The topic of “finishing” is always a fun one in the analytics world, and, last April, it’s one I studied using data going all the way back to the beginning of the league to see if I could find evidence for a statistically significant gradient of repeatable finishing skill in MLS. Click the link to read the piece in full, but the short of it was, while there were many instances where a forward outperformed their xG by a wide margin or converted an unusual number of their shots on goal, these seasons were rarely repeated within a player’s career as you would expect if such numbers were tied to a skill.
After such a long and arduous study, you can imagine my consternation any time I read a piece praising or criticizing a player’s finishing skill within the league. In fact, when Jordan Morris told the New York Times, “my finishing is still raw,” I nearly had an aneurysm. Doesn't anyone read long winded statistical articles anymore? (Answer: no) But read more after the jump. Read More
Following an underwhelming inaugural season under Jason Kreis, New York City FC’s ownership sought a dramatic change. They enlisted the help of Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira to oversee their team’s sophomore campaign. Opting for a foreign manager raised more than a few eyebrows among MLS media. The former French National Team captain has proved doubters wrong but still 2016 has been anything but smooth for NYCFC.
After New York City FC’s first game against the Chicago Fire, it appeared as though history may repeat itself. They edged out with a 4-3 victory but defensively they looked as shaky as in 2015. Since that game, however, Vieira has taken great strides. By implementing a unique style of build-up play Vieira has managed to maintain NYCFC’s strong attack while addressing their porous defense. New York City’s 1.56 xG against/game sits at 5th worst in the league but they’ve improved from 2015 by .26, the highest mark over that time.
More after the jump. Read More
We’re a little over a month from MLS announcing MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Even though they haven’t announced the nominees, there are only two goalkeepers worthy of winning the award. Read More
If you like goal scoring then tuning in for the 2nd half of MLS games will bring you 32% more pleasure than watching the 1st half. There have been 478 goals scored in the 2nd half versus just 363 in the 1st half through September 29th. Finishing rates improve from 10.3% to 10.9% between halves but the primary driver of the increased goal scoring is a 24% increase in shots attempted. Why do shots increase so much?
Possible answers after the jump. Read More
You may have noticed that yesterday we debuted our playoff probabilities for 2016! It will also show up as an option in the upper right corner until the end of the season.
As in our 2015 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 2016 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. A bit more in-depth explanation follows: Read More
I’ve been wondering for some time about soccer teams’ reliance on star power and top statistical producers. Is it really a good strategy? Are teams with one main goal scorer or playmaker easier to “figure out”? When the game is on the line, is a singular threat easier to neutralize than a team with a plethora of attacking options? And would this kind of reliance actually hamper a team’s success across a season?
My skepticism must seem foolish to European executives, given the huge fees Gonzalo Higuain and Paul Pogba went for this summer. But the conventional wisdom is different in the American sports landscape. In our most popular sports, one person simply can’t do it all. Here, Defense Wins Championships. The San Antonio Spurs, the best NBA team of the past two decades, emphasize team play over everything. Peyton Manning was completely underwhelming in both of his Super Bowl wins, needing his incredible teams to carry him to glory. One star pitcher or one star hitter is simply not capable of winning a World Series on their own. The anecdotal evidence even appears in MLS. Chris Wondolowski’s 27 goals in 2012 didn’t get the Earthquakes past the first round of MLS playoffs; neutralize MVP Sebastian Giovinco, and 2015’s Toronto FC didn’t have much else to offer.
More after the jump. Read More
Friday August was 12th was Elephant Day and it’s seems like as good a time as any to free some elephants from our rooms and get them back into the wild where they belong. What elephants? What rooms, you might ask? Glad you asked. The room we are in right now is one where soccer tactics are turned into numbers. For those new to the Pscore series the idea is to very simply describe soccer tactics with two numbers, one offensive and one defensive. What tactics are quantified? From an offensive point of view we want to know if a team desires possession of the ball or is more direct with their play. From a defensive point of view we want to know how high up the pitch a team pressures their opponent. All styles can be effective but two in particular are generally used in combination. On the proactive side you have your Barcelona’s of the world that look to work possession on offense and counterpress when they lose the ball to get it back quickly. On the reactive side there are examples like Leicester City that will sit their defense deeper and then play directly on the counterattack once in possession. As you’ll quickly see Major League Soccer sports a handful of those type of clubs and a few different styles. If you are curious how these numbers are developed I’ve written about that in detail before and you can read it here.
More after the jump. Read More
Referees in soccer are the most necessary evil in the game, we can all agree on that. Without a referee who would call the fouls? Can you imagine Will Johnson calling his own foul? Neither can I. What about Alvaro Saborio? Hahahaha, everything is a foul to that guy. Robot refs? Not likely for another few decades, but one can hope. No, today we all agree that referees are the worst, absolutely the vilest invention to curse our beautiful game, besides every other method of governing a game that has been attempted.
Now that we've all established how much we hate refs, let’s have a real conversation about officiating in MLS. The professional soccer referees association gave way to PRO in MLS in 2012 with legendary FA/FIFA ref Peter Walton leading the way. In actuality they have likely improved the quality of officiating in MLS. Just tune into their Snapchat channel to see the latest and greatest in training, testing, and qualification that North America has to offer. I won’t extol their virtues long, but realize that they are not just bumbling idiots, laughing their way to the proverbial bank with a wheelbarrow full of our emotional strain in tow. Read More
The MLS All-Stars fell 2-1 to Arsenal in the most recent all-star game, with Philadelphia’s Andre Blake and San Jose’s David Bingham splitting time in net. On paper, the two selections make sense. Blake started for Jamaica in the Gold Cup this summer and Bingham was in the running for being the third stringer for the US. But as we've passed the halfway point of the season, the next time a goalkeeper will be selected to represent MLS is with the annual Goalkeeper of the Year Award. The two have a myriad of saves, but are they really deserving of MLS’s most and only prestigious goalkeeping award? More after the jump. Read More
If you have not heard of Expected Goals (xG) then please have a read of these posts before continuing.
11tegen11 has written about expected goals (xG) and concluded that it predicts future performance better than other metrics such as Points Per Game (PPG), Goal Ratio, Shots Ratio & Shots on Target Ratio.
Using the interactive visualization, you can see how your favorite players performed each season and how much they earned per season. As you will notice, a number of players "over-perform" and others "under-perform" their xG every season. We could classify them as being "lucky" or "unlucky". Dan Altman in this video explains why this may or may not be the case.
See the interactive graphic after the jump. Read More