MLS Goalkeepers: Putting Their Best Feet Forward by Bill Reno

Today we spell redemption, R. O. N. I mean, M. L. S. Finally, after about ten weeks of alternating between good saves and bonehead plays, a number of goalkeepers have gotten their feet under them. And just because of that, we’re going to look at how good their feet really are. Sure it’s a loose transition, but just take a look at the stats first before you click out of here to go post your favorite starting USMNT XI on SBI.

I was lucky enough to stumble on a site called “ASA” (pronounced, ass-ah, I’m pretty sure) and steal some of their passing stats. (If the format is goofy on your phone, click here.)

More after the jump.

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Ozzie Alonso Is Good Again and Not For The Same Old Reasons by Harrison Crow

From 2009-2014 there were few terrifying midfielders as deadly to other opponents and frustrating to opposing supporters as Ozzie Alonso of the Seattle Sounders. Not only did he deliver crunching tackles into attackers but he also pulled away a fair number of them with the ball going the other way. To Seattle, and what they aim to accomplish, he’s been a vital cog.

The last two years have started to point towards a declining if only in terms of the statistics in which he had previously tended to collect. Coupled with that decline of numbers was a rise in fouls committed. These rise in fouls could be attributed to the referees calling him tighter with his noted reputation to be rough and tumble. The other explanation could be him losing a step and becoming slower creating an increase of rash decisions. This is something that we’ve seen with Kyle Beckerman and to a lesser extent Rico Clark. 

More on MLS's one-man wrecking ball after the jump.

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Giovinco Shoots Too Much (No, Seriously, He Does) by Alex Brodsky

After winning MVP on the back of arguably the greatest offensive season in league history, Sebastian Giovinco is certainly in the running to defend his crown. His 0.96 non-penalty goals and assists per 96 minutes ranks 6th in the league among players with at least 600 minutes. The Atomic Ant has constituted nearly all of Toronto FC’s attack this season, scoring or assisting on all but one of his club’s 14 goals. There is one aspect of his game, however, that is holding his team back: the man loves to shoot from just about anywhere on the field. TFC have seen few returns from Giovinco’s predilection for long shots - he’s only scored once in 50 attempts from outside the box.

Despite Giovinco’s best efforts, TFC’s overall attack has underwhelmed. They currently rank 11th in MLS with 1.36 xG per game. This mark, combined with their vastly improved defense, will surely get them into the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference but won’t help them meet their loftier ambitions. If they truly want to become MLS Cup or Supporters Shield contenders (which many pundits tipped them for during preseason) they’ll need to drastically improve their offensive output after the Copa America break. That improvement starts with Giovinco’s shot quality.

More after the jump.

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ASA After Dark: A Running Conversation of #SKCvDCU by Harrison Crow

Hey everybody (I'm really speaking to just you)! this is incredibly last minute but with the game delay rather than trying to filter out the mass of tweets from your 1,000 closest friends instead join us at 9PM EST for a running conversation of the game. Where we will are guaranteed to mock and ridicule coaches, players, referees and general food decisions! 

Be there or ... don't. Scroll down below the big mountain to see the chat.

Live Blog ASA after dark: DCU@SKC
 

Why the West is better than the East: they take better (but fewer) shots by Alex Rathke

About two weeks ago James Yorke of Statsbomb wrote an end of season review for the 2015/2016 Premier League where he outlined a few shot and conversion figures. I found these figures intriguing and decided to use the same process to evaluate the MLS and more specifically if there are any differences between the Eastern and Western conferences. Before we examine any differences between the two MLS conferences, let’s have a look at the league as a whole.

From 2011 to the current season, the figures match up as follows. Keep in mind that the 2016 season is currently in a busy schedule (I have only been able to factor in games up until and including Sporting Kansas City vs Orlando City on May 15th 2016).   

Table after the jump.

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Why MLS Goalkeeping in 2016 Has Been So Dang Bad by Bill Reno

The slow start for MLS goalkeepers has now dragged into its third month. Some goalkeepers can’t stay healthy and others are being bench simply for not playing well. Some are even resorting to saving shots with their face. “Saves of the Week” highlights are more of a sigh of a relief that the ball didn't trickle in on each shot. It’s getting so bad, field players are being put into goal. Essentially it’s a goalkeeper apocalypse now and it’s safe to say that in three years the landscape is going to look much different. A minority of teams are - or should be - confident in their goalkeeping situation. Most MLS teams are caught in the bind of having a goalkeeper that isn't sinking the ship but they aren't exactly thrilled with, yet have a goalkeeper that they’re reluctant to completely turn the position over to.

Already we've seen eight teams use two goalkeepers this year, only a few of them out of choice instead of having their hand forced. Despite having an incredibly small and quiet fan base, Portland has switched from one international to another, going from Adam Kwarasey to Jake Gleeson. The decision may seem obvious to the dozens of fans but Kwarasey was brought on, in part, to be a big force in the box. Portland is one of the most crossed on teams in MLS and Kwarasey was supposed to be a large answer to that. Admittedly he is strong in the air and while I wouldn't say he’s the best in the league with crosses, it makes sense why Portland liked him. However, when your goalkeeper can only duck under a free kick and mistakes start to pile up, the backup is in a tough spot. While he’s 6’4”, Jake Gleeson doesn't bring the physical presence in the air that Kwarasey does. So now the coaches are weighing two sides of the scale. One on end, Gleeson isn't as good as Kwarasey at certain levels while the other side’s argument is pretty much summed up as “He couldn't do any worse.” When the backup is better than the starter, clearly it’s an easy decision to make. But when you’re dealing with a much different goalkeeper - one that wasn't really in the plans at this time - whose highest level of consistent play is USL, it’s tough to rewrite the game plan.

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MLS vs NCAA Passing Styles, Part 2 by A.J. Barnold

My opening post “came in stats up” was on the issue of substitutions and season length in college soccer, which I analyzed through a breakdown of passing styles in MLS and the ACC. If you haven’t already read that article, please do – it is an important primer for what you’re about to read. Here’s a brief summary for those of you who choose not to, centered around the chart that got everyone talking, after the jump.

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Modeling Tactics: Finding the most proactive team in MLS by Jared Young

Last season the New York Red Bulls took the crown as the league’s most proactive team. The standing was generated by compiling two scores, one offensive and one defensive, that measure a team’s proactivity both with and without the ball. Generally teams gravitate to either a fully proactive approach, pressing high on defense and focusing on maintaining possession of the ball, or a reactive approach, sitting back on defense and taking a more direct route on offense to take advantage of the space behind the ball. Both methods can work as evidenced by league champions Barcelona and their proactive style and of course Leicester City’s reactive style. These scores are have been created with a goal of determining which teams are proactive and reactive in Major League Soccer, but could be applied to any league.

Before this season’s initial reveal, a change has been made to the offensive tactics model. More passing data was used in the process of defining whether or not a team is passing directly or indirectly. Here is a look at the profiles of the two extremes.

Pretty graphs after the jump.

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Life After Kamara: The Crew and Higuain by Harrison Crow

In case you missed the drama last week and are wondering why Kei Kamara was out on the pitch this weekend for New England, Columbus traded their sometimes enigmatic and always entertaining forward to the Revolution for a ransom of MLS financials, a couple draft picks, and an international roster spot. 

Regardless of why, Kamara is now gone from Columbus. The question now shifts to what becomes of the Crew and their immediate future. Kamara in his last post game appearance made a few awkward and pointed remarks. “I haven’t really had to depend on Pipa at all,” Kamara said. “How long have I been here? How many goals have I scored? How many have come from his assists? One, maybe two. I don’t depend on him. I depend on Ethan, I depend on my outside backs to pass me balls.”

This is partially true in terms of actual goal production, but it´s not the entire story. While Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay, Harrison Afful and Waylon Francis all accrued their share of assists last year, Kamara's chances have come primarily through a cross-happy approach. Utilizing the Sierra Leone native's elite skills at winning aerial duels in the attacking box, Kamara led MLS with the most aerial duels won (155) with an insane 56% success rate.

Pipa has been credited with only four assists (one being a secondary assist which we don't count in our records) on goals scored by Kamara. But he hasn't exactly been dormant during the Kei era either.

More on the Pipa to Kamara connection after the jump.

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