montreal and Toronto in team defending.

As for Toronto – they continue their slide…

I’m simply having a hard time wrapping my head around Nelson being sacked, I do see statistical information supporting the sacking but most organizations lean towards ‘results’ as opposed to ‘statistical indicators’… and when it came to results Toronto were third best in the Eastern Conference before Ryan was sacked.

(Perhaps?) this is a ‘team organizational decision making indicator’ (from Toronto FC) where statistical information has as much, if not more value in a coaching change,  than ‘results do’???

In closing…

The screws get turned even tighter… winning is the key but within that phrase there remains the need to tactically ‘get it right’… meaning defense is absolutely critical.

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

 

 

 

 

Consistency of Purpose – MLS Through Week 26

Before digging into a different view on Major League Soccer team performance, this week, I’ll offer up my Possession with Purpose Index for consideration.

A few changes after this week see Columbus jumping past Sporting (rightly so given the Crew won and Sporting didn’t).

In addition, Portland was passed by FC Dallas while a few other teams swapped places.

I wonder if Will Johnson really knows how odd it looks to see him run willy-nilly across the pitch at times, wasting energy, and then offering up an emotional blow-out like he did on Sunday, that simply won’t do as a leader…

The team that had the biggest gain was Philadelphia Union – moving up three spaces and right into the Playoff race – taking six points from a demoralized Toronto side certainly helped.

CPWP Strategic Index MLS Week 26

A reminder – the two yellow stars indicate mid-season coaching changes.

Now for a different view:

In preparation for my analysis on Consistency of Purpose a few details to set the stage up front:

  1. This approach takes a look at Attacking only.
  2. The statistical analysis will measure Standard Deviation.
  3. Standard Deviation – A low standard deviation indicates that the data points tend to be very close to the mean (also called expected value); a high standard deviation indicates that the data points are spread out over a large range of values.
  4. In other words I will look at team Passing Accuracy (for each game – for each team) and identify the standard deviation (variation) that team has in being (regularly) near their average versus not being near their average.
  5. For example, a team averages 75% passing accuracy – a lower standard deviation would mean that the team regularly comes close to hitting that average (a close pattern say +/-4%).  A higher standard deviation would mean the team could have a high difference (say +/- 20-25%) on creating that average.
  6. What this translates to – is consistency of purpose.  Are you consistently near your target on a regular basis or are you sporadic and “disorganized” in hitting your target on a regular basis.
  7. The lower the better when it comes to viewing this as a measure of consistency.
  8. Areas evaluated include Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch, Passing Accuracy within the Final Third, Penetration percentage into the Final Third based upon overall possession, Shots taken per penetration percentage, Shots on Goal per Shots Taken and Goals Scored per Shots on Goal.

To begin:  Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Passing Accuracy.

Consistency of Purpose Passing Accuracy Week 26

The team with the most consistency (least variation) in Passing Accuracy through Week 26 is Columbus – on the other end of the scale there’s Chicago Fire Soccer Club.

Columbus Crew also have the best overall passing accuracy of any team in Major League Soccer – so they are not only the best in accuracy (81.40%)  – there are also consistently performing the best, week in and week out.

Toronto recently sacked Ryan Nelson – in overall Passing Accuracy Toronto are third worst in average (74.35%) – in addition they are also the 2nd worst team in consistently hitting their expected value – i.e. no consistency and very poor performance compared to others.

Perhaps some might see that as useful information in understanding why the Toronto Front Office sacked Ryan?

Vancouver – for now Vancouver average 79.49% Passing Accuracy per game (4th best in MLS) but they are 10th worst in consistency of hitting their expected value (mean).   So while they are pretty good when it comes to average Passing Accuracy – they lack consistency in hitting that expected value on a regular basis.

 Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Passing Accuracy Final Third.

Consistency of Purpose Passing Accuracy Final Third Week 26

The team with the most consistent level of Passing Accuracy within the Final Third is New York; their variation is less than 5% with what is expected, given how they’ve performed this year.  

The worst team in this category, for consistency, is Sporting KC (>9% variation from game to game).  In total their overall average is 64.67% – so through the course of the season Sporting have had a very large variation in the in creating that average.

Interesting here, again, is Toronto – they are 7th most consistent in hitting their expected Final Third Passing Accuracy percentage – the problem is that better level of consistency is based upon an average that’s just 62.73%; the 5th worst in MLS.

Again a pattern of consistency – but consistency with respect to poor performance – another nail in the Nelson coffin?

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Penetration Percentage Per Possession.

Consistency of Purpose Penetration Percentage Per Possession Week 26

Atop the queue, again, is New York – they lead MLS in the consistency when it comes to in penetrating the opponents final third per possession.

In other words New York expects to hit a target of ~ 22% per game – and their variation in hitting that target is quite small; especially when compared to Portland.

For Portland they’ve been as high as 44% (yesterday against San Jose) and as low as 8.69% against Houston, game 8.

Given that wide disparity, it’s no wonder their standard deviation hovers near 9%.  Put in other words they are not really that consistent, game to game, in hitting an expected value like New York is.

Might a large  variation here mean the opponent is controlling more of how much Portland penetrates than Portland themselves?

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Shots Taken Per Penetration.

Consistency of Purpose Shots Taken Per Penetrating Possession Week 26The team most consistent in this category is Real Salt Lake (just over 4% variation for the season so far).   Note that New York are up here again.

In considering how consistent New York has been in hitting their expected values might this mean they are more predictable in what outcomes they might generate?

I’m not sure at this stage but I’ll look into that after the season is over.

For now know that Vancouver are on the bottom end of this scale – and given their results of late perhaps this high amount of variation means one of two things.

Either they aren’t getting the appropriate free space and time to take a shot – or – the players are looking to take a more perfect shot than is reasonable?

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Shots on Goal Per Shots Taken.

Consistency of Purpose Shots on Goal Per Shots Taken Week 26

Ah… at last, Toronto makes it to the front of the queue.  An interesting note here – quality usually beats quantity in this league and when it comes to the bottom line – a critical piece of that puzzle is putting shots taken on goal.

So this is a good thing for Toronto… or is it?

At this time Toronto are third worst in putting shots on goal from shots taken (34.51%).

So what this really means is that they, again, are consistent in being consistently poor compared to other teams in MLS.

Is this another nail in the coffin on why Ryan Nelson may have been sacked?

As for the others near the top – note again New York is right there; as are Sporting, Portland, and Seattle.

On the other end is San Jose – by a large margin.

Perhaps a reasonable view here is that the teams on the lower end are simply taking harder, or more frequent shots that don’t hit the target… might more patience change that?

I think so but that might be pretty hard to prove…

As for DC United and New England being on the lower end… it would appear these two teams might have some tendencies that vary given home and away games; when the season ends I’ll look into these attacking Standard Deviations again.

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Goals Scored Per Shots on Goal.

Consistency of Purpose Goals Scored Per Shots on Goal Week 26

Real Salt Lake lead the league in consistency here – but when it actually comes to scoring those goals they are 7th worst in MLS.

That being said, if predictability were specifically focused on goal scoring only; it seems pretty likely Real Salt Lake would be the most predictable.

On the flip side that means the team with the greatest variation in expected goals is FC Dallas; given their high volume of Red Cards this year perhaps that makes sense?  Others may have a different view…

Consistency of Purpose:  Standard Deviation Team Ranking.

Consistency of Purpose Attacking the Opponent Least Combined Deviation Ranking Week 26

In case you are interested the team who has the most, combined, overall consistency in hitting expected values is New York; the team that has the most variation in hitting expected values is New England.

As noted – this could mean that a team with greater variation, while winning, is harder to defend against than a team who is consistent in hitting expected values.

I’ll leave that for others to decide.

For now I’d simply offer that New York is pretty predictable in what they will do when they play a game – as is Real Salt Lake…

In Closing:

If you had to choose which team statistic you’d like to have as the most consistent, which would it be?

For next week I will include a look at Defending Consistency of Purpose.

In the following week I’ll chart MLS, as a whole; the intent there will be to use that information as a comparison when viewing the same outputs for the English Premier League, Bundesliga, and La Liga.

For me, the greater the variation in Passing Accuracy across all those leagues might help create a more realistic ‘apples to apples’ comparison between the leagues…

Best, Chris

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