Category: Total Soccer Index

Gluck: Fourth Year Anniversary Edition

My thanks to everyone who has supported my web site the last four years!

It’s been a learning experience for me and, I hope, for you too.

As the new year starts I’ve got at least five new articles planned; here’s a quick synopsis on what to expect:

  • Following up on Coaching Youth Soccer Part I and Coaching Youth Soccer Part II, I’ll be offering Coaching Youth Soccer Part III – digging into which team statistics to use, why, when, and how to use them.  For those who don’t know me these three articles highlight my coaching philosophy into one three word catchphrase “muscle memory mentality“.
  • Two new individual soccer statistics:   This (may?) be controversial – My intent is to submit two new, professional level, individual, soccer statistics that could transform the player market value system.

Said differently; are private statistics companies, like Prozone Sports, OPTA, and InStat (along with player agents) manipulating the player market value system by ignoring what might be the most logical, intuitive, individual soccer statistics ever?

  • Expected Points – An updated version of my previously created Expected Wins series of articles.  A follow on to what was offered at the World Conference on Science & Soccer 2017, Rennes, France.
  • Expected Goals – A new way to calculate this over-hyped soccer statistic that brings it a bit closer to reality.
  • World Cup 2018 Total Soccer Index; to include predicting the winners after round one is complete.

For now, in case you missed one or two, here’s my rundown on the top five articles in each of the last four years.

In Closing:

  • I called for Jurgen Klinsmann to be sacked after WC 2014 because his tactics and in-game adjustments weren’t up to snuff.  Three years later the rest of the american mainstream soccer media world agreed and Klinsmann was sacked.
  • I called for Sunil Gulati to be ‘ousted’ after WC 2014 because his leadership in helping youth development and head coach selection weren’t up to snuff. Three years later the rest of the american mainstream soccer media world agreed and Gulati is out.
  • In hindsight – I wonder where we’d be in youth soccer development if we’d have made those decisions three years ago?
  • No, I do not favor Caleb Porter as the next US Men’s National Team head coach.  I like Caleb, he’s a stand-up guy and always took time to share and listen.  That said, in my opinion, he’s not (consistently) good enough at reading in game situations and making tactical adjustments that lead to better performances; the exact same issue I had with Jurgen Klinsmann.  .
  • I’m hopeful either Eric Wynalda or Steve Gans are elected as the next United States Soccer Federation President; electing Kathy Carter is a NO-GO in my view as there’s perceived ‘collusion’ between MLS and SUM.  As a retired Air-Force veteran perception is reality until proven otherwise – some may disagree?

I wish you all the best for the new year.

Best,

CoachChrisGluck

 

@MLS Total Soccer Index Power Rankings and More

The all star game happens this week so what better time to review where teams compare in the Total Soccer Index.

After every team had played 17 games; (halfway through the season).

Top team with 17 games in, points wise, was not Atlanta it was FC Dallas; Red Bulls of New York showed most consistency in quality across the pitch.

  • With Jesse Marsch departing it will be interesting to see if Red Bulls can continue that run of quality – if they do they could be a great bet to win it all if the pundits stick with Atlanta given their edge in points earned.
  • I also feel vindicated, as a pundit, as I recognized Jesse Marsch as the best ‘domestic’ MLS Head Coach option for the US Men’s National Team last year; read it here:.
  • Of additional interest; my second choice to coach the US Men’s National Team would be Oscar Pareja… not Gregg Berhalter.

Oscar Pareja, like Jesse Marsch, shows greater consistency of purpose in earning points when his team plays with OR without the ball.

Worst were Orlando, Colorado, and Montreal…  more to follow on just how bad Orlando and Colorado are; even compared to Chivas USA!

Here’s how the teams stack up (in one big conference) for total games played.   The Eastern Conference rules the roost.

Best and worst playing at home; the Eastern Conference rules the roost:

Best and worst playing away from home; only LA Galaxy,, of the Western Conference, squeeze into the top 3:

The elite teams at home are pretty much the elite teams on the road; some of the worst teams on the road are also in the bottom third at home.

When you’re good, you’re good, when you’re bad you’re bad.

In closing:

I don’t live in Orlando and I don’t follow their team, but it seems to me there’s some significant issues with that club at ALL levels.

  • In any other league in any other country they’d be relegated.
  • Instead they’ll get extra money to make them ‘appear’ to be more competitive.
  • When you’ve got a bad front office and ownership group you’ll consistently have a bad team.

To give you an idea what I mean; here’s the Total Soccer Index for every team that’s played in MLS since 2014 (all games included in this analysis). 

Only one team (not Chivas USA) has shown worse overall (combined) team performance (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and now 2018) than Orlando…. San Jose!

As much as folks might blast Orlando City ownership there should be equal, if not more, attention sent the way of Colorado and San Jose, as well as Chicago (maybe?).

  • Relegation would have seen these teams probably sink to division 3 if US Soccer ran a proper organization.
  • Ironic that Chivas USA has actually shown better in team performance than Montreal, Chicago, Colorado, Orlando, and San Jose…
  • When is the last time you heard soccer pundits calling out those organizations like they did Chivas USA?
  • If ever an organization needed to hire a forward-thinking, team-performance statistical analyst it’s Orlando, San Jose, Colorado, or Chicago.  Give me a call. 🙂

While Atlanta have shown well their first two season, the two most consistent teams (across 5 years’ measurement) are Red Bulls and FC Dallas.

  • Just another piece of team performance data for US Soccer to analyze that confirms both Jesse Marsch and Oscar Pareja are far more consistent in having their teams ‘earn points’, while also showing consistent quality across the entire pitch, than Gregg Berhalter.
  • Oooh, that’s likely to be a snarky comment for some and a front loaded criticism of US Soccer if they decide to hire Gregg.  Note this isn’t me saying he’s not a good coach – he is – but is he a better selection than Pareja or some other guy who coaches domestic soccer in Europe?

Best, Chris

Major League Soccer and Possession with Purpose

Major League Soccer nears the All Star break and most teams have reached the mid-point in games played.

From top to bottom here’s the latest on MLS team performance in possession, passing accuracy, penetration, creation, precision, and finishing.

Being the best in just one of those categories does not mean you are the best in total team performance.

Click here:  Major League Soccer PWP Total Soccer Index

In closing:

I’m sure some think my promoting the accuracy and value of this Index is arrogance – it’s not arrogance when you’re right – it’s confidence.

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: It’s not just @USSoccer that needs to “wipe the slate clean”

I’m not on the bandwagon of blasting US Soccer, USSF, Sunil Gulati, the Coaching Staff, or the Players anymore – that’s old news for me; especially since the rest of our soccer media has finally caught up to what I was thinking after the US Men’s team performance in World Cup 2014. 

Here’s my summary of issues back then that STILL REMAIN today:

  • They lack on field leadership.
  • They lack the ability to possess the ball with any sense of conviction.
  • They lack the ability to penetrate with any sense of continuity in possession leading to that penetration.
  • They are predictable.
  • They lack “controlled aggression”.
  • Their team passing statistics are horrible.
  • They lack a pure #9, #8, #7, and #6 in the traditional sense of soccer.
  • They lack ‘shut-down’ fullbacks.
  • They lack center-backs who can not only possess the ball, but control space in and around their own 18 yard box with pace and fortitude.
  • They have a great goalkeeper.
  • Some of the players are really-really fast, many are slow or really slow.
  • Some of the players have a great first touch, many don’t.
  • Both Head Coaches have shown an inability to use the right tactics against opponents.

So am I personally surprised by the result?

No… and I don’t know why other guys who’ve played at that level are!

Anyway, since I’ve already lambasted US Soccer and Sunil Gulati, many times over three years, my target for today is mainstream soccer media.

Yes…  in the last two days mainstream media has blitzed Sunil Gulati and US Soccer/USSF given the horrendous result against T&T.  In a way, rightly so, but in a way…. very disappointing.

Why disappointing?

It’s disappointing because there’s nothing here you shouldn’t already know if mainstream news/TV media had done their job of informing/educating our country in HOW soccer is played and what statistics should be used to quantify or qualify results.

 

Hmmm…  you sure about this Chris?

Yes… here’s why.

Throughout the course of US World Cup qualifications mainstream media has quantified and qualified good or bad performances of players and coaching decisions based on the use of “event-based” statistics.

Here’s some you may be familiar with:

Expected Goals, Expected Passes; numbers of Clearances, Tackles, Recoveries, Crosses, Missed Chances, Key Passes, Goals Scored, Shots Taken, Save Percentage, Blocked Shots; or Composite indices like the Audi Player Index or Castrol Index plus countless other ones too many or unworthy to name.

This information is well-intentioned but if you KNOW and understand HOW soccer is played NONE of these statistics have value UNLESS the author or TV pundit qualifies the data based upon how the opponent influenced those outcomes.

So… in EVERY instance (EVERY article and EVERY TV broadcast) mainstream media uses these event-based soccer statistics they facilitate ignorance of the mainstream soccer audience.

In other words, in modern terminology all that info they use is “fake news”…

But wait, there’s more… what is an article (in today’s environment) without including at least one tweet.

Last week the most popular @MLSSoccer.com writer, Matthew Doyle, tweeted about Paul Arriola, a good player who brings “energy” but world-class…. no.  My response, however harsh, is included.

 

Finishing Touches:

Matthew Doyle, from MLS Soccer, offers this quote in a recent article.

“Second is that, at the end of the video from last night, you can see me pleading for you (yes you, the one reading this) to get involved, specifically as a coach or a referee.”

I am involved.  I am a coach, I have coaching qualifications both here and from the United Kingdom.

I’m also a soccer analyst who’s been published in London and my statistical analysis has been presented at both the 2014 and 2017 World Conference on Science and Soccer.

So I have standing in what I offer as criticism to you and mainstream soccer media.

Finishing Touches:

I won’t prejudge MLS but I will offer some suggestions for MLSSoccer.com given my standing:

  • Stop the incessant use of individually tracked event-based statistics without qualifying what they mean relative to how the opponent played…
  • Stop advocating the Audi Player Index…
  • Stop advocating Expected Goals…
  • Stop advocating an MLS Best XI that excludes fullbacks or offers up a 3-4-3 when roughly 86% of teams in Major League Soccer play with four defenders, not three…
  • Stop advocating a Major League All Star starting squad that doesn’t account for ‘all’ the primary positions on the pitch, that means fullbacks, center-backs, wingers, central attacking and defending midfielders, forwards, and out-and-out strikers.
  • Stop advocating that a throw-back player of the 1990’s actually fits into a modernized 2022 US Men’s National Team.
  • Find writers/analyst who KNOW HOW soccer is played – not just guys who write articles that are offered simply as “click bait”!
  • Enforce that all academies (and all affiliated soccer clubs to those academies and the parent organization) are no longer “pay-to-play” this includes health insurance and travel.

Bottom line at the bottom:

Mainstream media organizations MUST take responsibility and retrain or sack writers/analysts and stop sponsor-ships with people/organizations that advocate/use “statistical disinformation” (fake news).

A reminder of where the US Men’s National Team finished in the Total Soccer Index for World Cup 2014 and why I’m not surprised they didn’t qualify for WC 2018.

By the way; just because I didn’t write an article about sacking Sunil Gulati, or other things like “pay to play” doesn’t mean I disagree with great articles like this one by Neil Blackmon.

I don’t see a guy like Neil being “mainstream soccer media”…

Best, Chris

You can follow me on twitter @CoachChrisGluck

 

Gluck: Heaps of News in Major League Soccer This Week

Lots going on to share with you as Major League Soccer gets set for this weekend.  In particular order:

  • Major League Soccer Total Soccer Index (TSI)
    • Eastern Conference
    • Western Conference
  • Jay Heaps gets the heave-ho from New England; why?
  • Quality in MLS – has it got better since 2014?
    • If so, where?
  • Predictions for this weekend.
  • Closing thoughts on Expected Goals

As a reminder – I called out Expected Goals and Expected Passes this week.  Positive response from my European readers has been tremendous; so far my readers in the United States have remained quiet.

In case you missed it the explanation about what the Total Soccer Index is, is here.

Major League Soccer TSI:

This is how the league looks in a single table format; of course it’s pear-shaped from the start because the league doesn’t play a balanced schedule for everyone.

  • The hammer identifies teams who have sacked their Head Coaches this year; are Jim Curtin, Ben Oslen, and/or Jason Kreis on the block too?
  • The correlation of TSI to points earned is .82 this year; that’s an increase from the last two years.
  • Offering, in my view, parity is decreasing.
  • More to follow when we look at quality across MLS a bit later…

Eastern Conference:

The Eastern Conference has been the more predictable conference all year even though MLS has an unbalanced schedule.

  • Teams that usually possess the ball more, penetrate more, while showing greater patience in shot creation, end up with more goals scored.
  • This pattern, across all the categories in Possession with Purpose, more closely matches European League performances measured in the past.
  • Is this an indicator parts of Major League Soccer are growing closer to European Soccer in terms of tactics and how those general tactics drive similar results?
  • Maybe…
  • More to follow when looking at quality across the entire league.

Who finishes as Eastern Conference Champion?   Toronto.

Western Conference:

I’m not sure anything is settled in the wild-wild west.

  • We’ve seen musical chairs in almost every position of their conference table.
  • About the only thing remaining constant is the poor play of Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United, and LA Galaxy.
  • The greatest surprise may be the demise of FC Dallas, we’ve seen them swoon in late season before, does it happen again this year?
  • If any one team has been consistent this year it’s Sporting KC – but that’s the case every year.
  • With US Men’s National Team looking for a new Head Coach, after WC 2018, has Peter Vermes put himself in pole position over someone like Oscar Pareja?

Who finishes as Western Conference Champion?  Sporting KC

Who wins the MLS League Championship?  I have no idea.

Jay Heaps gets the heave-ho by New England, why?

Observations:

  • Their Attack:
    • 2nd worst percentage in overall possession across MLS
    • Mid-table in passing accuracy percentage
    • 3rd highest percentage in overall penetration of final third
    • 7th lowest percentage in shot creation
    • 5th highest percentage in shot precision
    • 8th lowest percentage in shot finishing
  • Opponents Have:
    • 2nd highest percentage of possession vs NER
    • Highest percentage of Passing Accuracy in MLS vs NER
    • Mid-table percentage in penetration vs NER
    • Lowest percentage of shot creation in MLS vs NER
    • Eighth highest percentage in shot precision vs NER
    • Fourth highest percentage in shot finishing vs NER

Conclusions:

  • Their Attack:
    • The team does not lack in attack.
    • Shot creation is at a lower level relative to a higher level of penetration; usually a positive sign of patience in attack.
    • That, coupled with being eighth highest in shot precision means when they create space there are putting shots on goal.
    • What (may?) lack in attack is finishing…. but when you look at the stable of players and see Kamara on 11 goals, Nguyen on nine, and Agudelo on eight they are pretty good/versatile in attack.
  • Their Defense:
    • Lacks by a considerable margin compared to their opponents.
    • Opponent’s are averaging over 80% passing accuracy; partly due to Revolution tactics of ceding space outside the final third in order to facilitate a better counter-attack.
    • What is striking is their opponents are also eighth best in putting shots on goal and fourth best in finishing.
    • That indicates Revolution opponents are gaining solid possession time BOTH INSIDE and OUTSIDE their defending final third.
  • Is it the wrong players on the pitch?
  • Is it the wrong defensive tactics on the pitch?

I’d say it’s both.

Quality in Major League Soccer:

It appears that quality has been roughly the same, year in and year out since 2014.

  • But that’s deceptive.  From 2014 through to 2017
    • The difference between average passing accuracy for the best and worst has increased from 7.17% to 9.50%
    • The difference between average penetration percentages for the best and worst has increased from 12.67% to 16.05%
    • The difference between average creation percentages for the best and worst has increased from 6.67% to 11.48%
    • The difference between average precision percentages for the best and worst has increased from 9.31% to 12.87%
    • The difference between average finishing percentages for the best and worst has increased from 21.73% to 23.42%
  • The gap between better teams and worse teams has widened.
  • Another indicator parity has decreased, not increased.

Given the trends offered through PWP analysis it appears parity is on the decline in MLS.

When the season ends poor management will be rewarded with more money instead of being relegated; entitlement is alive and strong in Major League Soccer.

Predictions for this weekend:

As with most weeks, the home team is more likely to earn points.

  • So far this year the home teams have earned 589 points versus 284 for away teams.
  • That’s a pretty solid 2 to 1 margin in favor of the home team.
  • Last year home teams earned 612 points compared to 300 points for away teams.
  • In 2015 it was 624 points for home teams and 324 points for away teams.
  • In 2014 it was 557 points for home teams and 323 points for away teams.
  • Conclusion – even without using Expected Goals it’s pretty clear a novice in soccer can guess who will earn points in MLS games.

By the way, if using the TSI to predict who would have won the U.S. Open Cup the numbers show Sporting KC with an average TSI of .41 (at home) while the New York Red Bulls were .00 (away from home).

The final result was 2-1 Sporting KC.  In hind sight the TSI predictor was accurate in predicting the U.S. Open Cup winner.

In closing:

  • Do you really need to know what Expected Goals are to predict which teams in Major League Soccer will earn points week to week?  No….
  • If you bet the home team you’ll be right roughly 66% of the time.
    • Just another reason to debunk the value of expected goals.
    • Oh… I’m hearing expected goals statistics are being used to predict results for the next year, using previous years data.
    • And that those correlations are pretty solid from year to year.
    • Well, they will be.
    • You’re only using one event-based statistic to predict results in the next year and that number is notoriously low for every team; for room for error is minimal.
    • I’m willing to bet a teams’ Expected Goals from two, three, or even four years ago will also have a pretty high correlation to the current year too…
    • Why?
    • Because only one variable is being measured and the variation in that variable is low – very low.
    • What makes that approach worse is it violates common sense.
    • Teams change players and Head Coaches from year to year and while they may score the same amount of goals, year in and year out, their overall results may be different because they got better defenders or improved their defensive tactics.
  • Parity in Major League Soccer has waned this year and it’s likely to get worse next year as LA adds another team.

Best, Chris

@CoachChrisGluck 

Gluck: Tea Leaves on Timbers Traveling to Toronto

Is this a likely pre-cursor to the MLS Championship Game?

I’m not sure, but given the wild west, and more predictable east, it isn’t beyond reason to think so.  In preparing my information for your consideration here’s a link to my Total Soccer Index: 

The Science (Attacking): 

Toronto at home compared with Portland on the road.

The part of Possession with Purpose that stands out first is ‘penetration’.

  • Out of an equal amount of possession and passing accuracy for both teams Toronto shows a greater (much greater) edge in penetration; the difference is striking; almost 20% more penetration per total possession than Portland.
  • That considerable advantage in increased penetration leads to a 10% increase in the precision (putting shots on goal) followed by another 10% increase in finishing.
  • Twenty six goals scored at home for Toronto vs seventeen goals scored on the road for Portland.  Not only is Toronto’s quality better; their quantity is too…

The Art:

It is likely Toronto will penetrate more often and offer up more shots than Portland – meaning a reasonable game plan for Portland will be to cede some space up top (maybe after the first 15 minutes) and then look to clog the middle and defensive third of the pitch.. relying solely on the counter-attack to get a goal, or two…

The Science (Defending):

Like the attacking side of the equation; the part of Possession with Purpose that stands out first on how opponents attack against these two teams is penetration.

  • Out of equal amounts of possession and passing accuracy by opponents Portland shows opponents have greater amounts of penetration.
  • Opponents of Portland see a 10% increase in precision (shots on goal) and a 20% increase in finishing (goals scored against) than Toronto opponents.
  • All told opponents have scored 23 goals against Portland, versus just seven for Toronto.
  • Portland opponents see an increase in quality as well as quantity; matching exactly the characteristics of how Toronto attacks at home!

The Art:

It would appear penetration is the key for both teams… therefore, trying to regain possession of the ball in the attacking and middle third will be crucial in order to disable a quick counter-attack when the ball is lost.

As much as it pains me to offer this – Bradley is known for coughing up the ball in the middle third of the pitch – I’d expect both David Guzman or Diego Chara to pressure Bradley whenever he has the ball.

Bottom line:  If Portland scores (at all) they will REALLY need to protect that lead and that includes protecting the wings from overload by Toronto.

Total Soccer Index:  Final Thoughts

If you’re a betting person – it’s likely Toronto win by at least one goal – if not two… but as we’ve seen this year “parity” rules in this league.

And even though the eastern conference seems to show greater strength in possession with purpose competitive conditions of the wild west may better suit Portland in a game like this.

Questions:  It’s the fantastic four of both teams that will make the difference in the run of play.

  • How well will Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Victor Vazquez, and Michael Bradley work against a healthy Timbers defense?
  • Can Toronto’s defense control the attacking nous of Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, and Sebastian Blanco along with the physically brutal aspect Fenando Adi brings as a true #9?

Set pieces win games…

The magic of one player, with one touch, that leads to one strike, and one brilliant goal awaits… as Diego Valeri, like set pieces, wins games too…

Best, Chris

You can follow me on twitter @chrisgluckpwp

Re-tweets are not rude… 🙂