I’ll try to offer some thoughts on this a bit later but to first understand a possible answer to this question I felt it worthy to conduct a compare and contrast between two teams – (LA Galaxy and Toronto FC).
To begin; here’s a reminder on how these two teams finished in the Composite Possession with Purpose Index last year – remembering also that LA ended up with 61 points and Toronto had 41 points:
If Possession with Purpose is new to you I suggest you read here: Possession with Purpose. For statistical purposes the R2 (R squared) for the Index compared to points earned was .85.
Next up – the Big Picture:
Reading from left to right:
- Average PWP Composite Index – the numbers here represent the difference between the subtracting the PWP Defending Index (grouping 3) from the PWP Attacking Index (grouping 2) for each team; LA being the dark blue bar and Toronto being the red bar.
- In other words 2.31 from 2.53 = .21 for LA and 2.42 from 2.33 = -.09 for Toronto. (a difference of .30)
- The 4th grouping – Composite PWP Predictability is the Composite PWP Index (minus) all statistical data associated with a goal scored/goal against – in other words it’s a pure representation of the primary team activities occuring on the pitch exclusive of goals scored. The R2 for the Predictability Index is .69.
- Next over is average Goals Scored for each team throughout the year for each game.
- This is followed by the average Goals Scored by the Opponent against each team throughout the year.
- Second from last is the average Goal Differential – the same logic applies here that is used to create the Composite PWP Index – subtract Goals Scored by the Opponent Goals Scored against that team.
- Last and most important – the average points earned for each team for each game.
- In every case LA exceeded Toronto.
So why were LA better – was it just down to goals scored, higher accuracy in goals scored, or something else?
A way to answer that is by peeling back some differences in team performance.
For example… In the diagram above the difference between LA and TFC, in APWP (grouping 2), is 2.52 – 2.33 = .19. Meaning the overall difference in collective team performance of those two teams is 19%.
So where do those percentage point differences occur in looking at the six quality measurements of APWP?
Here’s the APWP diagram that peels back the six primary categories used to create the Index:
I’ve highlighted two areas and included a smaller area where the word ‘wash’ appears.
“Wash” simply means those two areas balance each other out – the real differences come from looking at the ligh green shaded areas. Those areas were:
- Possession percentage – LA exceeded Toronto by ~6%
- Passing accuracy – LA exceeded Toronto by ~5%
- Penetrating the opponents defending final third – LA exceeded Toronto by ~3%
- Goals scored per shots on goal – LA exceeded Toronto by ~6%
All told roughly 1/4 of the overall difference in team performance (quality) came from goals scored per shots on goal…
Meaning LA performed better in scoring goals but they also performed far better in three other areas, possession, passing accuracy and penetration.
That, alone, may be able to help answer the question about Jozy Altidore but attacking is only one part of the game – how about Defending PWP?
Toronto were worse than LA by 11% points 2.31 – 2.42 (lower is better)
In looking at the DPWP diagram (above) I’ve taken the same approach – the light green shaded areas show differences while the ‘Wash’ area shows where the teams percentages roughly balance each other out.
The difference in LA team performance, again, comes in preventing their opponents from having more control over the game leading up to (and) preventing goals scored against.
In other words LA simply had better overall team defending performances where goals scored was a wash.
Before offering my final thoughts on Jozy Altidore another quick example.
FC Dallas, who made the Playoffs last year, had similar team performances in quality to Toronto – with one exception.
FC Dallas had a 43.87% accuracy rating in converting shots on goal to goals scored compared to Toronto’s 31.21%.
But FC Dallas didn’t reach the pinnacle.
Bottom line at the Bottom:
My view is this: The addition of Jozy Altidore might help Toronto reach the Playoffs but it is unlikely it will lead to Toronto winning the Championship – if they do the Reds will probably play to the style of FC Dallas – and so far that style of attack has not led to a Championship – at least not in the last four years.
What do you think?
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If you’ve read my previous article on Expected Wins 4 (Is European Football Really Higher Quality than Major League Soccer) you’ll know that there are teams out there who can, and do win, ‘without’ exceeding 50% possession.
In my next evolution of analysis, using the Family of Possession with Purpose Indicators on Major League Soccer, here’s some more granularity to go with that observation.
The filters set up for this effort are pretty simple – five of them to be exact:
- Teams who won games in MLS last year with less than 50% Possession,
- Teams who won those same games with less than the league average in overall Passing Accuracy (77%) and,
- Teams who won those same games with less than the league average in Passing Accuracy within the Opponent’s Defending Final Third (66.8%),
- Teams whose volume of Pass Attempts fall below the League Average (428.01), and
- Teams whose volume of Pass Attempts, into the Opponents Defending Final Third, fall below the League Average (117.54).
Why this approach?
To highlight what teams, and what volume of games those teams won, where ‘CONTROL’ of the game would most likely be interpretted as ‘minimized’ given a poorer ‘team performance’.
In addition, I also sense it may be a good way to differentiate between teams who use a Counter-Attacking “tactic” as part of their Possession-based game versus a team more inclined to play a Direct Attacking style/system.
The really hard part here is I’m not using video and I don’t have access to X,Y coordinate data – this is all put together using public data.
However viewed I hope you find this interpretation beneficial.
In setting the stage for the teams who did best getting more from less here’s the raw data to consider:
There were 234 games last year where a team won in MLS.
Of those 234 games, 122 of them the winning team had lower than 50% Possession.
In other words, 52.14% of all games won last year saw the winning team possess the ball less than 50% of the time.
Of those 234 games, 70 of them the winning team had less than 50% Possession and less than 77% Passing Accuracy.
In other words, only 29.92% of all games won last year had the winning team performance fall below League average in Possession and Passing Accuracy.
Of those 234 games, 53 of them the winning team had less than 50% Possession, less than 77% Passing Accuracy (across the entire pitch) and less than 66.8% Passing Accuracy in the Opponent’s Defending Final Third.
In other words, only 22.65% of all games won last year had the winning team performance fall below League average in Possession and Passing Accuracy (both within and outside the Opponents Defending Final Third).
By the way, for those curious, in only 19.66% of all games lost this year (234) did the losing team EXCEED the League Average in Possession and Passing Accuracy (both within and outside the Opponent’s Defending Final Third).
So more teams got more from less than teams who got more from more…
Here’s the teams who got more with less, and how many times they were successful in that effort:
The Red Bars signify Eastern Conference Teams while the Blue Bars show Western Conference Teams (last year).
For now it should be noted that DC United took 24 of 59 Points where they performed far below league average in passing.
In addition, New England also took 21 of their 55 Points in games where they performed far below league average – and six of those seven wins came after Game 25 – in other words after they signed Jermaine Jones!
With respect to Philadelphia – five of their six wins, using this filter, came after Jim Curtin replaced John Hackworth.
In looking at Toronto – all of their five wins, in this fashion, came in the first 11 Games of the season – two things perhaps to consider from this:
- Other teams in MLS figured out the counter-attacking/direct attacking nature of the team and changed their defending habits accordingly, or
- They had an injury or two that impacted this style of play and, under Nelsen, were unable to recover from a key attacker being missed.
Of note – Chicago recently brought in two DP Strikers – is that a signal to the rest of MLS that Frank Yallop really intends to go all out in this type of attacking approach?
Finally, FC Dallas appeared to be the more counter-attacking/direct attacking team in the Western Conference – and this data appears to substantiate that.
Oscar Pareja’s approach was good enough to make the Playoffs last year – but with Houston (under Owen Coyle) and Sporting, another possession-based team, set to join the Western Conference, might we expect to see Pareja take a different approach next year?
East meeting West:
Pretty telling if you ask me…
A marked difference in volume of teams that got more with less in the Eastern Conference.
This provides some pretty good evidence to support those having the belief or feeling that the two conferences played different styles…
Well, for me, over the past few years I’ve found it pretty hard to differentiate between a team that works towards Direct Attacking, as a style, as opposed to Counter-Attacking.
And to be honest I’m not sure what the difference is; at least up until now.
Here’s my draft definition on how to define a team that Counter Attacks (as a tactic) as opposed to using Direct Attacking (as ‘the’ tactical system/style/approach).
- The league average for passes attempted across the entire pitch is 428.01.
- So for the purposes of this effort all teams that fall below that average will be viewed as Counter-Attacking teams until I see that their volume of passes attempted in the Opponent’s Defending Final Third also falls below that League average of 117.54.
- My rationale is this – a consistent trend of low volume in passes attempted both within and outside the final third indicates to me that the team is attempting to play longer or quicker balls into the final third – that have less chance of being completed – in other words looking to penetrate with less overall control of the ball.
- I welcome any additional thoughts on this…
In looking at these 52 games:
- Only one game did the volume of Pass Attempts exceed the League Average of 428.
- In that one game the volume of Pass Attempts within the Opponents Defending Final Third did not exceed the League Average.
- DC United had that game.
- Only 11 games saw the volume of Pass Attempts in the Opponents Defending Final Third exceed the League Average of 117.
- New England had five of those games, Seattle had one, DC United one, Vancouver one, and Philadelphia three.
- Therefore in 40 of the 52 games played, using this filter, it would appear that the team that won played Direct Attacking Football.
- Meaning the teams that performed best in Direct Attacking football were DC United (7), Toronto (5 under Nelsen), Dallas (5), and Chicago (3).
Gut-Check on my Direct Attacking hypothesis – a pretty well known/attributed Direct Attacking team in the English Premier League is West Ham.
Of their 19 games this year every single game saw their total Pass Attempts fall below the League Average of 426.73.
In 11 of those games their Pass Attempts, within the Opponents Final Third, fell below the League Average of 131.82.
They won seven of those 11 games.
In conclusion, the gut-check pans out – it appears that the outputs from West Ham match those developed based upon what is seen in MLS.
The data also confirms that Sam Allardyce, and his Hammers, are doing a pretty good job of executing that system as well.
Doing more with less had a significant advantage for DC United, New England, Philadelphia, and Toronto – all those teams, tops in this filter, are in the Eastern Conference.
This information also supports the views, by many, that the two Conferences are different; the Eastern Conference has more teams that were successful in doing ‘more with less’ and more teams, who were more successful, in their Direct Attacking style/system.
It seems reasonable to me that this is a way for me to better quantify the difference between a team that counter-attacks as a ‘tactic’ versus a team that prefers to play more direct.
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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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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…