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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
FC Dallas Technical Director Fernando Clavijo stated in the 2015-2016 offseason that his goal was to “try to find that player that can score 15, 20 goals, that can compete for the Golden Boot at the end of the year.” Is Maxi Urruti the striker that can score 15 goals this year, or should Clavijo go shopping this summer to find his desired striker?
More after the jump. Read More
In Week Two of the 2016 MLS season, I watched the Houston Dynamo beat FC Dallas 5-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium. After the match I saw the Shot on Target (SoT) statistics and noticed Houston had taken three shots on goal towards the lower right-hand side against Dallas’s keeper Jesse Gonzalez. Was Gonzalez weaker on his left side? Since I was a young boy playing soccer, I've heard numerous coaches talk about a goalkeepers’ “weaker side”. Is there something the coaches know about goalkeeper weaknesses that we analysts don’t?
More after the jump. Read More
After starting the 2016 MLS season 1-0-6, New York Red Bulls earned a deserved victory at home against Orlando City SC. Although the 3-2 scoreline doesn't suggest domination, RBNY controlled the tempo for the majority of the game, after having to shake off and compensate for an early 3' Kyle Larin goal. The victory was confirmation of something our expected goals numbers have been saying all season – NYRB have gotten very unlucky with their finishing, having converted almost 13 fewer goals than they should have expected.
More after the jump. Read More
Well looks like my hot takes from last month are already starting to crumble. Let’s take a quick run through before we go into MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Power Rankings.
1. Luis Robles and David Ousted will duke it out for Goalkeeper of the Year again - Off to a rough start to say the least. I wouldn’t count them out completely, but the first month was definitely not kind to them. Expect them to turn it around, but it will take a strong push to get them in the conversation for a second year. However, play across the board has been thin by the majority of goalkeepers so maybe just maybe.
2. Dykstra will make people momentarily forget about Bill Hamid - Well the injury definitely was not kind but there could be some time for Dykstra to start before Hamid gets back to 100%. The jury is still out on this although they are all heavily leaning “no” at the moment.
3. Tim Howard will have a forgettable year - The 2-0 loss to Guatemala isn’t helping his case, let me just say that.
4. Sean Johnson starts seeing his way out in Chicago - The strongest prediction as of right now. There’s been rumors of wrist injuries but it seems he’s been on the bench mostly due to a coach’s decision. Even if Johnson does top Matt Lampson in the depth chart, don’t count out Patrick McLain. At this point, I’d expect McLain to get a game over Johnson.
5. Philadelphia and Los Angeles’ goalkeeping woes continue - Andre Blake is red hot right now but knowing Philadelphia juju, it seems a strong possibility that they will sign four more goalkeepers and Blake willl pick up a knock sooner than later. Rowe is sitting even keel between boom and bust right now but to be honest, all of this doesn’t matter until playoffs come. That will be the make or break for these teams.
More after the jump. Read More