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…
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!
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…
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Re-tweets are not rude… 🙂
I’ll try to offer some thoughts on this a bit later but to first understand a possible answer to this question I felt it worthy to conduct a compare and contrast between two teams – (LA Galaxy and Toronto FC).
To begin; here’s a reminder on how these two teams finished in the Composite Possession with Purpose Index last year – remembering also that LA ended up with 61 points and Toronto had 41 points:
If Possession with Purpose is new to you I suggest you read here: Possession with Purpose. For statistical purposes the R2 (R squared) for the Index compared to points earned was .85.
Next up – the Big Picture:
Reading from left to right:
- Average PWP Composite Index – the numbers here represent the difference between the subtracting the PWP Defending Index (grouping 3) from the PWP Attacking Index (grouping 2) for each team; LA being the dark blue bar and Toronto being the red bar.
- In other words 2.31 from 2.53 = .21 for LA and 2.42 from 2.33 = -.09 for Toronto. (a difference of .30)
- The 4th grouping – Composite PWP Predictability is the Composite PWP Index (minus) all statistical data associated with a goal scored/goal against – in other words it’s a pure representation of the primary team activities occuring on the pitch exclusive of goals scored. The R2 for the Predictability Index is .69.
- Next over is average Goals Scored for each team throughout the year for each game.
- This is followed by the average Goals Scored by the Opponent against each team throughout the year.
- Second from last is the average Goal Differential – the same logic applies here that is used to create the Composite PWP Index – subtract Goals Scored by the Opponent Goals Scored against that team.
- Last and most important – the average points earned for each team for each game.
- In every case LA exceeded Toronto.
So why were LA better – was it just down to goals scored, higher accuracy in goals scored, or something else?
A way to answer that is by peeling back some differences in team performance.
For example… In the diagram above the difference between LA and TFC, in APWP (grouping 2), is 2.52 – 2.33 = .19. Meaning the overall difference in collective team performance of those two teams is 19%.
So where do those percentage point differences occur in looking at the six quality measurements of APWP?
Here’s the APWP diagram that peels back the six primary categories used to create the Index:
I’ve highlighted two areas and included a smaller area where the word ‘wash’ appears.
“Wash” simply means those two areas balance each other out – the real differences come from looking at the ligh green shaded areas. Those areas were:
- Possession percentage – LA exceeded Toronto by ~6%
- Passing accuracy – LA exceeded Toronto by ~5%
- Penetrating the opponents defending final third – LA exceeded Toronto by ~3%
- Goals scored per shots on goal – LA exceeded Toronto by ~6%
All told roughly 1/4 of the overall difference in team performance (quality) came from goals scored per shots on goal…
Meaning LA performed better in scoring goals but they also performed far better in three other areas, possession, passing accuracy and penetration.
That, alone, may be able to help answer the question about Jozy Altidore but attacking is only one part of the game – how about Defending PWP?
Toronto were worse than LA by 11% points 2.31 – 2.42 (lower is better)
In looking at the DPWP diagram (above) I’ve taken the same approach – the light green shaded areas show differences while the ‘Wash’ area shows where the teams percentages roughly balance each other out.
The difference in LA team performance, again, comes in preventing their opponents from having more control over the game leading up to (and) preventing goals scored against.
In other words LA simply had better overall team defending performances where goals scored was a wash.
Before offering my final thoughts on Jozy Altidore another quick example.
FC Dallas, who made the Playoffs last year, had similar team performances in quality to Toronto – with one exception.
FC Dallas had a 43.87% accuracy rating in converting shots on goal to goals scored compared to Toronto’s 31.21%.
But FC Dallas didn’t reach the pinnacle.
Bottom line at the Bottom:
My view is this: The addition of Jozy Altidore might help Toronto reach the Playoffs but it is unlikely it will lead to Toronto winning the Championship – if they do the Reds will probably play to the style of FC Dallas – and so far that style of attack has not led to a Championship – at least not in the last four years.
What do you think?
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