Another exciting week in Major League Soccer. Most of the headlines belong to New York, Seattle, DC United and New England as those four teams along with San Jose took 3 points; the instant measurement of success.
Duly noted, but a growing indicator in popularity is Possession with Purpose and the composite difference between how well an MLS team attacks versus defends across the broad spectrum of six key performance indicators in attack. It's grown enough that after answering my question about Passing Accuracy last Thursday Caleb Porter looked to me, smiled, and said "Possession with Purpose".
If you're not familiar with those Six Steps here they are in a nutshell:
- Passing Accuracy across the entire pitch,
- Penetration (that percentage of passing a team successfully accomplishes within the Final Third),
- Creation of Goal Scoring Opportunities (that percentage of shots taken relative to successful passing within the Final Third),
- Putting those shots on goal, and
- Goals scored
In case you missed it the relationship of the data points supporting PWP Analysis (after 102 games this year) is very strong regardless of winning, losing or drawing; with the Correlation for Winning being; .9898, drawing; .9827 and losing; .9564. Click Expected Wins (XpW) to read more...
And if not convinced that this effort is taking hold elsewhere it appears Ted Knutson (@statsbomb) has taken up the gauntlet to see how opponents passing behaviors impact defensive activities in the European Leagues; you may find this article of interest as well.
It will be interesting to see what insights Ted can offer on this; especially given he's got three additional leagues to evaluate. A great example coming up this week for MLS is the match between DC United and Portland.
DC United average over 18 crosses a game (home and away) playing a Diamond formation (6 of 7 games) - will that pattern continue against Portland or do we see a different defensive approach by Portland to manage (and reduce) that volume of crosses and thereby try to mitigate the strength of Eddie Johnson in the air??? (As noted on occasion by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle --- "The game is afoot" replied Holmes to his loyal companion, Watson.)
With that offered here's how the 19 teams in MLS compare to each other after eight weeks following the PWP guidelines:
The tale of the tape sees Seattle clear the first quarter-mile hurdle ahead of Sporting KC and Colorado. A strong indication that they are serious contenders for the Shield - and yes you would think so given their position in the Standings and that comprehensive victory against Colorado.
But waiting in the shadows, with three games in hand, is a very potent team called LA Galaxy; nine points from those three games in hand puts them atop the West. And of note is that LA currently have the best PWP Composite Index of any team in MLS.
Can you hold your breath until July 26th when these two teams meet for the first time on National TV? And how about the last two games of the regular season - back to back Nationally televised games again... wow......
Talk about a story-line; and all that coming after the World Cup...
But back to the basics; DC United took great advantage of Zach Loyd and his 2nd Yellow (Red Card) in the 39'th minute; scoring four goals and icing the game with Fabian Espindola's second from an assist by Chris Rofle.
While I didn't see the game I did get to watch the MLSSoccer.com recap here... seems a bit dubious that two yellows like that would garner a Red Card but on the first one Loyd was clearly out of position and his pulling back Espindola warranted a Yellow given how tight the Referee's have called games this year.
As for the second - well - any time you go studs up into a tackle you deserve a Yellow; shame on Loyd for two Yellows... and like Collin (Sporting KC) he put his team at a distinct disadvantage...
Other teams making moves this week included San Jose beating a woeful Chivas while Houston dropped two points by drawing, at home, to Portland.
What was interesting to me about that game was how pedestrian, at times, the possession for Portland was. Clearly there is an attempt by Caleb Porter to resurrect the successful possession based approach leveraged last year.
If a player like Gaston Fernandez can pair up more readily with the likes of Valeri and Nagbe then the Rose City should begin to feel better. A great test comes this next weekend as they entertain another possession based team, DC United.
PWP Attacking Team of the week: DC United
DC United had a superb 84% completion rating in Passing; much no doubt do to Loyd being sent off before the first half. But hey, if you can't dominate a team when they are a man down then you're not a good team... DC United proved they were good this weekend and proved it in style.
As for Seattle; sadly they had to play against an 11 man Colorado. If not it is likely they would have scored 6 or 7 goals against the Rapids...
Mastroeni will need to work his back-four hard as they prepare for LA this weekend.
PWP Attacking Player of Week 8: Fabian Espindola
Pretty comprehensive as Espindola took great advantage, as did his teammates, with Loyd's poor performance...
Another player getting big headlines this weekend was Clint Dempsey. Here's how Clint lined up playing against the full strength Rapids: 99 touches, 55/59 (93% passing accuracy), 2 Key Passes and 2 Goals. So a great game for Dempsey and a solid indication that his run of play over the last 3-4 games has been superb...
Other notable team attacking performances this week saw New York completely blast Houston 4-nil; that is two games running where New York matched or exceeded their PWP Index rating for last year - is it any wonder they've won the last two games?
As for bottom dwellers, Philadelphia was the only team in the bottom four without a Red Card; worst of the bunch this past week also included Chivas, Sporting KC, and FC Dallas.
Maybe it's just me but another reason why a team's Index shouldn't double count the impact of a Red or Yellow Card - when players get booked (regardless of red or yellow) does it impact overall team PWP performance? I think so, and I'll look into that at the half-way point of the season.
I'll look at teams that lose with and without players that got booked; not sure what I'll find out but it should be interesting to see if it can be quantified to some extent.
PWP Defending Team of Week #8: New England Revolution
A clean sheet is a clean sheet and so on... shutting out Sporting is probably easier at home than on the road - the rematches will be big games and Collin is probably pretty narked for that Red Card. We shouldn't be surprised though; he's traditionally untimely in his tackles and with Opara (still injured?) Vermes may be hard pressed to find a suitable replacement.
Anyhow - the top play here was the back-four for New England shutting down Dwyer and Zusi... well done and not a surprise...
PWP Defending Player of Week 8: Chris Tierney
The toughest pick I had this week was selecting which defender got the award; both AJ Soares and Chris Tierney stood out over the others.
AJ offered up these defending attributes... 30 of 38 in passing for 79% accuracy, 69 touches, 1 tackle won, 2 blacked shots, 2 interceptions, 6 clearances and 3 recoveries. Pretty close to the same outputs by Tierney - more appropriate though was the fact that the two of them partnered on the Revolution defensive left side, in their own final third in stopping 12 of 38 passes by Sporting KC.
In my view Tierney and Soares were far more productive for their team this weekend than Farrell - this isn't the first time my PWP Players or teams don't match what comes out of MLSSoccer.com - different views offer different outputs... both have value.
Congrats to San Jose for their clean sheet and kudo's for Montreal winning a game that a switched-on Union should have won hands down... wow - what a surprise that outcome was!
Stay tuned for my PWP-Pick-List Week 9; I'm at 44% success rate and I took a clean hit across the cheek when Montreal and New England took three points while Real Salt Lake gave away two points in that complete melt down against Vancouver.... my, oh my, oh my...