I hope all are enjoying my PWP series here at American Soccer Analysis. With Week 3 completed, I have at least two games worth of data for every team in MLS, and now it's time to begin offering up the cumulative PWP Strategic Index and all that goes with it. Wasting no time, here's the initial diagram on how things look after at least two games:
Given what happened the first few weeks, it should be no surprise that Columbus lead the pack early on with Houston second, and (like last year) a strong early start for FC Dallas.
What may be surprising to some is where Toronto falls in this Index; it should be noted that in both games played this year, Toronto have had just 32.46% possession (Seattle) and 37.68% possession (D.C. United).
What this indicator helps point out is how different Toronto is playing compared to others while still taking points - in both cases Toronto have opted to sit back and cede possession in order to capitalize on opponents losing their shape. How well that continues to work for them remains to be seen, but for now Bradley has been absolutely correct in his analysis/offering to MLS: you don't need to have a majority of possession to win a game.
As for the bottom dweller, note the familiar spot for D.C. United. It would seem those off-season transactions have yet to bear fruit, and it might not be t0o long before coach Ben Olsen sees the door if United don't start turning things around.
How about some of the other teams in the middle? Well New York and Portland have both opened up exactly like they did last year with two points in three games. What may be most troubling for both is a lack of scoring. We'll see how that unfolds, as it is likely that Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill will score sooner rather than later.
With respect to LA Galaxy, I watched their game this weekend against Real Salt Lake, and it appeared to me that it was all about Robbie Keane and his single-handed goal (with Donovan lurking) versus a solid Real Salt Lake team effort. If Joao Plata doesn't go off injured in that game, I'd have been a betting man that RSL would have taken three points from LA.
Other lurkers here are Seattle, Colorado and Vancouver. Recall last year that the defense of Vancouver kept them from the Playoffs (45 goals against). This year things are starting a wee bit different, as they had a great defensive battle with New England this past weekend.
All those thoughts being said here's how the teams stack up in the PWP Strategic Attacking Index:
Columbus Crew, FC Dallas and Houston are the new guys on the block this year--as compared to last year--with RSL, LA Galaxy, Seattle, Colorado, New York and Vancouver returnees to the top spots.
Missing from the potent attack side so far this year (foremost) are Sporting Kansas City and Portland. One may recall that Chivas USA had a good start last year, but then the Goats seemed to wander off and join D.C. United as the season wore on.
Of note is where Toronto sits. In playing a counterattacking style, parts of their PWP will naturally fall lower down the list than other more possession-based teams. It will be fun to track how they progress in PWP this year.
For the defensive side of PWP here's how things stand today:
With Columbus doing so well in attack it's no surprise that their opponents aren't... so here's where the real grist begins when peeling back defending activities.
Note that Houston, Seattle, Colorado, and Sporting Kansas City are in the top five, while FC Dallas, high up in attack, isn't quite so high in defending. Will that gap create issues again this year? Pareja was noted as having a pretty tight defense in Colorado. Will there be personnel changes in Dallas?
Oddly enough, a top defender in my view for Portland was David Horst. I'm still not sure why he was moved to Houston, but given their early season success, his big presence in the back has certainly improved that team. Can David remain healthy? Hard to say, but continued presence by the big guy should garner some interest, I hope, in some USMNT training after the World Cup is completed this year. It's never too early to plan for the future.
As for the bottom dwellers, note again that Chivas USA are the bottemost. They may have improved their attack this off-season, but if they can't stop the goals against, that attack will mean nothing when it comes to Playoff crunch time.
It remains early, and I've every belief that this table will adjust itself a bit more as time passes and points are won and lost. The intent is not necessarily to match the League Tables, but to offer up a different perspective on teams' abilities that are reasonable when viewing team performance.
Check out my PWP Week 3 Analysis, as well as my New York Red Bulls-centric PWP weekly analysis for New York Sports Hub. If time permits please join me on twitter as I offer up thoughts during nationally-televised matches this year.
All the best, Chris