NOTE: Updates for the Red Bulls v DC United and Sounders v Dallas match are at the end of the article.
The Predictability Index itself is the CPWP Index data minus Goals Scored / Goals Against and is split into two diagrams – Home Predictability versus Away Predictability.
Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams at Home:
Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams Away from Home.
Note the significant differences in how the teams are predicted to perform at home versus on the road; four teams really sucked at home this year, while four teams were expected to perform quite well on the road.
Here’s how it works; I will compare the two digit number of the home team with the two digit number of the away team.
Whichever number is higher it’s that team which is predicted to win… again… based upon their history of team performance in overall attacking and defending, exclusive of goals scored; this year.
And now the PWP Predictions:
FC Dallas versus Vancouver Whitecaps matchup. FC Dallas at Home (0.00) while Vancouver on the Road (-.11) FC Dallas wins.
FC Dallas key indicators are ceding possession and creating quick counter-attacking scenarios that use time and space created by Vancouver being too aggressive in attack.
Vancouver key indicators are maintaining patience in possession and not losing position in defending – they are one of the top defending teams in MLS; they will need to be at their best to beat Dallas.
Next up; New York Red Bulls versus Sporting Kansas City. New York at Home (0.10) while Sporting Kansas City on the Road (0.05) New York wins.
New York key indicators are their attack from a number of different angles. They are simply one of the top attacking teams in all of MLS – they need to attack, attack, attack, and hope, with all their hope, that they can keep Sporting KC from scoring a goal.
Sporting KC key indicators are their ability to defend; they are still one of the best defending teams in MLS. If they can control the wide open attack, I’d expect from New York, and their propensity for fouling in their own defending final third, I can see some individual talent from Zusi or some set-pieces giving them the edge to win.
Columbus Crew versus New England Revolution. Columbus Crew at Home (0.06) while New England on the Road (-0.08). Columbus wins game 1. Columbus Crew on the Road (0.06) while New England at Home (0.23) -> New England wins game 2. I offer Columbus advances over New England on away goal difference.
Columbus key indicators include being one of the most consistent teams in overall attacking and defending team performance in MLS – with this being a two game set I’d imagine consistency in attacking and penetration as well as consistency in defending the danger spaces will see them through.
New England key indicators are slightly changed with Jones on the pitch – his leadership may give the edge to a Revolution team who are, in my opinion, outgunned in almost every other category. They are a big under-dog in my opinion but not everybody rates Columbus as strongly as I do…
Real Salt Lake versus LA Galaxy. Salt Lake at Home (0.33) while LA Galaxy on the Road (0.12). RSL wins game 1. LA Galaxy at Home (0.19) while Salt Lake on the Road (-0.01). LA Galaxy wins game 2. I offer LA Galaxy advance over Real Salt Lake on away goals difference.
Salt Lake key indicators include, as noted, a stingy defense at home and a propensity to win in Rio Tinto. They also have pedigree not unlike LA Galaxy, and perhaps an even more veteran line-up when it comes to big games. Lest we forget Salt Lake could have done much better last year and didn’t – they will have added energy that might surpass the emotions LA bring with them in pushing to help Donovan raise the Cup once more.
LA Galaxy key indicators are pace, possession, penetration and all around purpose that operated at peak performance for almost the entire year. It should be noted that they didn’t collect the silverware last week and in all likelihood they could stumble here as well as they may look past Real and consider the Cup is theirs… So arrogance is an enemy as is the continued lack of mental awareness by Gonzalez…
More to follow after the games midweek after seeing who qualifies to play Seattle and DC United…
As for my own personal predictions I can see New York advancing as well as FC Dallas but the Vancouver defense is very good as is the Sporting KC defense.
I will go with Sporting over New York and Vancouver over FC Dallas because I think those team defenses are better – and for me it’s all about defense.
With respect to Columbus – I agree with my PWP Prediction model for that game as well as the game between LA and RSL… and in this case I also happen to think the defenses for Columbus and LA are better.
More to follow:…
Seattle Sounders at Home (.22) while Dallas on the Road (-.20). Seattle wins when playing at Home. FC Dallas at Home (.00) while Seattle on the Road (-.04). FC Dallas wins at home. Seattle advances on away goals difference.
For me, I can see Seattle beating FC Dallas at home and on the road. Dallas may be a bit tired for game 1 and the Predictability Index hasn’t been built to address ‘tired legs’…
At the end of the day this should be a clean sweep for the Sounders…
DC United at Home (.03) while New York on the Road (-.03). DC United wins at Home. New York at Home (.10) while DC United on the Road (-.08). New York wins at Home. New York advances on away goals difference.
For me I can see a clean sweep here as well – it may be surprising but I can see New York, riding the wave of Phillips and, most likely, the last season for Thierry Henry, all the way into the Finals. This is not intended to diss DC United.
They are a very good team but somehow I don’t see the ‘tired legs’ syndrome impacting the Red Bulls as much as Dallas… too much at stake for a team that has invested huge money in their players and program.
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A superb run with five wins and a draw in six games; by most standards that is a compelling argument for consistency. I agree and their overall Composite Possession with Purpose Index rating continues to climb.
They’ve (New England) climbed from 17th in PWP (week 5) to 7th after week 11; a superb shift of 10 full places in 6 weeks.
So in considering this giant push forward I’d like to take a different approach in how the data points from PWP can be viewed.
This is new so please bear with me for a minute or two as I set the context.
Below are a number of diagrams referencing my PWP indicators for a few teams; the diagram being used this time is the ‘doughnut’ diagram from Microsoft Powerpoint.
The interesting thing about this diagram is that it allows me to offer up a view on my PWP data points that isn’t relative to the exponential relationship (a line). Instead, it allows me to picture the overall tenor of PWP data points in relationship to themselves as being a part of a ‘whole’; with the ‘whole’ being PWP.
I feel confident I can take this approach since my Expected Wins 2 correlation for my data points is ~.97 (R2) — as near to rock solid as you can get.
Other context points include:
- The teams used in this analysis are Seattle, New England, Montreal, Portland and last years’ Supporters Shield winner (New York) plus last years bottom dweller (DC United)
- Reminder in case my explanation was a bit wordy above – the percentages indicated in the doughnut are not the percentages of those activities relative to the game; they are the percentage of those activities relative to each other with 100% being all those activities added together.
- Source – as usual the MLS Chalkboard and the MLS Statistics Sheets
- Gold Stars on the diagrams are intended to show you where differences occur.
- The team name on the outside of the doughnut is the outer ring of data and the team name on the inside of the doughnut is the inner ring of data.
The volume of Final Third passes successfully completed by New England (29%) is 3% points higher than Montreal (26%). Note also that Montreal has a greater percentage of PWP outside the Final Third (30%) than New England (28%). Both of these indicate to me that New England is more focused on penetrating and creating than Montreal.
For the future I will check into these three areas when looking to see if a ‘direct attacking approach’ can be better differentiated from a ‘ground-based’ (short passing scheme) approach.
The actual volume of penetration is higher for New England as well (11%) versus (7%). And like my regular PWP analysis the data here also supports the fact that teams who are more patient in creating shots taken (6% for NER versus 11% for MIFC) end up with more goals scored.
I did ask Matthias Kullowatz about the specific shot data for New England and Montreal; ~60% of Montreal’s shots on target have come outside the prime scoring zones 1 & 2 while ~68% of the Revolution shots on target have also come outside of zones 1 & 2. So what’s different?
I think it’s down to time and space again; though it could be the Revolution have better strikers – but when you see the DC United doughnut diagram a bit later I think it’s back to time and space; and with fewer shots taken and more patience in the final third that seems reasonable to me.
Now for a contrast that might be better at explaining individual mistakes and bad fortune more than a bad ‘style/system’…
Notice no ‘gold stars’; why? Because there really isn’t that much difference between how these two teams execute the six steps of PWP.
What separates these two teams in the league table are individual mental mistakes in defense – Portland sit on ten points while Seattle have 25. Through the course of this year the Timbers have dropped 7 points due to red cards and penalties – they did both against Columbus Saturday night!
In considering the ‘sameness’ of the data I expect as time passes an output similar to this could highlight ‘individual mistakes’ and perhaps ‘good/bad luck’ when it comes to rebounds and deflections – again recall Saturday night when Futty Danso deflected a shot and notched an ‘own-goal’
All told things went pretty well for Columbus, a red card by their opponent, a foul in the penalty box by their opponent for a PK and a deflected own-goal by their opponent. If I were a Columbus fan I’d be pretty pissed they didn’t win – bad luck for the Crew!
However viewed I’ll revisit this diagram later when the Cascadia Cup battle heats up.
So here’s the doughnut view of New York compared to DC United last year and then a bit further down how they look compared to each other this year.
First off – let’s not forget Ben Olsen was not fired and perhaps this doughnut diagram can also help explain why given the overall poor performance in results last year for DC United.
Notice that the team does exceedingly well in comparison to New York with respect to Passing, penetration and creation; they actually exceed New York in the first two categories and only fall off when it comes to goals scored (7% for DC United versus 15% for New York).
So I’d offer that the system Ben Olsen ran last year worked – what he lacked was a pair of good strikers. And if you recall the Montreal doughnut earlier the outputs from DC United do not mirror those of the Impact!
They added Espindola and Johnson and shored up their defense a bit; that also included adding Amos Magee to the staff. Remember him as the Defensive Coordinator for Portland last year (I think – others can confirm or deny that I’m sure)
Bottom line here – the system didn’t change and the Head Coach didn’t change and I’d offer that was appropriate… now for the same diagram this year:
Note the increase for DC United in the final category – goals scored versus shots on goal – pretty compelling information to reinforce that the system used last year is the same system used this year and the difference – major difference – is the addition of two quality strikers.
I’m just in the learning stages on how this new doughnut diagram will take shape – I’m pretty sure it will have at least one hole in it – I’m hopeful there aren’t a lot more.
Some changes afoot with OPTA and MLS – I see OPTA incorporated the Final Third Passing Accuracy suggestion – just need to find out if crosses are included in that metric???
As for the new MLS Chalkboard – I’m not sure how that will work if the ‘numbers’ of activities are not available to count when it comes to defensive activities and ‘touches’ for players…
And yes, the old Chalkboard still appears to exist given a separate link within previous articles but it’s unclear if this change will be a permanent change for next year – or even the World Cup for that matter…
As for This Week in PWP; if you saw my tweets yesterday you know the top Attacking and Defending PWP teams of the week; New England in attack and Toronto in Defense with the Reds taking the Composite PWP Index top spot for Week 11.
Sporting KC, along with LA Galaxy remain atop the Composite PWP through Week 11 while the Revolution moved to 7th and Columbus dropped to 4th as Real Salt Lake are now in a comfortable position of 3rd best overall.
Finally, this view also gives you and idea of what percentage each team gleans from each of the PWP Six Steps data points in the calculation for the overall Index number.
Most should know, by now, that the top teams in MLS are queueing up for the final playoff push while others sit in dispair and wonder what’s gone wrong…
I’ll dig into that, in detail, in a few weeks – for now let’s take a look at those teams on the cusp (a whole bunch I might add) and see what we can see…
In the tradition of my analyses here’s the latest Possession with Purpose Strategic Composite Index (CPWP):
Figure the West is down to two teams unless Portland completely folds with four games to go; for some perhaps not as unlikely as they’d like to admit given Will Johnson is out and Diego Valeri misses the next game against San Jose.
In the East it’s not quiet as simple – this conference has been plagued with bad team performances throughout the year – and it’s almost sickening to sense that Sporting Kansas City, a year in and year out top performer, will move to the Western Conference next year… wow – that sucks!
Be that as it may, Toronto, Philadelphia, Houston, and New York are battling for the 5th Playoff spot.
That doesn’t mean Columbus is in the clear but if ever a team deserved to make the Playoffs, in the East, it would be Columbus – one of the MOST consistent teams this year…
And that consistency of purpose has also translated to results in the league table – Caleb Porter did that with the Portland Timbers last year and Gregg Berhalter is doing that with Columbus this year…
Team performance AND results, combined, matter!
In my opinion Gregg Berhalter, hands down, is Manager of the Year!
I get it that Ben Olsen has turned his team around – but Berhalter has rebuilt his team – all Olsen has done is really find two new strikers and upgraded some defensive players – he has not rebuilt and redirected a new philosophical approach like Berhalter has.
Of course Columbus still need to make the playoffs to etch in stone that results oriented improvement matches team attacking and defending performance improvement.
Anyhow, I digress… statistically speaking the CPWP Strategic Index correlation (R2) to average points in the league table is (.83) – the highest yet this year.
Before moving on to APWP, some additional thoughts on Toronto, Philadelphia and Houston…
I watched that Toronto victory over Portland the other day and I can’t help but think how horrid that team is in overall, run of play, performance.
If the Timbers had any inkling of a defensive minded bench, and starting squad, the Reds would have been blown away – wow… but it’s about results in this league and when it came to set-pieces they got results.
As for Philadelphia – my hat is off to Jim Curtin – he’s taken the same squad, made a defensive tweak and brought them back – other than that nothing, absolutely nothing has changed between he and John Hackworth; er… other than the results – which of course stems from that defensive change — more here.
Both solid guys, both wanting to win, one took one path and it didn’t pay off – so the other took a slightly different path and it paid off…
Houston – well – they’ve been on the far side of great team performances this year more than most – what started as a good run might end as a good run – who knows – it’s a funny conference and poor performances in the East don’t mean you lose… fancy that!
Now on to Attacking PWP – here’s how they stand after Week 29:
A shiny example of how simply being a great attacking team ISN’T the answer in this league – too much focus by New York and Portland in attack as opposed to defending has cost them – BIG TIME… Cameron Knowles is the Defensive Coordinator for the Timbers and it’s clear, to me, he needs to go.
I’d imagine whoever the defensive coordinator for the Red Bulls is should be moved too…
Caleb Porter is a brilliant leader – and when you have brilliant leaders you don’t need ‘yes-men’ to work with them.
You need assistanct coaches with vision that looks in different areas – asks tough questions – pushes their own defensive agenda to make others in the organization to think even more, all the while stretching/pushing the added research and analysis you need to outperform the opponent on both sides of the ball…
I don’t personally know Cameron – have never even talked with him; he’s proabably a really good guy…
But it is clear, given the consistently bad defending nature/statistics/results of this team (goals against are 4th worst in MLS) the internal organizational structure to build a strong – defensive minded – thinking team – isn’t there…
If they make the Playoffs they will be lucky – very lucky; and that’s hard to say for me #RCTID!
New York – if New York gets edged out by any of those Eastern Conference teams I’d imagine Mike Petke gets sacked… the Red Bulls, like Portland, have been dodgy in defending all season long…
Sidenote: With respect to Thierry Henry – he’s such a classy guy – I met him in the elevator at the MLS All Star game and he’s a normal guy, who respects his Head Coach, whoever that might be, and he simply plays great attacking football.
While he’s offered no indication he might retire I think he does; and unlike Landon Donovan I think Thierry is OKAY with not having his retirement, here, being made a big deal.
I’d offer a simple testamonial with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger is good enough for Henry – and rightly so – as his best footballing years came in London town!
Now about those fringe teams… Toronto, Houston, Philadelphia, and New York in the East…
- Toronto – one of the worst passing teams in Major League Soccer – 75% across the entire pitch (5th worst in the league). What makes this team work is Michael Bradley’s vision – a superb acquisition for MLS but is it good enough to stop the playoff-missing rot?
- As for technical things that might have changed with Vanney taking over after Nelson got booted – I’m not seeing any… maybe things will show better at the end of the season – for now I think that bust up was about ego more than anything else…
- Philadelphia – as noted, this team has tactically changed with John Hackworth being replaced by Jim Curtin. Like Toronto, Philadelphia is a poor passing team – what is getting them where they are now is better defending – take note Portland!
- Houston – on the trailing edge of good attacking and defending performances all season long.
- As noted though – the tenor of Houston hasn’t been about leading, against teams, in attack – it’s more of a grinding team that works hard in defending and tries to take advantage of opponent weak spots when attacking.
- Adding Garido and Beasley has helped that and you’ll see below in DPWP they are 7th worst after Week 29; yet after Week 19 they were 2nd worst – a move up the Index a full five places…
- I’d imgine it’s that tenor that has lead to discussion about Kinnear moving to San Jose – hmmm… there’s more to that than meets the eye…
- Anyhow, Bruin has flopped this year, and it’s likely he gets moved – and with Davis spending time with the USMNT that may have cost this team a whole bunch in leadership.
- At the end of the day – Houston have a possible 15 points with five game remaining – all against Eastern Conference foes.
- While it’s a long shot, if they get past New York this next weekend, I can see the dominoes fall in a favorable direction for the dynamic Dynamo – if the defense holds… (my sleeper to push New York out…)
Moving on to Defending PWP:
By the way – there’s Columbus at the top of the Defending PWP Strategic Index – and they were 5th best in APWP – for a combined 2nd best in CPWP…
Defense wins, so hopefully we see that consistent team performance carry on to the Playoffs and through to the finals!
As for the three teams (plus New York) in the East?
Team performance wise – there’s Houston sitting above New York, Philadelphia and Toronto – and six of the bottom seven teams in all of MLS (for team defending performance) are teams from the Eastern Conference – only the embarrassing, pathetic, Chivas USA are worse…
And with them taking a two year hiatus (you might as well say ‘relegated’) it’s about time that poorly organized team was dumped and replaced – hopefully they move as well! I wonder how that impacts the Expansion Draft?
Anyhow – in the West, note that Vancouver has edged back into the higher echelon of team defending – they have FC Dallas, at home, with Seattle away, San Jose away and Colorado at home.
In Week 19, Vancouver were 9th best in DPWP – even with those two recent losses to Portland, they have now climbed to 5th best in DPWP; you don’t need to beat everybody to make the playoffs…
I can see Vancouver taking six of 12 points here. Can the Timbers take nine of 12 points with two matches against San Jose, one against Real Salt Lake, and the final one away to FC Dallas (who will most certainly not want to finish 4th)?
Hard to say but if Gaston Fernandez can step in for Diego Valeri who knows?
For now, and I’ve not offered this before, I think playing both Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri, on the pitch, hurts the tenor of team defending on this team.
It’s almost like those two guys are too dynamic in attack and less able to motor and provide a more box-to-box support this team probably needs in defending…
If they stay together then the upgrade at both fullback spots – plus another center-back – is really needed to keep the defense sound. I digress…
All that said means San Jose are a likely doormat the last five games.
If Watson is elementary in coaching the last four games he is surely gone for next year – I’d imagine he and Wondolowski and others will not want to finish the season with just six points – and that’s opining that they can beat Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto as well as take the expected three points against Chivas?
Unlikely – I’d offer Watson sees HIS team as being one that can pull 12 points out of their remaining five games – especially since their last one is against Chivas USA…
All to play for – regardless of how things go this year – these same teams will not have these same players next year.
One thing about MLS is that variation in team composition is consistent – the expansion draft is likely to see a few teams lose at least two players – making the academy and (individual) team scouting all the more important than a ‘composite’ MLS scouting approach.
To think that this franchise driven league relies more on an overall ‘collective scouting system to get players for the league’ flies in the face of the very economic and competitive structure of this country where individual thinking, individual feeling, and individual analysis suits individual companies better to make them individually more competitive.
It’s not about the “league” anymore in my opinion – and Chivas USA, coupled with New York City FC and all that the Manchester City pedigree brings with it, has shown that.
From here on (MLSNext???) it should be about the individual team within the larger franchise.
I think it’s time for poker to go up… MLS has arrived as a competitive league – now individual teams, and individual owners, should go out there and bloody compete on a team to team footing and may the best organization win!
And yes, Gregg Berhalter should be the MLS Coach of the Year!
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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.
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:
- This approach takes a look at Attacking only.
- The statistical analysis will measure Standard Deviation.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The lower the better when it comes to viewing this as a measure of consistency.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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It’s half-way into the season and clearly the Red Bulls are not the team they were last year. First and foremost, what sticks out to me, is their overall performance in team defense; like Portland their overall Goal Differential (0) pretty much tells the story that their attack is doing fine but their defense is letting them down.
I’ll dig into that in a few minutes but if you’re new to this site it’d be rude for me not to include a link (ahead of time) to give you some background in my analyses. Here’s my introduction to Possession with Purpose (PWP and the Indices) and what it’s all about.
If you don’t want to take the time to read through it the short version is:
- PWP measures six steps in team performance from an attacking and defending viewpoint – those six steps are related to each other in the form of ratios and the final Index number represents that team performance.
- It is surprisingly accurate when compared to the League Table – last year the Index was five for five in identifying the MLS Playoff teams for both conferences and this year, in the World Cup, that same statistical approach was 2 for 2 in identifying the top two teams to make the Finals; a link will be provided later.
Now… back to it and the New York Red Bulls… Here’s how all the teams rack and stack after week 17:
New York are currently 11th best overall in MLS and 5th best in the Eastern Conference; they also happen to be 5th best in the Eastern Conference Table but my Index does not account for points.
Last year at this time New York was a bit higher up, as was Portland (the other Conference winner from last year).
As for the Defending PWP (my focus today) here’s a diagram on how well New York rate against everybody else:
Quite interesting that five of the six worst teams in defensive team performance are in the Eastern Conference.
If you wish to see how the teams lined up in the World Cup this year; click here:
For now, know that being in the bottom half of this Index means the opponents attacking schemes are working very-very well compared to the New York defending schemes.
But Defending Possession with Purpose team statistics don’t tell the whole story.
Part of my PWP analyses also includes collecting other data to supplement PWP; here’s a few of those that focus on other defensive team statistics:
Penetration into their Defending Third: New York has the third lowest amount of passes attempted (in volume) by their opponents in their defending third (99.35 per game); yet their opponent Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal is over 35%; tied for 5th worst in MLS.
So in other words New York may have the run of possession and penetration in attack, but when their opponent does get the ball inside their defending third they are pretty good at making the most of those opportunities.
Corners Conceded: New York is dead middle when it comes to corners conceded (5.12 per game). While average, that does represent at least five set piece opportunities for their opponents each game – and set-pieces can win games.
And if your back four shows a poor history in defensive clearances that can be an issue… more later on that.
Successful Crosses: New York is 4th worst in conceding successful crosses – their opponent success rate is 28.89%. What that means is their opponents – when penetrating at wide angles – are pretty successful in generating goal scoring opportunities in the New York 18 yard box.
And again, when a team is low in their volume of Defensive Clearances that can be an issue…
Defensive Clearances: New York averages the second fewest Defensive Clearances per game (18.53). That low amount of clearances also reflects the higher level of success their opponents have in making successful crosses and also shows potential weaknesses in clearing corner kicks.
It also means that the center-backs and fullbacks (marking the far post) are not regularly positioned well to clear danger when the opponent passes the ball into the 18 yard box.
The observation here is that if clearances are low than one would expect to see reduced levels of successful crosses given the physical presence of fullbacks playing out wider – but they’re not… odd???
I used to be able to track ‘blocked crosses’ (that might confirm or deny that view) but MLS decided (with OPTA) to not offer up that statistic anymore in their OPTA Chalkboard?!?
Penalty Kicks Conceded: The 2nd worst team in conceding PK’s (.41 per game) is New York; another indicator that the defensive players are out of position at the wrong time!
Fouls made in the Defensive Final Third: This is the lone category, out of all these defensive indicating categories, where New York isn’t showing issues; they are 6th best (2.47 per game) in making the fewest fouls in their own Defending Final Third.
So that’s a good thing in minimizing free kicks but it also (may?) reinforce that the back-four are more of the primary issue than the midfielders; lower fouls outside the 18 yard box would indicate the midfield is doing their job – meaning the higher than normal number of PK’s conceded means the back-four aren’t doing their job.
A potentially good indicator to the front office that shoring up the back-four is more critical than shoring up the midfield; perhaps others have a different view?
If you’d like to see a comparison in how Portland are doing in these categories read here.
It’s intriguing to see that both Conference winners from last year are having similar struggles this year.
And like Portland, it appears to me that there are systematic issues with the New York Red Bulls defensive unit.
And… like Portland… I don’t think that gets “fixed” by adding a single player to the back-four. If no changes in leadership (coaching staff) have occurred (between this year and last) then perhaps something has changed in their weekly training scheme?
If no changes there, then it’s likely personnel change(s) (somewhere) need to occur if this team is going to be better in defending.
Portland added a DP in the back four just recently – I’m not sure they have a DP slot available but perhaps the Red Bulls will consider adding/trading for some different defenders?
Been a really busy past two weeks for me and it’s good to nestle back into a routine offering for your consideration. That being said I should appropriately note that I met some really superb people this past week at the World Conference on Science and Soccer.
It’s a small world when you meet someone who knows where Thetford, England is – and – has been there before!
Anyhow, I digress, back to American Major League Soccer and the results of Week 14.
There were plenty of surprises again this week, parity gone wild I suppose and none greater for most than Chivas, of all teams, drawing at home, erh, on the road, erh, at home on the road, against LA Galaxy; I’ll bet Arena was pretty upset with that result!
Not to be outdone, New York took three points from New England while Portland finally got a win in Rio Tinto (their third straight road win!) and Sporting spanked spurting Houston.
So who, exactly, after all those games, was the best of the best in attack?
Vancouver – aye – three goals on the road in Philadelphia saw them just edge out Portland by less than a hundredth of a point – the final difference really came down to having fewer shots on goal while scoring the same amount of goals.
It’s interesting to see that both teams actually had less than 50% of the possession.
In a side discussion, at the WCSS last week, we talked whether or not the Index had a bias towards possession; most seemed to agree that the bias in PWP is towards ‘accuracy’ and perhaps ‘goals scored versus shots on goal’; not possession.
On the bottom end was San Jose, the prototypical direct attacking team, who scored no goals even though 18% of their 11 shots taken were on goal. Of course that shouldn’t be a surprise though – San Jose are not very good on the road this year – taking just 4 points out of their current 16. More later on their passing accuracy as well…
So how did things go on the defending side of the ball?
The top defending team this week was DC United; holding a very powerful possession based team, Columbus, who had just 10 shots taken with only 2 testing Bill Hamid; bottom line here is that draw for Columbus saw both Toronto and New York leap-frog them into the top five; it probably didn’t help not having Higuain running the attack.
However viewed the real difference maker between Toronto and DC United really came down to DC United playing against a more possession based team who is routinely very accurate in their passing; averaging 79.99%; the best in MLS at this time. Well done DC United!
Another view is that Toronto was playing against San Jose who was, this week, 3rd worst in overall passing accuracy this week and 2nd worst in passing accuracy after penetrating the Toronto Final Third.
And since we know that Toronto yields the greatest volume of opponent passes in their own defending third it’s a pretty pathetic performance when converting just 53.08% of those passes.
As for the worst in defending this past week; Philadelphia takes the honors.
Vancouver had just 42.11% of the possession while being 5th worst in Final Third Passing Accuracy but they were completely dominating when it came to putting shots on goal and goals scored; 67% and 75% respectively.
In looking at the Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP) Index….
For the first time this year Portland has taken those honors – how did they do it? A good article to read that peels that back a bit is here… some other thoughts not included are…
They had less possession yet were 2nd best this week in passing accuracy across the entire pitch and 3rd best in passing accuracy within the attacking final third.
In addition, Portland put 82% of their shots on goal and scored on 33% of those.
Bottom line on this effort was taking advantage of space and leveraging an increasingly dangerous Fenando Adi; a true target #9 with nous and deceptively brilliant foot/heading skills!
Saying that is not to diminish the value of Sporting and New York also taking 3 points on the road; it was incredible to see New York defeat a very strong home side in New England.
No-one this year has been better at home compared to on the road – and all that without Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill; while also nursing a much-maligned Red Bull back-four. I wonder if we see Ibrahim Sakagya play central defending midfielder again this year?
As for Sporting KC hadn’t won a game since May 10th against Montreal – so that 2-nil win at BBVA Compass Stadium had great value.
That being Houston is not the team some might think they are. Their current points total is deceptive; they have played 16 games and have taken just 17 points. Montreal might be at the bottom of the league standings – but when it comes to the overall CPWP through Week 14 they are higher and they have four games in hand against both Philadelphia and Houston…
Might Frank Klopas be getting things better organized as the mid-point in the season draws near? I imagine he needs to; it can’t be easy replacing the Head Coach who actually got the Impact into the Playoffs, last year, at the expense of the team you just got fired from.
We are nearing the mid-season point and the overall Composite PWP continues to take shape.
For me, it’s still too early to try and leverage PWP as a predictive model (need at least 17 games for each team really) – that being said I might have to purge Goals Scored from the Index to really put it to test – I’ll do that after week 20 and see what the Expected Wins relationship looks like…
Next Up – MLS Soccer – PWP through Week 14 – Tomorrow…