by Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)
This week I come to you live from Dallas. I love Friday night soccer so much that I had to go and finally experience one with one of the hottest teams in MLS... the Colorado Rapids. Okay, maybe not. But perhaps still an interesting matchup. If you're at the game make sure you say, "hi". Good luck, because I'm in Waldo land.
Colorado and Dallas are connected by two primary memories; an odd MLS Cup match-up of two Western Conference teams in 2010 hosted in Canada, and the defection of Óscar Pareja. While the MLS Cup contest was largely considered to be a snooze-fest, the return of Pareja to Dallas through basically forcing the Rapids hands was a crazy, awkward, and a bit surprising too.
Now Pareja's once high flying Rapids attack have turned a defensive cheek under the guise of club legend and mustache aficionado Pablo Mastroeni. Despite controlling only 48% of the ball per match, Colorado have managed to turn limited opportunities into the third best possession ratio in the attacking third in MLS. That is to say, they complete more passes in the final third than their opponent by a significant margin.
They also create more shots than their opponents, with better shot position according to their expected goal differential. They clearly haven't done this in an ascetically pleasing manner, and their inability to score is downright shocking, but it's possible this Rapids team isn't as bad as envisioned nor the current narrative being passed down.
Dallas has also been a formidable side after once again a strong start the season and, just like deja vu, they are doing so without the creative production of Argentinian midfielder Mauro Diaz, who has missed time for a few different reasons. While I think the majority of supporters would love to see Diaz return to the lineup, the club's two points per game pace without him is impressive, and sets them on the path towards a strong season with Supporter Shield-like ambitions. It also gives hope that his return might catapult the club that much further.
Still, I would advise a bit of tempering going forward. While the joke surrounding FC Dallas the last couple years has been the "collapse" that comes with the end of Spring and the launch of the Summer campaign, this season we might see some problems ahead based off of three sets of numbers. Their PDO, TSR and of course their expected goal differential.
PDO - a predictive metric that is based off both finishing percentage and save percentage, which tends to regress to the 1000 level is floating a bit high at this point.
TSR - Total Shot Ratio lends credence to PDO, showing that they've been out-shot to this point in the season.
xGD - Expected Goal Differential works a bit in their favor. Despite surrendering more shots than their opponents, they've primarily found better position and with that a high probability of shot success which might explain some of their PDO. However, it's still only 10th best in MLS and, again, could point towards a fall back into the Western Pack.
While most are probably preparing for a 1-0 or even 2-0 game in Dallas favor, I wouldn't be surprised to see some opportunities fall in Colorado's favor to include the result. I'm not a huge fan of selling off Deshorn Brown but if that couldn't have been helped, as is some portion of the story being told, the primary concern at this point is the gap that stands between his departure and new DP striker, Kevin Doyle. But the team still possesses the attacking talents of Dillon Powers, Juan Ramírez and Vincente Sanchez. All are strong enough weapons to create chances and maybe find the back of goal. Oh and Gabby Torres, he's still there... *check's Colorado Rapids active roster* Oh, yep, he's still there too.
Or maybe Fabian Castillo and Blas Perez could just destroy everything. Either/or or perhaps neither seems conceivable.
Axel Sjoberg (owned 32.7% - worth $4.7)
A value buy in the defense, this hulking man has taken up starts in lieu of the injuries and international call-ups this past year. He did not play the previous two games and I'm not sure he'll play this weekend, but he's a great reserve guy to have for a team that typical boasts defensive posture by nature.
Dominique Badji (owned 23.4% - worth $4.4)
Badji is a speedy winger drafted this off-season by Colorado that's kind of creepy in the "dating a new girlfriend that looks kind of like your old ex-girlfriend" sort of way in a post Deshorn Brown world. As a fantasy selection he's cheap which has garnered a bunch of manager selections and seen minutes in all four Rapids games this season making him all that more valuable.
My biggest qualm with Badji and something to be advised about, he has only collected .31 expected goals scored from three total shots through his 202 minutes on the pitch this year. To put that in perspective, Cyle Larin has 101 minutes and collected .71 expected goals scored off five shots. Add that to Luke Shelton taking his spot in the 18, and he might not see so much time on the pitch in the not so distant future.
Chris Seitz (owned 22.5% - worth $5.1)
Sietz has, according to our data, shown to be worth a whole goal better than the average keeper during the course of his time between the posts for Dallas. Which is saying something considering the "reactive" nature and the amount of shots they've allowed thus far into the season.
Ryan Hollingshead - (owned 19.6% - worth $5.5)
The former UCLA talent has come back to the states from helping his brother build churches and become the much needed answer for "what happens when Mauro Diaz goes missing" with .50 expected assists in 307 minutes. Making him a great bench value pick.
FRIDAY NIGHT'S WATCHABILITY SCORE:
This week we added in another factor into our watchability score: possession. The idea behind that is simple: the fewer possessions, or fewer turnovers and attrition you tend to have, the more ascetically pleasing a match is to watch. This addition and a slight tweak in combining helps put this on a basic 5-100 scale which makes everything a bit easier to digest and consume.
Next week I'll put up another survey asking you to rank your favorite games of the week and then we'll compare it to the Watchability Score and hopefully it will iron out the kinks. I will say that we need more than the 11 participants of last week seven of which voted for the Sounders match being the most entertaining. Which has me asking if people just ranked it first because it was their favorite team or if it was an entertaining game. I point this out specifically because it ranked last in our scale last week. Also, did you see that Sporting v Union game? I mean, c'mon.
THE WEEKEND MATCH-UPS:
Columbus Crew SC (0.25) at New England Revolution (0.46) - WS: 54
After a huge mid-week draw against a surging Vancouver, and short Federico Higuian, the Crew take on a Revolution side that might have Kelyn Rowe trying to be this years verison of Lee Nguyen ranking 5th in xG+xA. Prediction: Revolution Win.
New York City (-0.35) at Philadelphia Union (-0.03) - WS: 45
The scale see's this as a better than average game to watch and with David Villa out there I have to believe that's a good call. That said both teams have been rather a bit lack luster this season. Prediction: Draw
New York Red Bulls (-0.34) at DC United (-0.81) - WS: 37
Rivalries are fun and this one is no exception, not even considering the extenuating circumstances the scale has this game as the top game to watch this week. Prediction: Draw
Montreal Impact (-0.31) at Houston Dynamo (-0.45) - WS: 68
Houston play host to a team that is only the second ever MLS Club to qualify for a CCL final. Despite that I think is probably going to be one of the toughest games to actually sit through and watch. Prediction: Draw
Real Salt Lake (-0.34) at Sporting Kansas City (1.24) - WS: 57
It's only a matter of time before Sporting just has their big break. Our metrics don't just have them as the best team in MLS, it's not even close. Oh, and RSL just continues on messing with our models. ONE OF YOU, MAYBE BOTH, NEED TO QUIT MESSING WITH US! Prediction: Sporting Wins
Vancouver Whitecaps (0.42) at San Jose Earthquakes (-0.65) - WS: 50
Could this be the Whitecaps year? Maybe? Maybe this is the year the Earthquakes make a return to being relevant in that "we're really not that harmful" sort of way. Prediction: Whitecaps Win
Orlando City SC ( 0.28) at Portland Timbers (0.24) - WS: 51
Two very entertaining sides in this one. The scale is only at 51 on this but it's also the third lowest, read as: best, scores this week. Probably a great match to sit down and watch, if it goes south there is always that afternoon nap. Prediction: Timbers Win
LA Galaxy (0.40) at Seattle Sounders FC (.39) - WS: 60
This game is one that consists of two great, and in recent years, powerhouses. The stats still very much favor both teams as still being talked about in that top tier but their overall performances have lead fans to be a bit skeptical about the immediate future. Prediction: Draw
How Pablo Masteroni would look dancing after winning in Dallas this weekend. Things 'bout ready to get interesting up in here.