Tagged: team performance

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






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.

COPYRIGHT, All Rights Reserved.   PWP, Trademark


World Cup 2014 Final; the two best teams? You bet!

If you’ve been following my adventures in Major League Soccer you’ll know that last year the PWP Index did a pretty good job in showing how the team performances played out in comparison to the League Tables (without) including points scored in my calculations.

To be honest, with such a small sample point I really didn’t think the PWP Indices effort would stand up against the Tournament (knock-out based style) of the World Cup.

But after taking a look at all the games (and inputting the team performance from said games) my Indices seem to hold up pretty well – wonder when Pepsi or another company that begins with “P” will consider sponsoring my work?  (just kidding – erhhh maybe not?).

Anyhow – here’s the lay of the land as it was tweeted earlier today:



NOTE:  All games are entered – and the comparison of these games does include the extra games played as the competition has headed towards the finals.

In other words Germany, Argentina, Brazil and the Netherlands all have six games worth of data.  In developing this I figured the more data points for a team the more likely their percentages would be watered down.

So for a team like Spain, who went out in the first round I figured they’d be pretty high up – well they are but the pedigree of the Netherlands, France, Colombia, Argentina, and Germany all put them past Spain EVEN with more games played!

If you’ve read my presentation at the World Conference on Science and Soccer as well as my Introduction into Possession with Purpose you’ll know my measurement methods and data source for this effort.  I can’t thank MLS Soccer.com enough for the publicly available data that allows me to generate my Index formulas.

Perhaps Prozone or someone else might help me obtain the data I need for all the European Leagues, to include the Champions League?

So with the overall accuracy (pretty compelling it appears to me) I’ve put my Composite PWP Predictability Index to test for the final (ahead of time)…

Before offering that Index though here’s how the teams compared against each other in Attacking PWP and Defending PWP:



From an attacking standpoint Germany are top of the table with Colombia 2nd, France 3rd, and Argentina 4th.

And when witnessing that blowout yesterday is that really a surprise, perhaps somewhat, but even prior to that game Germany were 3rd best overall in Attacking PWP – behind only Argentina and Colombia.

So how about the Defending PWP Index?

Notice (below) that Brazil is 17th out of 32 teams; prior to that game against Germany, Brazil were 12th.

So while some favored Brazil – the overall team performance indicators did show that Brazil were behind Germany in both the APWP and DPWP prior to that game.

The same cannot be said for Argentina and Germany – those two split top honors as you can see below as Argentina heads this Index; while Germany is a close 2nd.



Also note, if you’re a supporter of the United States, they were much higher in this Index (21st best) than they were in the Attacking Index (5th worst).

It is worthy (and most probably realistic) that if the United States had taken a stronger attacking stance against Germany, and perhaps even Belgium, they might have been the team getting embarrassed and not Brazil!

Finally, here’s the CPWP Predictability Index:



A pretty close call; in this one Germany has the slight edge in Composite Predictability in comparison to Argentina.

Argentina is #1 in the DPWP Predictability Index (not pictured) and  Germany is 4th best.

Germany is #1 in the APWP Predictability Index and Argentina slides all the way down to 16th best.

A distinct difference in Attacking and Defending Predictability based upon previous team performance while excluding goals scored…

In closing…

The overall Composite PWP Predictability Index indicates Germany is better in attack and Argentina is better in defense; the Predictability Indices indicate the same outputs.

For me, and my PWP calculations this should make for a brilliant final this weekend!

No personal prognostications from me – my objective team performance indicators point one way in attack and one way in defense; usually in games like these the better defensive teams win…

Best, Chris