So the Timbers go into a huge game this weekend against one of the toughest teams at home… or are they?
I’m not going to talk about wins and losses at home for New England – instead I’ll try to paint a contrast between what they do well when they win – and what doesn’t go so well when they lose – you may find it interesting…
And in return I’ll offer up the same point of view on the Timbers and how well they perform as a team when winning on the road versus gaining a draw or a loss; this is after all (crunch time) – no mercy to be had – three points is a must if the Playoffs are to be a reality this year!
To begin… New England when they win at home versus drawing or losing (the critical bits)…
Contrast – IF New England are to win this game the trends after 23 weeks are pretty clear in a number of specific areas:
- Possession – 47.80% when they win and 53.68% when they lose or draw. And this is NOT a function of them playing counter-attacking football – they have only scored one goal this year, at home, on the counter-attack (according to Whoscored.com) – the majority of their home goals have come from the run of play (nine of them).
- Passing Accuracy – 73.33% when they win and 76.96% when they lose or draw – from my viewpoint, I’d offer this intuits pretty clearly that the more risk they take in trying to generate goal scoring opportunities the more payoff they get – safer does not mean better for New England at home.
- Passing Accuracy within the Final Third – 69.68% when winning at home and 71.74% when losing or drawing; so the pattern that presents itself (greater risk for greater reward) is reinforced here – specifically in the Final Third – less accuracy, again, intuits more risk – more risk drives more reward.
- The critical piece when considering bottom line results – Goals Scored per Shots on Goal… when they win that percentage is 41.90%; when they lose it drops down to 5.36%. That difference is inordinately large and one of the largest drop-offs of any team when comparing winning to losing or drawing…
- Bottom line here is for New England to win they need to create more risk…
What’s that mean on the pitch – and the run of play?
I’d expect New England to play with more long balls (more direct play) in order to catch Portland in transition – it’s not necessarily a counter-attacking style but more of a sit back, yield some possession and then pop 2nd level passes down the wings with the intent to take shots in and around the 6 yard box as much as possible.
So what about Portland – how do they perform, as a team, when they win versus lose or draw on the road?
Contrast – IF Portland are to win…
- They possess the ball 52.70% of the time when they win and just 47.71% when they lose or draw; again this isn’t a reflection of counter-attacking football – like New England, the Timbers have scored just one goal ‘classified’ as a counter-attacking goal by Whoscored.com; on the other hand they too… have also scored 9 goals in the run of play.
- Passing Accuracy – when they win they accuracy averages 83.47% – when they lose it drops 6% points down to 77.59%; this is clearly different from New England; so does better passing drive more accuracy and when it comes to the Final Third???
- Yes… accuracy within the Final attacking third for Portland is 70.73% when they win and (again a 6% point drop) 64.95% when they lose or draw. In this case the greater the risk on the road does NOT equate to more chances of winning; patience in possession…
- Goals Scored versus shots on goal – when they win it’s 43.33% – when they lose it drops 16% points; down to 27.83%…
- Bottom line here for the Timbers to win would be patience in attack and getting behind the ball (from everyone but the top forward) when in defense.
What’s this mean on the pitch and the run of play?
I’d expect Portland to win the battle of possession and look to play with patience and precision in taking advantage of time and open spaces… I’d also expect wide play that drives towards and into/around the 18 yard box.
The twist to this is that… the strategic and tactical conditions for Portland to win are exactly the type of conditions that probably best fit the strategic and tactical conditions for New England to win…
So when Caleb Porter offers that he’s nervous he has every right to be – and now you may know a bit more on the reasons why he’s nervous… if you wanna see the article by Dan Itel that quotes Caleb on being nervous read here…
Oh… no notes on defending for this weekend – it should be pretty clear that the defensive team performance – given how the attacking performance should take place is critical…
As for where we might expect to see the goals scored from these two teams? New England score more goals in and around the six yard box; while the Timbers score more goals in and around the 18 yard box…
Time and space atop the 18 is the kill zone for Portland – while time and space around the 6 yard box is the kill zone for New England.
Three points here really is a ‘must’…
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It’s no secret that the New England Revolution have been on a seven game slide – nil pwa has become the routine where three points used to be the norm.
In their first 12 weeks of Major League Soccer the New England Revolution had won seven times, drawn twice and lost just three games; included in that stretch was a five game winning streak just before the skid began.
In their last seven games they’ve lost four games (three at home), to Eastern Conference teams, and three away games to Western Conference teams.
In considering that significant difference in results is there a corresponding difference in my Possession with Purpose Key Team Indicators in attack and defense?
I think so; but before offering thoughts on that here’s the Attacking PWP diagram for the Revolution in three categories: (Weeks 1-12, Weeks 13-19, and Total – Week 1-19)
Some thoughts based upon the Key Team Attacking Indicators:
Pretty clearly the amount of average possession has changed (in attack) for New England, in the last seven weeks, compared to the first 12 weeks; an increase in average overall possession by 7%.
What’s even more intriguing is that New England simply don’t win games when they out possess their opponent.
In the 19 games played New England have exceeded 51% possession seven times – and in each of those games they’ve lost!
Put another way – counter-attacking seems to suit this team when it comes to ‘results’ – or – the team has been behind, to begin with, too often and that game state has driven an increase in possession – indicating they are chasing the game.
Another interesting output has been their overall passing accuracy.
In the last seven games their passing accuracy has increased by almost 8%.
For me that indicates they are playing shorter passes more frequently – again reinforcing the increase in possession percentage (a function of passing).
To continue, as the differences mount.
In this losing streak the Revolution have also increased their volume of passes in the opponent final third.
All told the average, in the seven straight losses, is 165 per game with a 32% completion rate versus 113 passes at 29% completion rate.
For me that indicates they might be playing too patient at times – looking for that perfect pass; when, with fewer passes and a lower completion rate they were scoring more goals. A good indicator they were catching their opponent off-guard/out of position.
How about shots on goal per shots taken?
The Revolution are putting shots on goal, ~42% of the time, compared to just 27%, when having less possession and less penetration.
Again reinforcing that counter-attacking style of hitting the opponent on a quick attack after a change of possession.
Bottom line here is the Revolution goals scored average is .43 during this losing streak compare to 1.75 during the first twelve weeks.
Therefore it’s pretty clear to me that the Team Attacking PWP Key Indicators add value in isolating what might be happening during this losing streak.
With respect to Team Defending PWP Key Indicators; using the same three categories:
Most should know that the ‘goal not scored’ has more value than the ‘goal scored’; defense is critical to winning games. So while the Revolution have issues in attack they also have issues in defense.
If New England possess the ball more, when they lose, then it would appear the opponent might be the one playing the counter-attacking style.
In other words, that increase in passing volume, and penetration volume, (by New England) is influencing how often their fullbacks and perhaps central midfielders are over-committing in attack.
And the most telling team indicator to me, in that, is the significant increase in the opponents putting shots taken – on goal.
Nothing speaks more clearly to having ‘open space’ than a huge increase in shots on goal… the percentage increase in the opponents shots taken being on goal goes from 26% to 46% – a whopping increase of 20%!
And that huge increase in shots on goal, has, clearly generated an increase in goals against.
During their losing streak the Revolution have averaged 2.43 goals against per game – while in the first 12 weeks they averaged just 1.17 goals against per game!
Clearly the New England Revolution team performance indicators HAVE changed between Weeks 1-12 and Weeks 13-19.
Now I don’t focus on individual players – each team has a roster and it’s up to the coach to build that roster based upon the style of play they want to employ.
All I will offer here is that whoever is playing, on a regular basis, simply isn’t getting the job done.
And when I look at the overwhelming differences in team performance from weeks 1-12 to weeks 13-19 it is clearly… not just one player…
So is their an easy solution to right the ship?
Hard to say – but based upon these team indicators (while not actually watching New England play) I’d offer they need to be less aggressive in normal attack and look to counter as the opportunity presents itself – while… also playing a very strong defensive game.
None of that should require significant time in training between games…
Finally, I mentioned earlier that New England had lost three straight away games to Western Conference teams… that got my interest peaked on which conference might be strong or weaker at this point in the season. So with that here’s some fun facts…
- Western Conference Teams have taken 102 points against the East while Eastern Conference Teams have taken just 69 points against the West…
- In basic math that pretty much translates to the Western Conference taking points from their Eastern Conference counterparts 60% of the time… not even by any stretch.
- And, by the way, guess what one Eastern Conference team is doing very well against Western Conference teams this year – aye – Sporting Kansas City. They are tops with 14 points against the west while DC United are 2nd best with nine points againt the West.
- Might that explain why those two teams that are so high up the table in the Eastern Conference…!!!???