Does Playing The Kids Actually Help Teams Win in MLS? by Noah Sobel-Pressman

A major criticism of MLS teams is that they don’t play their you players enough. More specifically, MLS teams struggle with playing youth national-team players, and many young players have noticed this trend and signed in Europe. These players in most cases have their spots blocked by replacement-level veterans. In every league coaches typically rely on veterans because that is the safer, less risky option. Veteran players are generally more proven and so coaches know what type of performance they will get if they play them. This can be frustrating to fans, like me as an NYCFC fan, who, for example, see players like Rodney Wallace get playing time over Jonathan Lewis (who has now been sent out on loan). To fans, Lewis is clearly the better option, even including his struggles tracking back, but clearly NYCFC coach Domenec Torrent disagrees. I want to examine if this theory that the coaches believe is true. How does the amount of playing time given to young players correlate with a team’s number of points?

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Expected Narratives: The Let's Judge Everybody Edition by Ian L.

And so the Stahre era has ended. San Jose sit forlornly near the bottom of the table, a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Sporting Kansas City not being so much the straw that broke the camel’s back as someone finally coming to the realization that people weren’t going to stop dropping straws on this poor broken camel unless somebody moved it.

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Lowered Expectations: Week 29 by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 29 edition! Each week, we go about posting chalkboards and GIFs of the weekend’s best open-play shot attempts which did not quite live up to expectations (and rarely do we update this paragraph). We look at each one and not only evaluate the results, but also the process leading to them.

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Setting the Table Week 29: Gressel, Guttierez, and getting ready for the playoffs by Eric Walcott

Welcome to Setting the Table. Each week we take some time to focus on the best chance creators in MLS from the last weekend. If you want to see the best chances that were wasted check out Lowered Expectations. Here we focus on chances that ended with the ball in the back of the net.

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Ebb-and-flow: Using xPG to capture soccer’s momentum swings by ASA Staff

Recently we introduced Expected Possession Goals (xPG) as an experimental metric. In our latest article, we introduced four uses of xPG. Like any good experiment, things are subject to change as you take input. To help xPG be a little easier to consume, we’re updating some of the terms to be more understandable:

Chance xPG (formerly called Positive xPG) is the total value of a possession based on weighted values gained from actions such as ball-winning actions, passes, dribbles and shots. It is assigned to all the players involved in a possession. A player or team with high Chance xPG is getting the ball into higher opportunity areas for a shot. Chance xPG is expressed in a positive value.

Shot xPG (formerly called Successful xPG) is the total Chance xPG earned by possessions ending in a shot. Players and teams with a high Shot xPG relative to Chance xPG are ones which are good at turning chances into shots. Easy, right?

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Building A System for Assessing Player Value, Part 2 by Dave Laidig

Last week in Part One of this series, we looked at the overall player value rating and it’s underlying method, top players, its validity, and year-to-year consistency. In this part, we’ll turn to the categories of events make up the overall rating, and examine what can be gleaned from these subcategories.

Player Value Subcategories

The main goal of the player value metric is quantifying a player’s overall contribution to a team winning. But recognizing players help teams in different ways; I decided to track where the “value” was coming from. This led me to break down the overall player value into eight subcategories; (1) shot value, (2) turnovers (defense actions), (3) shot blocks (defense actions), (4) pass value, (5) turnover or loss-of-possession value, (6) movement value, (7) F-up value (conceding PKs and red cards), and (8) goalkeeper value. In addition, I have found it useful to create a sub-index of actions associated with “playmakers”; which is called the Create Index and consists of the Pass Value, Turnover/LOP Value and Movement Value added together.

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Chris Armas’ transformation of the New York Red Bulls by Cheuk Hei Ho

Coaching the New York Red Bulls must be a dream for most managers in North America's soccer circle, but Chris Armas also has had one of the toughest tasks in MLS. A mid-season takeover is never easy, let alone the takeover of a contender from the legendary Jesse Marsch. The Red Bulls organization may have boasted that they focus on the same pressing style starting from the academy, but everyone has their own unique ideas they want to implement. Armas is treading a fine line: he is introducing new elements while also keeping what was working for Marsch. The Red Bulls are still playing a similar style of soccer, so it appears Armas has been making quantitative, rather than qualitative, changes. Deciphering those changes will require some analytics techniques.

I first look at how New York has fared under the two managers using different variants of Expected Possession Goal (xPG). I recommend you read that full article, but in short it’s a score that measures the risks a team bears vs the rewards it creates. In short, Negative xPG measures the risks a team bears, while Mistake xPG measures the amount of turnovers a team commits from those risks.

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The Tactical Proactivity of each MLS Team by Jared Young

The MLS playoff drama is peaking with all but a half dozen teams dreaming of postseason glory. All the teams have played their tactical cards by now and the chess matches from here on out should be very entertaining. It’s therefore high time to look at a model whose goal is to examine the very chess moves that teams are making and look for insights. The Proactivity Score (Pscore), an attempt to numerically represent a teams basic tactical approach, has been updated through August 27th and there are some interesting new trends. Here’s a chart of where teams stand:

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Playoff Seeding Probabilities Model by Matthias Kullowatz

Starting yesterday, you will find playoff seeding probabilities in our web app. We show the probability that each team finishes in each playoff seeding position in its conference, as well as the Supporters’ Shield probabilities for all teams.

What is this based on? Well, it’s a two-part process. First, we built a model capable of predicting the probabilities of future game outcomes based on team performance to date. Then we set up a simulation to randomly determine outcomes for all the remaining games this season, with probabilities derived from that predictive model. For each of 1,000 simulated seasons, we tallied each team’s final points, wins, and goals scored and allowed, and seeded the teams in each conference. Then we figured out what proportion of those 1,000 seasons each team finished in each place.

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Little Things from Week 29: Orlando's bunker, Higuita's strength, and Colorado missteps by Harrison Hamm

Sporting KC survived at home against Orlando on Saturday, winning 1-0 on a Felipe Gutierrez strike. They were missing three potential starters (Daniel Salloi and Diego Rubio on int’l duty, Ike Opara on yellow card suspension) and consistently lacked ideas in the final third. But Orlando didn’t generate anything, so SKC walked away with three points.

Under James O’Conner, OCSC have bunkered. Their defensive line is deep, the midfield is tight to the backline and they often sit 11 in the defensive half. At some point, they’ll have to figure out how to do more than that.

They struggled to possess the ball against Sporting, who are a notoriously difficult team to possess the ball against. That doesn’t make abomination this any better from Orlando:

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