Tagged: San Jose

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

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP – Trademark

FC Dallas; are they for real this year? You Bet – and here’s why…

Coming off a comprehensive thrashing where FC Dallas dominated to San Jose (5-nil this past weekend) Dallas has thrown down the gauntlet that the woeful run last year, and missing the playoffs, is not a likely scenario this year.

And some might offer that San Jose aren’t exactly ‘top flight’ this year – I disagree – up until this last weekend, the Earthquakes were one of the top five defensive teams in MLS – read here for those details…

Possession with Purpose:  So just how comprehensive have FC Dallas been, compared to others this year, in both team attack and team defense?  

CPWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

CPWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

Fourth best in all of MLS – lagging behind Sporting, LA Galaxy, and Seattle…

Before digging in there have been some questions offered up in the past that folks might think this Index is biased towards ‘possession-based’ teams.

I think the results you read here should pretty much prove that is not the case.

I can’t find a better example, this year, where the lack of possession and passing accuracy, for a team, has absolutely nothing to do with how effective they are in this Index.

Follow along for the examples and strategic team performance data as I show you why…

Attacking Possession with Purpose (APWP) Index:

APWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

Second best in all of Major League Soccer…

Peeling back on the ‘why’…

  • Possession Percentage – FCD are 5th worst, on average, at 47.06%
  • Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch – FCD are 7th worst, on average, at 76.03%
  • Passing Accuracy within the Final Third – See Below…
  • Percentage of Successful Passes Final Third Week 23
  • FCD are 3rd worst, on average, at 61.72%
  • Penetration Percentage per Completed Passes – FCD are 2nd worst, on average, at 19.74%
  • Shots Taken per Penetration Possession – FCD are 4th best, on average, at 20.71% (the tide begins to turn)….
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – FCD are 5th best, on average, at 38.35%… the tide continues…
  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – FCD are BEST in MLS, on average, at 44.09%…

All told – Possession and Passing Accuracy, both within and outside the Final Third, are simply not great indicators for how well this team attacks.

Bottom line at the bottom with respect to attack – it simply doesn’t matter how this team gets the ball into, or around the 18 yard box, when they do – they are dangerous… full stop.

Before moving on to Defending Possession with Purpose (DPWP) two other views for your consideration:

Here’s how those same APWP team performance indicators look when their opponent averages 85% passing accuracy or more:

  • Possession Percentage – FCD average 42.56% Possession; 6th best
  • Passing Accuracy – FCD average 79.48% accuracy; 4th best
  • Percentage of Successful Passes in the Final Third 64.38%; 3rd best
  • Penetration Percentage per Complete Passes average 21.50%; 6th best
  • Shots Taken per Penetration Percentage average 21.85%; 2nd best
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken average 38.05%; 6th worst
  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal average 40.37%; 5th best

All told – it would appear that when the opponent is better in their overall passing accuracy FC Dallas are less effective in scoring goals but their average points per game against teams who meet or exceed 85% passing accuracy is 2.33; compared to 1.63 as a whole.

Bottom line here is that better teams (in passing and possession) will NOT do better against FC Dallas than teams who are weaker in passing and possession.

So here’s the APWP information for teams who average 68% passing accuracy or less against FC Dallas:

  • Possession Percentage – FCD average 58.75% Possession; 2nd worst
  • Passing Accuracy – FCD average 74.57% accuracy; 5th worst
  • Percentage of Successful Passes in the Final Third 62.34%; 7th worst
  • Penetration Percentage per Complete Passes average 13.99%; worst
  • Shots Taken per Penetration Percentage average 20.83%; 3rd best
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken average 50.00%; best
  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal average 60.00%; best

All told – it would appear that when the opponent is far worse in overall passing accuracy FC Dallas are pretty much unstoppable; they average 3.00 points per game when the opponent is piss-poor in passing…

Bottom line here, as noted earliet, FC Dallas are dangerous in attack no matter how successful or unsuccessful their opponent is in passing – so how can they be beat?

Here’s their DPWP Index – is their a clue here on solving the FC Dallas attack?

DPWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

I’m not so sure.  They are tenth best in all of Major League Soccer…. not really earth shattering – nor pathetic… but perhaps some clues to beating them?

Peeling back on the ‘why’… recognizing that passing accuracy, by the opponents, is not really a good indicator on how to beat them.

  • Possession – Opponents of FC Dallas average 52.94% possession; that is the 5th highest amount of possession ceded in MLS
  • Passing Accuracy within the FC Dallas Defending Final Third – Opponents average 68.16% passing accuracy within the Dallas Final Third; that is the highest opponent average in passing accuracy of any team in MLS
  • Put another way here’s the diagram on Opponent Unsuccessful passes in the Dallas defending Final Third:
  • Percentage of Unsuccessful Passes Final Third Week 23
  • In other words the opponents are very successful in completing passes within the FC Dallas defending third
  • Shots Taken per penetrating possession – Opponents of FC Dallas average 18.89% – 9th best in MLS in limiting their opponents Shots Taken per penetration
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – Opponents of FC Dallas average 34.42% – that is the 5th highest percentage yielded in MLS
  • Where it counts – Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – Opponents of FC Dallas average 25.91%; that is the 3rd lowest success rate by opponents in MLS.

I don’t see compelling information here, pointing one direction or another, that would show team weakness in defending.

All told – Dallas appears to cede possession, penetration and higher rates of passing accuracy to their opponents than other teams in MLS.

Bottom line here is they are average/solid in defense…  but a good average – no real compelling clues in this data to be sure.

If there’s a chink in the armor perhaps it’s in Red Cards or Fouls within their own Defending Final Third?

Red Cards:

  • FC Dallas have the second highest total of Red Cards of any team in MLS (eight) – only Sporting KC are worse (with 12).
  • Their sum of Points won is seven when garnering a Red Card and 1.17 Points per game
  • Their sum of Points won is 32 when not garnering a Red Card and 1.78 Points per game

Fouls in their own Defending Final Third:

  • FC Dallas average the fourth highest number of Fouls in the Defending Final Third (3.29)
  • Their sum of Points won is four when conceding five or more fouls in their own defending Final Third; 1.33 Points per game
  • Their sum of Points won is 35 when conceding four or fewer fouls in their own defending Final Third; 1.67 Points per game

Bottom line here is yes, there is a weakness; a huge weakness in my opinion.  When Dallas get Red Cards or when they exceed five fouls within their own defending Final Third they are very (highly) likely to lose… (drop points).

In Closing…

In attack it’s pretty clear to me that this team is all about goals scored regardless of what approach is used by either team…

In addition – it’s also very clear to me that when FC Dallas lose they lose because they beat themselves…

I’m not sure I’ve seen any team this year provide such a clear message than when they lack discipline they lose – and when they display and execute discipline they win…

Bottom line at the bottom:  If a team were looking to win against Dallas I would have thought their best bet is to make it a physical game that includes a wee bit of psychological drama… ‘get into the head of the Dallas players and you have a better chance of winning’…

In looking back at my original question – Are they for real? – I’d say yes…

And are the PWP Indices biased towards possession and passing accuracy?  No…

Best, Chris

Retweets welcomed…

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.  PWP, Trademark

Do they know the way? – San Jose – MLS After Week 22

While many might consider the Portland Timbers a sleeper in the Western Conference this year, there may be indications that San Jose might fit that title as well.

But before considering a potential answer to that question let’s take a look at some of their team performance indicators.

First in… San Jose have three games in hand on some teams in the Western Conference – that alone is very compelling information as the simple calculation might lead some to believe that three games in hand could equal nine points in the League Table.

And that nine additional points would actually see San Jose sitting above the red-line at 32 points – slightly ahead of Colorado.

But is it that easy?

I’m not so sure…

Here’s how San Jose (SJFC) and all the other teams compare against each other in the Composite PWP after Week 22:



At first glance San Jose looks a bit low on the totem pole; a worthy view but that difference, in composite team performance, only amounts to 4% points different (on average – per game) than Vancouver.

And as we’ve seen about two weeks ago (Separating Winners from Losers in MLS), a good run or bad run will influence this Index.  And, as a reminder this Index excludes Points in the League Table – that data is qualitative – the PWP Indices are quantitative.

So a push forward is not unlikely; especially when the team is missing three games worth of performance data compared to some other teams.

So how do things look when peeling back the Defending Possession with Purpose (DPWP) and Attacking (APWP) Indices?

DPWP Index After Week 22

DPWP Index After Week 22

Not bad; fourth most effective team in DPWP performance.

Here’s the grist behind that Index number…

Opponent Possession – almost dead even – Opponents average 50.32% possession…

Opponent Passing Accuracy – 63.78%; 12 lowest in MLS – put another way the opponents are unsuccessful in their overall passing 36.22% of the time…  here’s how that compares to others:

Percentage of Opponent Unsuccessful Passes Entire Pitch

Percentage of Opponent Unsuccessful Passes Entire Pitch

Pretty tight margin after the defensive dominance of Sporting KC; the significant drop off doesn’t occur until you reach Montreal and Chivas.

So, from an ‘unsuccessful passing standpoint’; opponents of San Jose are unsuccessful in their passes 23.72% of the time.

Opponent Penetration Percentage into the San Jose defending third, based upon Passing, equals 22.87%; that is 9th worst in MLS.

What that offers is the impression that San Jose will play slightly deeper in their defending half – sometimes indicating that they look to cede possession and try to trap their opponents by playing for quicker transitions and counterattacking opportunities.

We’ve seen other teams with far less possession, and higher percentages in this category, that do take that approach.

Opponent percentage of Shots Taken per percentage of final third penetration is 19.05% – ninth highest in MLS; again confirming that the higher end of the 18 yard box is somewhat ceded in order to try and clog the 18 yard box a wee bit more…

Opponent Shots on Goal per Shot Taken – 35.83% – average – dead middle – tenth best or tenth worst depending upon your point of view – glass half full?  glass half empty?

As for the finl step Opponent Shots on Goal that score Goals; San Jose have the lowest percentage (21.32%) in all of MLS!

This helps reinforce that even when the opponent does get a bit of time and space Jon Busch is usually in a very good position to keep the shot out of goal.

Overall, I’d offer San Jose are very solid in team defending – and very solid in goal keeping; San Jose needs to sustain this strong team performance in defending; especially in the final third of this season.

Given that defensive pedigree (so far this year) let’s take a look at some of the supporting team statistics – those irritating things (one-offs) that can ruin a good game…

Penalty Kicks conceded – .26 per game; that’s 5th worst in MLS.

Not near as bad Portland (.45 per game) but a far cry less effective than Colorado (.09 per game); a team who leads the league in fewest PK’s conceded (AND) a team they will have to pass as they chase for a place in the Playoffs.

Fouls in the defending third – 8th worst – 2.79 fouls in their own defending third per game.

Now that might not have been too much of an issue, so far, but it’s good to remember that there are more games to be played against some top attacking teams in MLS (more later on that).

Bottom line here – it would be worthy for San Jose to see those PK and Fouls conceded drop off as the season winds down…

Opponent Unsuccessful Passes in their San Jose defending Final Third:

Percentage of Opponent Unsuccessful Passes Final Third

Percentage of Opponent Unsuccessful Passes Final Third

San Jose are going pretty good in this category – overall they are 5th best in MLS in clogging the passing lanes within their own defending third.

Corners conceded – San Jose concede the 6th most corners per game in MLS = 5.26; another set-piece danger given their remaining schedule.

Opponents complete 23.60% of their crosses – that is the 4th best percentage in MLS and what may help here (as well as in defending corners) is that San Jose are 8th best in defensive clearances.

All told it doesn’t look like they have detrimental team statistics in these areas (like Houston or Portland) but yielding set-pieces could be an issue, as could the accumulation of yellow cards if the frequency of fouls continues.

Flipping the coin and looking at their Attacking PWP (APWP):

First off – San Jose have added two players, one recently, that (could???) change their attacking output as the season continues.

The first player is Yannick Djalo – who has already shown pedigree in attack.

The second player, (another Argentine midfielder in MLS) is Matias Perez Garcia – it will be interesting to see how he fits and what playing time he gets.

But for now – here’s how things look for San Jose…

APWP Index After Week 22

APWP Index After Week 22

They don’t exactly shine as a bright star in attack – bottom line here – the addition of Garcia should help – but soon enough to help San Jose get better in attack?

I don’t know… but a worrying issue for management and supporters might be figuring out how his ‘attacking’ addition to the pitch will impact defending team performance.

As for San Jose’s performance in the six steps of APWP:

Their own Possession percentage is 49.68% about dead middle…

Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch:

Percentage of Successful Passes Entire Pitch

Percentage of Successful Passes Entire Pitch

Ninth worst in MLS; again, adding an attacking midfielder to the mix might see these numbers improve – but at what risk to the defending side of the pitch?

Passing Accuracy in the Attacking Final Third:

Percentage of Successful Passes Final Third

Percentage of Successful Passes Final Third

Not the best here either; 6th worst to be exact.

Part of the reason for lower numbers, in these two areas, might have to do with the type/length of passes that may be occurring within and into the final third.

As a direct attacking team it is likely longer balls and more frequent use of crosses might drive these numbers down – if Mark Watson is considering adding an attacking midfielder to the mix maybe these numbers will improve.

Shots Taken per penetrating possession – 19.11% – middle of the pack no better or worse than the average.

Shots on Goal per Shot Taken – 32.82% – 5th worst in MLS.

Here’s what I mean about what you don’t want to see teams do… go from middle of the pack in Shots Taken to being far worse in Shots on Goal per Shot Taken.

Basically this means that they not only don’t get off many shots per penetration – the shots they do get off have a far less chance of being on goal than the rest of MLS.

This isn’t due to location, in my view, it is due to the poor amount of time and space they make for themselves given their less than patient form of penetration.

As for putting the ball into the back of the net???

San Jose are 2nd worst in MLS when it comes to scoring goals per shot on goal – 22.87%; the MLS average is 32.04% – they are 10% points below the average…

If their team performance, in defending, doesn’t hold up well through the final third of this season these lower attacking indicators could be a real issue; especially when it comes to scoring goals.

In closing…

What has been left unsaid so far is this… San Jose have two games remaining against LA Galaxy, one game remaining against FC Dallas, one game remaining against Seattle, two games remaining against Real Salt Lake, two games remaining against Vancouver, and three games remaining against Portland.

So while their DPWP ranks extremely high, compared to other teams in MLS, their remaining schedule sees them playing 11 games against six of the top 11 teams in APWP!

The only doormats they go up against are Chivas USA, once, and Montreal, once… so the test for this team is only just beginning.

Can their team defensive chemistry, built up so well in the first 22 weeks, carry them to the playoffs?

Will the addition of their new central attacking midfielder alter the balance, towards attack, and negatively impact their team defense?

Will the addition of Garcia give them the lift they need?

Hard to say.

I’d offer team defending is critical – Sporting KC and many other teams (through good or bad defending) reinforce that view in MLS time and again.

At the end of the day you need goals scored in order to win.

And one point, per game, in the final third of the season, will not see San Jose reach the Playoffs…

Any additional thoughts/comments are welcomed/encouraged – especially from those who follow the San Jose Earthquakes…

Best, Chris

Retweets appreciated.

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MLS – Reading the Tea Leaves and Predicting Week 20 Outcomes…

A full slate of games for Week 20 that started off with a smashing win by San Jose over a very shabby Chicago – were you surprised; you shouldn’t have been. 

Chicago Fire have the worst average in overall team defensive performance of any team in MLS this year  – and it certainly doesn’t get better on the road.  Read my latest on the Attacking and Defending PWP Indices from Week 19 here.

In addition; San Jose – believe it or not – are one of the most frugal teams in Defensive Possession with Purpose this year (3rd best in my Index to be exact {2.2510}).

To start – a reminder of three things:

  1. The Possession with Purpose Predictability Indices work from PWP “without” Goals Scored or Goals Against – in other words I use the bell curve of five activities, not six, in order to offer an Index of prediction.
  2. To date, after four weeks, the PWP PI has been 74% accurate in predicting the outcomes of games – if you just pick the “home” side to win every game you’d have a 62% chance of being accurate.
  3. This Predictabiliy Index is not leveraged until after most teams have played at least 17 games – there is not enough historical data to generate worthy trends prior to the half-way point in the season.
  4. The two PWP Predictability Indices (Home) and (Away) are provided below for your consideration before I offer up the predicted results.







Let the games begin…

  1. San Jose at home to Chicago – results are already in – San Jose wins – PWP PI indicates San Jose should have won (.0368) to Chicago (-.2241).  PWP PI was accurate.
  2. Real Salt Lake at home to Montreal – Home PI for RSL =  .1374 / Away PI for MIFC = -.0170.  PI predicts RSL win.
  3. Colorado at home to Chivas USA – Home PI for CRFC = .1754 / Away PI for CUSA =  -.1827.  PI predicts CRFC win.
  4. Toronto at home to Sporting KC – Home PI for TFC = .1010 / Away PI for SKC = .0929.  PI predicts TFC win.
  5. New England at home to Columbus – Home PI for NER = .2516 / Away PI for CCFC =  .2047.  PI predicts NEW win.
  6. Vancouver at home to FC Dallas – Home PI for VWFC = .1912 / Away PI for FCD = -.2379.  PI predicts VWFC win.
  7. Montreal at home to Portland – Home PI for MIFC = -.0170 / Away PI for PTFC = .0486.  PI predicts PTFC win.
  8. Seattle at home to LA Galaxy – Home PI for SSFC = .2669 / Away PI for LAG = .1031.  PI predicts SSFC win.

In Closing…

That’s from a clinical/objective standpoint looking at the comprehensive ‘bell curve’ of activities that teams have offered in their first 19 weeks of play.

There are intangibles, as always, in soccer – with 22 players, 2 Assistant Referees, 1 Referee, 2 Head Coaches and the potential for 6 total substitutions most anything can happen that might turn a game on its head.

I can’t account for those intangibles but if teams have a propensity for making mental mistakes, getting red cards, or yielding PK’s, on a regular basis, than those intangibles will pile up and impact/influence overall team performance.

Good examples of intangibles at this stage include some:

  • New England are in a slump – seven straight losses
  • FC Dallas are on an up-swing
  • As are Chivas USA
  • Montreal have two games (in four days) against two of the best attacking teams in the Western Conference
  • Colorado have some injuries to deal with
  • Seattle is taking on an LA team that just got thrashed by Manchester United – but LA are simply one of the top performing teams in attack and defense (regardless of being home or away)
  • Toronto are really beginning to gel in attack
  • Portland are one of the best road teams in MLS this year and the addition of Liam Ridgewell does appear to have made their defensive scheme better.
  • Western Conference teams have simply done better against Eastern Conference teams this year (105 points now for the West versus just 69 points for the East in head-to-head competitions).


  • And they are considering moving Sporting KC to the West at some point in the future?  WOW – talk about an unbalanced Major League Soccer Conference scheme!
  • As much as it pains me to say it there should be one Conference and one League or a split to create four Conferences (two east {north/south} and two west {north/south}).
  • If the league is going to operate based upon the ‘entitlement’ that once a team is “in they stay in” (forever with no relegation) then the sooner this league organizes itself like other major sporting leagues in this country the better.

Finally, and perhaps the most controverisal of my views.

  • I don’t look at individual statistics
  • The game is played by a team… and teams win and lose – individual players don’t.
  • Actions, as much as “non-actions” both impact and influence the outcome of games.
  • And no… the statistics that folks should consider generating for this league, as a whole, should not mirror those of Baseball.
  • The further away from Baseball type statistics the better it will be for others (new to the game) to really understand how much of a ‘team game’ soccer really is.

That’s my soap-box rant for the day – a good podcast to listen to where I explain that view is here:  Yellowcarded Podcast.

  • The time hack to begin listening starts around the 3 minute mark and goes to the 35 minute mark
  • Towards the end of that 35 minute mark I respond to a question about the MLS Castrol Index that speaks to my views on the strengths and weaknesses of individual statistics
  • MLS Castrol Index – An individual Index (sponsored through MLS) that is so obtuse and inaccurate it’s mention is hardly worthy as I feel like it’s a backhanded recommendation to click on it and review the outcomes – don’t waste your time!

Best, Chris


Possession with Purpose – Who’s hot and who’s not in the last ten weeks?

A different view on Possession with Purpose in Major League Soccer this week…. this time around I’ll be offering up my Indices using just that last ten weeks of the MLS Regular season to look for any trends in who’s better or worse compared to the season as a whole.

For those not familiar with Possession with Purpose yet here’s a link to the Introduction and Explanations on how it works.

Here goes…

After Week 19 here’s how the teams stand in Attacking PWP (APWP):



Now here’s how these teams have performed in Attack the last 10 Weeks:



The first team in the queue for the last ten weeks is Portland; I wonder what their Defending PWP looks like.

For most, Portland being this high shouldn’t be a surprise – they continue to remain one of the best attacking teams in MLS.

Also up top are LA Galaxy, New York, and Philadelphia.

In taking a closer look at Philadelphia, for the whole season, they are 7th best in team attack but 4th best here – the change in leadership has certainly generated a positive impact on the teams ability to attack.

On the bottom half of this Index we see Houston, San Jose, Chivas USA, Montreal, and Chicago.

No change here in the last ten weeks compared to the whole season so far… might there be another mid-to-late season change in Head Coaches or will things get better after the transfer season ends?

The biggest mover, when viewing the whole season versus the last ten weeks, is Toronto – their APWP sits 8th best in the last ten weeks compared to 14th best for the whole season – quite a remarkable jump.

The biggest mover, on the negative side, has been FC Dallas; mired in that winless streak they dropped from 3rd best (as a whole) down to 13th best in the last 10 weeks.

That win this past weekend was really a huge boost – perhaps more than Pareja might have been willing to admit!

So it’s fair to say that as time has passed Portland and Toronto have got stronger while FC Dallas regressed (like last year).

Montreal, San Jose, Chicago, Houston, and Chivas (even with their little win streak) are simply not firing on all cylinders.  As a reminder from last year, five of the six teams to finish in the bottom of the Composite PWP Index had their Head Coaches sacked or let go prior to the season ending.

Might we see that same pattern emerge again this year?

So how about on the Defending side of PWP (DPWP)?  Here’s the Index as the season stands today:



And here is the DPWP Index for the last 10 weeks:



In looking at the Defending side this might explain why some teams simply aren’t further up the League Table than other teams.

Great examples include New England, New York, Portland, and Philadelphia.

In returning to Portland, and their surge in team attacking performance the last ten weeks, a review of the DPWP Index indicates they have dropped one place.  Not a big change but considering their were the best in DPWP for almost the entire year last year that drop in team performance really has impacted their position in the League Table.

Philadelphia – so while the Curtin change has made a difference in attacking team performance the defending side of the game has suffered; the Union are now 3rd worst in the last ten weeks compared to 5th worst overall.

New York have also taken a hit in DPWP.  In the last ten weeks they have the worst team defensive performance of anyone.

So that slide down from 6th worst in MLS to worst in MLS has probably outweighed that individual attacking performance seen with Bradley Wright-Phillips… kinda reinforces again… that this game isn’t all about scoring goals – preventing goals adds value too.

I’ve often wondered if the viability of Mike Petke as a defensive-minded Head Coach has been over-rated somewhat given the individual attacking influence Thierry Henry brings to the team?

But the worst drop, in the last ten weeks, belongs to New England.  Throughout the entire season they are 10th best in DPWP; but in the last ten weeks that 10th best has eroded to 2nd worst – a drop of 8 places.  The defensive woes are piling up – I might have to take a special look at New England in the next few weeks.

As for the most improved in DPWP the last ten weeks…

The biggest mover looks to me like Chivas USA.

For the season, as a whole, they sit 4th worst but in the last ten weeks the Goats have improved to 7th best in MLS; a shift of nine places in the last ten weeks.

My thoughts, on that improvement, center on the defensive unit dropping deeper to allow the opponent slightly more penetration.

In doing that the open spaces, in and around the 18 yard box, are naturally smaller.  Western Conference foes should take heed of the apparent defensive tactical change!

In Closing…

The Indices are not prone to teams making quick moves up or down the ladder – time passes and the changes are usually subtle and go unnoticed unless a team goes on a viral winning or losing spree.

If I were going to watch a few teams more closely in these last 14 or so games it’d be how well the DPWP shows for Portland, Philadelphia, Chivas, New England, and New York play and how well the APWP shows for San Jose, FC Dallas, Columbus, and Toronto Attack.

Best, Chris

MLS Soccer – Week 14 – The best and worst in Possession with Purpose

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?

APWP Index Week 14 MLS

APWP Index Week 14 MLS

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?

DPWP Index Week 14 MLS

DPWP Index Week 14 MLS


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….


CPWP Index Week 14 MLS

CPWP Index Week 14 MLS


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.

In closing…

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…

Best, Chris

Next Up – MLS Soccer – PWP through Week 14 – Tomorrow…


PWP thru Week 12 + Home or Away who’s better/worse in PWP?

If you’ve been following my Possession with Purpose and Expected Wins articles/streaming research you should know by now that the data had a pretty strong correlation to the MLS League Tables last year.

So how do things look for PWP at this stage in the MLS this year?  

Through Week 12 Composite PWP

Through Week 12 Composite PWP

A few thoughts….

  • It’s early days but the two teams lowest in the League Table (Western and Eastern Conference) also happen to be the lowest teams in the PWP Composite Index this year.
  • Caveat – the amount of data for this Index is not ideal; ideal would be how the Index begins to take shape from Week 17 on-wards.  I am, however, providing you this information so we can all watch how this Index takes shape for the entire year.
  • As noted, last year the final Index was compelling in its relationship to the League Table; I have no idea if that will be the case this year.
  • However viewed I don’t advocate that this Index represents a substitute for the League Table but those teams performing well in scoring points also seem to be those teams performing well in Possession with Purpose; or is it vice versa???
  • I’ll dig into an update on my PWP approach in my next article, for now I readily acknowledge that this Index is influenced by passing accuracy – but it’s also influenced by shooting accuracy too.
  • In looking at the Eastern Conference; the exception last year was Houston and it remains so again this year.  This time Houston, with 14 games played, are in fourth in the League Table but 17th overall in PWP; if that 4th place is to continue I’d offer that their PWP Indices will improve compared to other teams.
  • As for Montreal, Chicago, Toronto (with 3-5 games in hand), Philadelphia and New York are in the bottom half while Columbus, Sporting, New England and DC United are in the top half for both.
  • Bottom line – with a few exceptions the Index looks reasonable – can it be a predictor at or near the 17 game point for all teams? I’m not sure but watching this Index change from week to week is intriguing.

Given that interesting output, I decided to take a look at how teams sit in the Index relative to games played at home versus on the road.

Through Week 12 Home vs Road Composite PWP

Through Week 12 Home vs Road Composite PWP

The team who appears to be performing the best on the road, relative to their own Index ratings, is Chivas – their differential is -.39.  In looking at the total goals scored at home they have six, on the road they have 7.    Chivas have taken six points away from home and four points at home.

Chicago Fire also appear to do better on the road than at home – they have 11 goals on the road and eight goals at home.  Indeed they also have taken six  points away from home and six points at home.

In looking at the upper end of the Index differences, New England leads PWP in team performance at home versus on the road.  Their own Index difference is .68; with 13 points at home and ten points on the road going with 11 home goals and 10 road goals.

Next up is San Jose at .49 – they have scored 11 goals at home and just two on the road.  Taking 12 points at home and just one point on the road.
In looking at the six steps of PWP for New England (home and away) they have about the same possession (~47% each) and overall passing accuracy (72.7% each).  The biggest difference comes in penetration completion; at home the Revolution complete ~33% of all their overall passes within the Final Third; while on the road that figure is ~26% – a full 7% points difference.   So it appears they are more willing to possess with the “intent to possess” more on the road.

In addition, the number of shots taken versus passes completed in the Final Third is ~17% at home while ~15% on the road.  Again, more patience in attack on the road…

Finally, while their Shots taken versus shots on goal are slightly higher on the road (42% to 40%) their ability to score goals versus shots on goal is 33% at home versus 23% on the road.    In other words they are more accurate in their goals scored at home.

As for San Jose the wide difference in goals scored at home versus on the road should be pretty obvious but in case you were wondering – in the four games San Jose have played on the road their overall penetration into the final third is 3% less than at home.

Their shots taken versus completed passes in the Final Third is 9% less, Shots on Goal versus Shots Taken is 14% less and their Goals Scored versus Shots on Goal is 19% less.  In the case of San Jose it’s “less means less” in almost every category…

In considering Chivas…

To date they have played 5 games at home.  At home their possession is 4% higher, passing accuracy is 6% higher, penetration is 1% higher, their shots per penetration is higher by 2% but their shots on goal per shot taken is 7% lower and their goals scored versus shots on goal is 17% lower.

In other words, at home, they appear to have more quantity in their overall passing to penetrate but they have less quality when it comes to scoring goals.

In closing:

I’m not sure how this will play out for the year but at this stage the data is interesting.  Is it compelling one way or the other? Hard to tell, but we don’t know what we don’t know unless we at least throw it out there to take a look…

For now I think it is compelling enough to re-look later this year on how team performance in PWP takes shape at home and away…

Best, Chris