Kaka, Higuain, and the Effect of the Aging Playmaker by Kevin Minkus

Yesterday, Kaka announced he would not be returning to Orlando City in 2018. Though unfortunate, the move makes perfect sense. Kaka will be 36 for most of next season, and he’ll end 2017 having played the fewest minutes in his MLS career. His production is down markedly on a per-90 basis:

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Expected Goal Chains: The Link between Passing Sequences and Shots by Kevin Shank

For those who are not familiar with Expected Goal Chains (xGC), the metric looks at all passing sequences that lead to a shot and credits each player involved with the xG. Instead of just looking at expected goals and expected assists, which primarily benefits strikers and attacking midfielders, xG Chains is beneficial to every player involved in a sequence. Most importantly xGC credits those defensive or two-way players who are integral to a play’s build-up but don’t necessarily serve that final key pass. To calculate xGC, I assembled every pass, shot, foul, and defensive action so far in MLS and assigned a unique ID to each passing sequence. When a sequence ended in a shot, each player is attributed with the xG from that shot. StatsBomb defines it very succinctly, so the below steps are stolen directly from them: 

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Playoff Probabilities 2017 by Kevin Minkus

Today we're happy to debut our playoff probabilities and seeding probabilities for 2017! It will also show up as an option in the upper right corner of ASA until the end of the season.

As in our 2016 iteration, playoff probabilities come from a combination of where teams are now in the tables, what their remaining schedule is, and how good our model thinks they are. The remaining games of the 2017 season were simulated 10,000 times based on win-loss-draw predictions for each game. The probabilities and averages given below are calculated from those simulations.

You'll notice that we're missing a Supporter's Shield column this year - that's because in all 10,000 of our simulations Toronto won it. To reiterate just how great Toronto's season is going, on the final weekend of the season last year we still had a 35.7% chance that Colorado would win the Shield.

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Adjusting team xGoals by Matthias Kullowatz

By Matthias Kullowatz (@mattyanselmo)

When we produced the game-by-game expected goals results last week, we were surprised to see that Seattle had outpaced Portland 4.0 to 1.7. That didn't feel right, but it didn't take long before we noticed that Seattle recorded five shots inside the six-yard box leading up to its first goal. Those shots added up to more than 2.0 expected goals, despite the fact that soccer's rules limit scoring to one goal at a time. 

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Introducing interactive data at ASA by Matthias Kullowatz

You know how you go to some sports websites and you can sort and filter their data, and there are lots of options and it looks cool and stuff? Well starting today, we’re rolling out interactive versions of our stats that also look cool.  You can find the link up at the top under "xG Interactive Tables." This first iteration focuses on shot stats and expected goals, and it gives you guys more ways to filter and explore the data.

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What the heck do pass attempts tell us, anyway? by Jared Young

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, a sport called baseball ruled American sports universe. I was obsessed with the sport myself. Every day I sat at the kitchen table and poured over the box scores in the daily paper. They were the best way of connecting to my beloved Pirates. So today, as MLS and USMNT games role in, I check out the box scores on MLSSoccer.com and Whoscored. It's a way to get a sense of the game, to connect with a game I didn't see. But what actually are these box scores telling me? As soccer analytics gets more and more reliant on data scientists for insights, I feel like the box scores are still a bit of a mystery. For example, total passes attempted - what do they tell us about a game? One MLS game this year had just 660 passes attempted combined, while another had 1,189. What should I know about such a big swing. Does it matter? Those games probably look dramatically different and my guess is fans would want to see more passing, not less. Wanting to know more about soccer box scores I decided to find out what lies behind the statistic that is total passes.

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How the Earthquakes Can Maximize their Partnership with Second Spectrum by Kevin Minkus

Two potentially paradigm-shifting events took place in the last few weeks leading up to MLS’s All-Star Game media blitz. Tens of thousands of excellent words were written about the massive trade that sent Dom Dwyer from Kansas City to Orlando (including two pieces from our very own Harrison Crow). In light of that shift, what it means for those two teams right now is almost a secondary concern compared to what it means for the league now and in the near future.

Many fewer words were written on San Jose’s only slightly less landscape-altering announcement. The Earthquakes announced a partnership with Second Spectrum, a company that provides data and analytics built around its player tracking system. Details on the exact nature of the partnership are obviously sparse, but it looks like it will make San Jose the first (I believe) club in MLS to have access to tracking data from their games. It will potentially extend to its academy. The partnership is the latest evidence that San Jose’s new GM, Jesse Fioranelli, intends to make the Quakes one of the league’s most forward-thinking teams.

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Replacing the Irreplaceable: SKC and Dom Dwyer by Harrison Crow

With Dom Dwyer sold to Orlando, Sporting Kansas City is now without their mainstay attacking option of the last four seasons. This inevitably means they need someone will need to step into the vacancy.

Dwyer had eaten 77% of available minutes at the position over the last four years. An extremely high rate for a position that that generally sees plenty of turnover among both the world and Major League Soccer. Over the last three seasons he's averaged 2652 minutes played per year.

Only 29 times over the last three years has a striker surpassed the 2,000 minute mark, and only five names aside from Dwyer (Bradley Wright-Phillips, Chris Wondolowski, David Villa, Sebastian Giovinco and Will Bruin), were able to reach the plateau more than once.

Now, as Sporting turns the page on their offense from the last four years, the question begs, who is able to step into that role? Obviously the organization already has two very young and exciting options in Latif Blessing and Diego Rubio, with maybe Soony Saad being the dark horse candidate. Another potential option in Krisztian Nemeth whom the team is rumored to be in hot pursuit.

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Kevin Molino is still very good by Harrison Crow

Two years ago I first composed a list of my top under-appreciated wide midfielders. Guys like Mike Grella, Kekuta Manneh, Patrick Nyarko, Lamar Neagle, Lloyd Sam and Sebastian Le Toux painted the top of my list. Again, no, I’ve never done work for DC United.

When sifting through some old USL numbers, which long ago went extinct due to the merger between USL and MLS, I came away enamored with Kevin Molino. He sat at the top of my list of wide midfielders and I ended up getting him for a steal in our fantasy draft that year.

It seems Molino is the type of player that in a lot of ways floats under the radar of many fans in Major League Soccer. This may be partially due to a wrecked ACL during an exhibition game in May of 2015 which ended his first season in MLS prematurely. The lost season forfeited most of the “possibly interesting” stock that was seeded him coming into the league when he had blown out the scoring and assist records in USL.

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