Tagged: Vancouver

MLS Playoffs – Predictions with Purpose (Updated)

To the chase…  my PWP Predictability Index leveraging my Possession with Purpose Analysis.  Click here for my latest revision or click here to read the initial revision.

NOTE:  Updates for the Red Bulls v DC United and Sounders v Dallas match are at the end of the article.

The Predictability Index itself is the CPWP Index data minus Goals Scored / Goals Against and is split into two diagrams – Home Predictability versus Away Predictability.

Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams at Home:

CPWP PREDICTABILITY INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 HOME

Here’s the CPWP Strategic Predictability Index for teams Away from Home.

CPWP PREDICTABILITY INDEX END OF SEASON 2014 AWAY

Note the significant differences in how the teams are predicted to perform at home versus on the road; four teams really sucked at home this year, while four teams were expected to perform quite well on the road.  

Here’s how it works; I will compare the two digit number of the home team with the two digit number of the away team.

Whichever number is higher it’s that team which is predicted to win… again… based upon their history of team performance in overall attacking and defending, exclusive of goals scored; this year.

And now the PWP Predictions:

FC Dallas versus Vancouver Whitecaps matchup.  FC Dallas at Home (0.00) while Vancouver on the Road (-.11)  FC Dallas wins.

FC Dallas key indicators are ceding possession and creating quick counter-attacking scenarios that use time and space created by Vancouver being too aggressive in attack.

Vancouver key indicators are maintaining patience in possession and not losing position in defending – they are one of the top defending teams in MLS; they will need to be at their best to beat Dallas.

Next up; New York Red Bulls versus Sporting Kansas City.  New York at Home (0.10) while Sporting Kansas City on the Road (0.05) New York wins.

New York key indicators are their attack from a number of different angles.  They are simply one of the top attacking teams in all of MLS – they need to attack, attack, attack, and hope, with all their hope, that they can keep Sporting KC from scoring a goal.

Sporting KC key indicators are their ability to defend; they are still one of the best defending teams in MLS.  If they can control the wide open attack, I’d expect from New York, and their propensity for fouling in their own defending final third, I can see some individual talent from Zusi or some set-pieces giving them the edge to win.

Columbus Crew versus New England Revolution.  Columbus Crew at Home (0.06)  while New England on the Road (-0.08).  Columbus wins game 1.  Columbus Crew on the Road (0.06) while New England at Home (0.23) -> New England wins game 2.  I offer Columbus advances over New England on away goal difference.

Columbus key indicators include being one of the most consistent teams in overall attacking and defending team performance in MLS – with this being a two game set I’d imagine consistency in attacking and penetration as well as consistency in defending the danger spaces will see them through.

New England key indicators are slightly changed with Jones on the pitch – his leadership may give the edge to a Revolution team who are, in my opinion, outgunned in almost every other category.  They are a big under-dog in my opinion but not everybody rates Columbus as strongly as I do…

Real Salt Lake versus LA Galaxy.   Salt Lake at Home (0.33)  while LA Galaxy on the Road (0.12).  RSL wins game 1.   LA Galaxy at Home (0.19)  while Salt Lake on the Road (-0.01).  LA Galaxy wins game 2.  I offer LA Galaxy advance over Real Salt Lake on away goals difference.  

Salt Lake key indicators include, as noted, a stingy defense at home and a propensity to win in Rio Tinto.  They also have pedigree not unlike LA Galaxy, and perhaps an even more veteran line-up when it comes to big games.  Lest we forget Salt Lake could have done much better last year and didn’t – they will have added energy that might surpass the emotions LA bring with them in pushing to help Donovan raise the Cup once more.

LA Galaxy key indicators are pace, possession, penetration and all around purpose that operated at peak performance for almost the entire year.  It should be noted that they didn’t collect the silverware last week and in all likelihood they could stumble here as well as they may look past Real and consider the Cup is theirs…  So arrogance is an enemy as is the continued lack of mental awareness by Gonzalez…

More to follow after the games midweek after seeing who qualifies to play Seattle and DC United…

As for my own personal predictions I can see New York advancing as well as FC Dallas but the Vancouver defense is very good as is the Sporting KC defense.

I will go with Sporting over New York and Vancouver over FC Dallas because I think those team defenses are better – and for me it’s all about defense.

With respect to Columbus – I agree with my PWP Prediction model for that game as well as the game between LA and RSL…  and in this case I also happen to think the defenses for Columbus and LA are better.

More to follow:…

Seattle Sounders at Home (.22) while Dallas on the Road (-.20).  Seattle wins when playing at Home.  FC Dallas at Home (.00) while  Seattle on the Road (-.04).  FC Dallas wins at home.  Seattle advances on away goals difference.

For me, I can see Seattle beating FC Dallas at home and on the road.  Dallas may be a bit tired for game 1 and the Predictability Index hasn’t been built to address ‘tired legs’…

At the end of the day this should be a clean sweep for the Sounders…

DC United at Home (.03) while New York on the Road (-.03).  DC United wins at Home.  New York at Home (.10) while DC United on the Road (-.08).  New York wins at Home.  New York advances on away goals difference.

For me I can see a clean sweep here as well – it may be surprising but I can see New York, riding the wave of Phillips and, most likely, the last season for Thierry Henry, all the way into the Finals.  This is not intended to diss DC United.

They are a very good team but somehow I don’t see the ‘tired legs’ syndrome impacting the Red Bulls as much as Dallas… too much at stake for a team that has invested huge money in their players and program.

Best, Chris

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Getting More from Less… Major League Soccer

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:

  1. Teams who won games in MLS last year with less than 50% Possession,
  2. Teams who won those same games with less than the league average in overall Passing Accuracy (77%) and,
  3. Teams who won those same games with less than the league average in Passing Accuracy within the Opponent’s Defending Final Third (66.8%),
  4. Teams whose volume of Pass Attempts fall below the League Average (428.01), and
  5. 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:

MORE FOR LESS BY TEAM 2014

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:

  1. Other teams in MLS figured out the counter-attacking/direct attacking nature of the team and changed their defending habits accordingly, or
  2. 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:

MORE FOR LESS BY CONFERENCE 2014

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…

Now what?

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.

In closing:

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.

Best, Chris

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Major League Soccer – Week 25 – Portland finally show up…

While most were probably focused on some other battles this past weekend – and rightly so in some cases – the Timbers might just have shaken the Western Conference a wee bit to reinforce, that when they get their defense right, they will be a team to reckon with.

Before diving in though; here’s a link to my pre-match thoughts on all the games this weekend; some thoughts are smack on – while some are way off target; so it goes.

Back to the Timbers.

I don’t offer this lightly, for almost 80% of this season the Timbers defense has been downright deplorable (just three clean sheets) last year they had 10 clean sheets after 25 games.

Only now – with a major shakeup in the back-four, after that resounding Sounders smack-down, have the Timbers acknowledged that defense is first and played like it!

The star of the match, and I don’t do this often since team is always first, was a young lad by the name of Alvas Powell – here’s a great picture of him post game with the ever present, and highly entertaining Pa Madou Kah, in the background – picture courtesy of Little Imp (@stretchiegirl)

So before digging into some specific statistics about the Timbers here’s a link to my post-match article, about that game, and then the Composite PWP Strategic Index for Major League Soccer after 25 weeks:

CPWP INDEX MLS AS OF WEEK 25To begin, for the statistical types, the relationship and correlation of this Strategic Index to Points in the League Table (R2) is .80; pretty good.

One other technical detail that’s probably new for many – the yellow stars indicate which teams have already sacked their manager this year.

I’ll offer up a reminder a bit later on all the stars present at the end of last year.

And if you are interested in some details about why Toronto FC sacked Ryan Nelson – I’ve included this article published by MLSSoccer.com for your reading pleasure.  

To summarize, based upon what I took away from the article, Ryan Nelson was sacked due to poor team performance.  I’m not sure what that means to the Toronto front office but it’s meaning (could?) be intuited based upon this Index.  I’ll leave that for others to decide.

So now on to overall team performance:

LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, and Sporting KC continue to lead the overall CPWP Index – others moving up or staying put in the top half include Columbus, DC United, Portland Timbers, FC Dallas, New England, Real Salt Lake; while New York, Colorado, and Vancouver took slight dips this week.

On the outside, looking in, the list is much shorter.  Of note to me, is that only two of those teams performing on the trailing end are Western Conference teams.

Can some conclusions be drawn from that?  Perhaps – but I’ll save those thoughts for when the season is completed.

Attacking PWP Strategic Index:  

APWP INDEX MLS AS OF WEEK 25

For the statistical types; the R2 between the APWP Strategic Index and Points in the League Table is .74 – that’s also pretty good.

Leading the league are the LA Galaxy (no surprise I’d expect).  On the tail end there’s Chivas and the ever shocking Dynamo, especially for some, after beating Sporting KC this weekend.  Somehow I don’t think Houston is entirely out of the Playoff picture.

With respect to Portland they are sixth best in possession percentage, passing accuracy within the final third, and goals scored per shots on goal – pretty consistent in three critical attacking indicators.

With regards to overall passing accuracy they are in the top ten at 8th best.  When converting possession to penetration they are also 8th best – and in shots on goal per shots taken they are 7th best.

In looking at shots taken, per penetrating possession, (a percentage number usually better when lower than higher to infer patience) they are 11th best.

So all told, in attack, they are very consistent, and good, compared to others.

Their downfall has come in Defending PWP – here’s how the teams stack in that Strategic Index after Week 25:

DPWP INDEX MLS AS OF WEEK 25

For the statistical folks the DPWP Strategic Index R2 is -.66 – again pretty good but there is a tricky quirk about defending.

There remains a challenge in measuring what doesn’t happen (for the attacking team) based upon how the defense plays.

In other words some positional activities that the defense executes are never measured – what gets measured are actual events as opposed to non-events; i.e tackles, interceptions, clearances, etc…

One of my recent articles was published with the intent to push professional soccer statistical companies to begin tracking and differentiating between Open Passes and Hindered Passes, as well as Open Shots and Hindered Shots, to help measure what doesn’t happen.

How?  

“Well an attacking player decides he can’t make a pass to a player in a forward position because the defender has the passing lane closed (hindered) – so the attacker passes elsewhere (an open pass that is unopposed).

In counting the number of Open Passes versus Hindered Passes statistical types can begin to plot maps on what areas the defense is inclined to leave open (cede) versus what areas they are inclined to hinder (defend against).

When graphing those Open Passes versus Hindered Passes you can now infer (statistically measure) what doesn’t happen; i.e the ball is “not being passed successfully here”…

Put another way – if a player has the ability to make an Open Cross – that is completed.  What didn’t happen is the fullback didn’t close on the winger and the center-back didn’t clear the ball.

If the Cross was a hindered cross then the value of defending can be determined even more.  If it was a Hindered Pass that results in a shot taken then the fullback was not positioned properly to block the cross – nor was the center-back positioned correctly to clear the cross…  Again – a statistical measurement of what doesn’t happen…

As a Youth Head Coach that type of information would be extremely critical to know when developing training plans between games…  in considering how much money is involved at the professional level I would have thought the value would be even greater.   Perhaps others may have a different view on that?

I’m not sure how clear that is but I’ll try to provide a few more examples as time passes… for now my early thoughts also include differentiating between an Open Throw-In and Open Cross versus Hindered Throw-In and Hindered Cross.”

Moving on…

In looking specifically at the Portland Timbers this year – they 10th (mid-table) in the DPWP Strategic Index – not bad by all accounts.

In peeling back the Defending Indicators they are 4th best in limiting their opponents passing accuracy (75.73%); they are 6th worst in preventing their opponents from completing passes in their defending final third (66.75%).

In terms of Possession percentage; teams average 47.38% – 6th lowest in MLS.

When looking at opponent shots taken per penetrating possession it’s 8th worst (18.85%)- and the percentage of opponents shots taken being on goal is 9th worst (36.72%).

Most critical (the weakest link it appears) is that the percentage of opponent possession leading to penetration is 26.48% (the worst in MLS).  What this means is that over 25% of the time that the opponent has the ball they penetrate the Timbers final third…  All told the final indicator (goals scored per game) is 3rd worst (1.65).

So how about the game against Vancouver?

  • Vancouver had 45.57% possession – lower than the Timbers average.
  • Vancouver passing accuracy across the entire pitch was 82% – higher than the Timbers average.
  • Vancouver had 73% passing accuracy within the Timbers final third – higher than the Timbers average.
  • Vancouver had 28.49% of their overall possession result in penetrating the Timbers final third – higher than the Timbers average.
  • Vancouver had 10.27% of their shots taken per penetrating possession – lower than the Timbers average.
  • Vancouver had 33.33% of their shots taken being shot on goal – lower than the Timbers average.
  • Vancouver had 0% of their shots on goal result in a goal scored – lower than the Timbers average.

In conclusion:  Here’s what happened in simple terms.  

Portland ceded some space outside and slightly higher, within their defending third, in order to minimize the time and space Vancouver had in having their shots taken end up in the back of the net.

So while Portland didn’t park the bus they did get behind the ball, as much as possible, in an attempt to minimize risk… not rocket science – just good defensive team management.

In Closing:

Every game, for almost every team, is a ‘must win’ at this stage of the season – the ironic thing is that phrase has really been an accurate phrase for every game this season.

The earlier you consistently win games the less ‘must-ful’ they become as the season ends.

The exceptions to this, at this time, are probably Chivas USA and Montreal Impact.

Neither have a credible chance of making the playoffs – so those early season and mid-season games they lost were really their MUST win games – and of course, they didn’t win them.

As promised a reminder on coaching changes from last year; here’s the End of Season CPWP Strategic Index showing all the teams (stars) that had changes in Head Coaches during or after the season:

 End of Season 2013 CPWP Strategic Index

Note that five out of the six worst teams in PWP team performance saw coaching changes – and seven out of the bottom ten.  Will we see that sort of house-cleaning again this year?

Best, Chris

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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

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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…