Tagged: LA Galaxy

Gluck: Getting Hot in Portland? Yes… Only…

This time it’s about the weather; record temperatures in Portland this week are forcing the Timbers vs Galaxy match to kick-off at 11 AM ‘left coast of America time’ and it should be a doozy…

Here’s my take using my new publication format, for your consideration.

Pre-Match Report Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy

Best, Chris

@chrisgluckpwp

Can Jozy Altidore bring Toronto to the Playoffs?

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:

CPWP STRATEGIC INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 COMBINED

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:

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:

Quality Attacking PWP

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?

Quality 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.

In Closing:

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?

Best, Chris

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark.

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

LA Galaxy takes Supporters Shield? Chivas or Montreal with the Wooden Spoon? MLS After Week 24

The plot thickens as the weeks begin to shed away in Major League Soccer this year.  A number of teams have consistently been at or near the top of my Composite PWP Index as much as a number of teams have consistently been near the bottom as well.

So two things this week: 

  1. Checking the pulse on which teams are performing best so far, and
  2. What teams might decide to change managers and which might not.

To begin…  The CPWP Index after Week 24:

CPWP Index  MLS Through WEEK 24

Checking the pulse for the Playoffs:

Overall performance shows that the LA Galaxy, Sporting KC, Seattle, Columbus, DC United and FC Dallas lead the pack – the only team not named in the top 3 of either conference is Toronto – noted.

For me that’s okay – at this stage they have two games in hand and they also have a -1 in goal differential – it would be reasonable to offer that Ryan Nelson is doing a superb job managing a team that averages just 63.51% on completion of passes in the Final Third and only 73.92% on completion of passes across the entire pitch.

If the complete success of FC Dallas and Toronto have gone unnoticed, even with their poor passing characteristics, recognize it now – whether or not that catches up to them a bit later I guess we will see.  However viewed, counter-attacking and playing for a quick transition against teams that like to possess the ball is working (getting results) – > whatever it takes!

For now the top tier teams (LA, Sporting, Seattle, Columbus, and DC United) all average > 77% passing accuracy.  This lone statistic, at this time, is a more accurate soundbite than the percentage of possession…

In the middle of the pack (out west) there are three teams (Colorado, Vancouver, and Portland) most likely competing for the final spot in the Playoffs; the differences in the Indices are marginal – another four goals against this weekend at Vancouver is likely to see Portland drop below the raging Whitecaps.

With respect to Colorado – I’m not sure – Mastroeni has done a good job so far this year but their goal differential is no different than Portland’s (- 2).

If I had to offer a guess at this stage I’d offer either Portland (if they can learn to defend) or Vancouver have the better chance of making the Playoffs given the schedules of those three teams.

Then again – a dark horse remains in San Jose – they have some injuries but a pretty solid defense, like Vancouver (really?) – so who knows – especially since San Jose have six games against those three teams (plus) one against Chivas and one against Montreal…

At this stage I’m seeing LA Galaxy taking the Supporters Shield.

Potential Head Coach Movement?

If you recall last year 10teams either had their coach leave or get sacked – here’s the diagram as a reminder on how that played out last year.

End of Season 2013 MLS Coaching Changes

So in considering potential changes this year:

Philadelphia Union – For this year we already know John Hackworth got sacked and Jim Curtin has been working as his temporary replacement – as noted by the Philadelphia Union front office earlier this year – it is likely they hire a brand new coach with extensive MLS experience.

Houston and Dominic Kinnear –  I think there is simply too much front office support for this guy – and rightly so.  To see him leave or get the sack has as much of a chance as Ben Olsen getting the sack last year.

He didn’t and it’s not likely Kinnear does either.  Like DC United, Houston already know and are working to fix their weaknesses (the defensive back-four and a quality striker to replace Will Bruin).  Yeh… sorry – some may disagree with that?

In looking at Montreal – what a complete balls-up that organization is.   They probably sacked the wrong guy already and have already made a commitment to allow Frank Klopas to stay put at least one more year…

To improve they will certainly need to spend money on defenders as well as an upgrade in the midfield and in attack.  I guess what that means is they probably need at least 10 new players… cleaning house in this case is probably not a bad idea since there probably isn’t any locker-room chemistry to damage with wholesale changes.

Chivas USA – or whatever their name will be.  A complete embarrassment not only to LA but to MLS as a whole – what better example to exemplify the need exhume this team and excommunicate them from LA.

Move – for the sake of soccer in the United States of America —> move!  Not only was the front office pathetic – the home crowds were not even crowds – at best they were sporadic gatherings.

Why on earth anyone would follow a group (note I don’t say organization) like Chivas USA is beyond belief when there is such a well organized team already in that city.

Anyhow – back to Wilmer Cabrera – hey I like the guy and he’s doing the best he can with what he has – no need to sack Wilmer.  Besides it would be rude given a real soccer organization probably doesn’t have enough information to make a judgment that he should stay or go.

I don’t know how he finds the motivation to lead Chivas – what a great example for other Head Coaches to learn from when it comes to leading without having other leaders to support you!  Bless him – don’t sack him…

San Jose – it’s unlikely Mark Watson gets the sack – San Jose is a pretty good defensive team and some player changes this year have improved things in attack – with a new stadium they could make a managerial change but I think and sense the San Jose front office continues to support Mark Watson.

Chicago Fire – what’s up with that team?  Why on earth they would want to add Jermaine Jones to a team that already has four central midfielders I don’t know.  But perhaps it reinforces just how little Frank Yallop recognizes what he actually needs to do to improve this team.

Defense!  Their back four has been horrible for most of the season – adding Jones only makes sense if he changes his role and plays as a centerback as well as a fullback as well as a central midfielder; granted Jones is talented but can he really be ‘the’ answer when so many other gaps exist on this team?  Not likely.

All told this team probably needs four Jermaine Jones clones to have any chance of competing.  As for sacking Yallop?  Probably won’t happen but I offer it should; if anything to appease the large supporter base, like Philadelphia did in sacking John Hackworth – a move I didn’t really agree with – but that’s just me.

At this stage I’m seeing Montreal taking the Wooden Spoon…

In Closing…

It’s getting near pucker time – when a team needs to win and take three points they really need to win…

Twenty seven points for the taking is a lot – with about half of each teams’ games probably coming at home it’s likely a more reasonable target is 15-18 points for those in the Playoff chase and perhaps 18-21 points for those in the Supporters Shield chase…

All set for this weekend?

Hope so… I’ll be taking in the Sporting match against Houston as well as the locally televised match between Vancouver and Portland; that one should be a knees-up, tight one, as both teams really need three points!

Best, Chris

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