As part of my continuing analysis on Major League Soccer, with respect to Possession with Purpose, here’s an interesting view on the relationship between fouls committed in the Defending Final Third versus Defensive Possession with Purpose (DPWP), Points in the League Table, and Composite Possession with Purpose (CPWP)…
Teams are ranked from most to least fouls in the defending third with their DPWP, Sum of Points Taken, and CPWP article.
Note that three of the four teams with the fewest points in Major League Soccer also commit the most fouls in their own defending third; Portland, Chivas, and Montreal – and a team that has been taking a slide in the league standings of late, FC Dallas, are also in the top four.
An issue with this table is that the number of games played is not equal – it is what it is.
Note the teams in the bottom half of the table; LA Galaxy, New England, Colorado, Sporting, and Seattle are teams that come to mind who are doing well this year in minimzed fouls as well as good standing in the league table – an odd one out is New York.
Perhaps their lower points total and lower PWP Index ratings are more to do with having average players who are more disciplined in not fouling but less disciplined in good position play?
In other words they are so far out of position that they can’t get close enough to foul in order to shut down their opponent; or, they are so disciplined in not giving away a set-piece/penalty they would rather rely on their keeper to try and make a save or rely on the opponent to ‘miss’?
I’d probably support the later more than the former – but since their back four has been a mish-mash of starters throughout the whole year it’s pretty hard to tell…
In looking from a different point of view; fouls made versus PK’s conceded, Opponent Goals Scored and Goal Differential the overall data still remains compelling – fouling your opponent in your Defending Final Third will negatively impact points in the league table…
In looking at Portland in particular; clearly the number of fouls conceded in the final third relates to the average number of PK’s conceded this year… (4.21 to .64).
Three other leaders (if you will) in this area are Montreal (3.17 to .33), Houston (2.87 to .40), and New York (2.29 to .43). Of all these teams all three have negative CPWP Index numbers, (-0.2345 for Montreal), (-0.2741 for Houston), and (-0.0416 for New York).
The odd one out, by a slim margin, is Portland who sits on 0.0616 CPWP; a testament, if you will, in their ability to score goals…. if only they could prevent goals better.
The most compelling evidence to me however, is not pictured, the Correlation of Fouls committed in the Defending Final Third to Opponent Goals Scored is .6146 and the Correlation to Goal Differential is -.5267.
In other words there is a strong relationship between fouls committed in the Defending Final Third and Goals conceded…
Of interest for me is that the relationship also translates back to DPWP and CPWP; the correlation of Fouls conceded in the Defending Final Third to DPWP is .5495 while the Correlation to CPWP is -0.4853.
Not as strong as the league table correlations but enough of a correlation to reinforce that the PWP Indices have relevance to points in the league table without including (points) in the analysis that creates the Indices of team performance.
Fouling your opponent in your own back yard hurts – it not only hurts team performance it also hurts in the league standings…
Those teams that do this regularly don’t appear to do well (based upon both views of data – quantitative and qualitative) in Major League Soccer…
Over a year has passed since my first broad strokes about Possession with Purpose were applied to Major League Soccer; since then we’ve had one full year to look at it and how things have played out.
So how do things stack up today versus Week 17 last year, and, is something going on with DC United (besides the new strikers) that is different this year?
To begin; here’s a look at the teams after 17 weeks in 2013:
The top five Western Conference teams were Portland, Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy, Vancouver and Seattle; the only team not to make the Playoffs last year was Vancouver.
Upon reflection, it was their defense that let them down, and the most probable reason why Martin Rennie got sacked.
In looking at the top five Eastern Conference teams they were Sporting KC, New England, New York, Montreal, and Houston – the same top five teams that eventually made the Playoffs.
So how about this year?
In looking at the Eastern Conference teams, the top five are Sporting KC, Columbus Crew, DC United, New England and New York – the odd one out, at the moment, is Toronto vice Columbus.
It should be noted that Toronto also have at least two, and no less than four, games in hand – so it’s not exactly “apples to apples yet” but should be in about 3 weeks time. As for the Western Conference, the top five so far are LA Galaxy, Seattle, Colorado, Portland, and FC Dallas.
Again the games in hand vary somewhat.
The HUGE, if not inordinately large question here is… Can the Portland Timbers turn their defensive nightmare of a season around with a healthy Norberto Paparatto, Pa Madou Kah and newly signed Liam Ridgewell, for three solid center-backs? And, if so, does that fix the defensive issues?
Now an even tougher question…
Is the level of accuracy, last year, to be expected this year (nine for ten in teams last year making the Playoffs, based upon 17 games of data)?
I’m not so sure… And a good reason for that is the emerging clarity on how effective some teams have become (this year) in winning or drawing games with less possession…
In other words, playing to a counterattacking style, that sees some teams offering the opponent higher levels of possession, penetration, and shots taken.
So is there another way to try and answer the question about accuracy in the CPWP Index?
How about the CPWP Predictability Index – what does that offer after Week 17?
In looking at the CPWP PI, the numbers seem to indicate that Sporting KC, Columbus, New England, New York and Philadelphia have the best chances of winning, given historical team performances this year.
So the PI sees Philadelphia with an edge over Toronto… (reminder – TFC have four games in hand though)…
And does that Head Coach change, where Curtin is now in charge over Hackworth, reflect the Hackworth predictability of Philadelphia or the Curtin predictability of Philadelphia? More to follow on that in a later article for sure…
As for the Western Conference; LA leads with Colorado, Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland – that sees FC Dallas dropping out with a smaller chance of winning and Vancouver sliding in…
And yet, neither Index has Real Salt Lake in the top five – could that be? Has the loss of Saborio, Beckerman and Rimando impacted RSL that much in such a short time span; and what does that say for the second half of the season? Lots of questions with no answers yet…
Now… take a look how far down DC United are in the Predictability Index (5th worst predictability in winning) – might that indicate how fortunate they have been in scoring goals or is that a reflection of something else going on?
DC United have the second best Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal of all the teams in MLS (42.12%); FC Dallas lead MLS in that category with 44.26%. Clearly the addition of Espindola and Johnson (even if they don’t play together) has added extreme value to this team.
Especially when their percentage for this same statistic, last year, was just 16.66% I wonder what the Expected Goals look like for DC United and how their shot locations may have changed this year compared to last year? Perhaps one or two folks who specialize in Expected Goals can help answer that one?
I did check to see if they have been awarded more PK’s than other teams – no – only 2 PK’s awarded so far this year.
As for Opponent Red Cards?
Perhaps that has created a positive influence in Goals Scored? Their opponents have had 5 Red Cards this year (two by FC Dallas in one game) – that is tied for 3rd highest (best/most advantageous) in MLS.
Has that helped? I think so…
DC United have 10 points in the four games where their opponent has been red-carded and nine of their 24 Goals Scored have come from those games.
So, in retrospect – if the opponent’s for DC United “play-fair” it is (likely?) that will negatively impact DC United in the League Table.
That’s one advantage of the CPWP PI – it is not ‘doubly’ influenced by opponents being Red or Yellow Carded – it’s strictly five of the six primary data points of PWP.
Still plenty to play for and any team, and I mean any team, can get on a winning streak – just look at Chivas USA their last three games.
How all the ‘defensive bunkering’ folds into the PWP Indices and Predictability outcomes has yet to play out. When every team reaches 17 games I’ll regenerate this article with updated information.