LAFC: All About Attacking Depth by Joseph Lowery

Bob Bradley and the Los Angeles Football Club front office have created something few other MLS teams can replicate. They have formed a team that plays one of the more entertaining styles that MLS has ever seen and they are getting results.

LAFC’s brand of soccer is all about controlling the game through passing and dynamic attacking. They pass extremely well in every third of the field (they are in the top five in terms of passing completion percentage in each third), which leads to dangerous attacks pressuring opposing defenses from all areas. The only way this style can be sustained in Major League Soccer is if the team using it has enough players outside of the starting eleven capable of coming into the lineup and playing that style without a clear drop off. In the same way the New York Red Bulls need every single player on their roster to excel at closing down opposing players and cutting off passing angles in their pressing system, LAFC’s style demands that every rostered player is capable of playing their passing, attacking style.

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Roster Consistency Part Two: Do Consistent Lineups Lead to Better Results? by Dustin Nation

In a previous article, I looked at the effect of roster consistency on overall team performance. There were enough interesting trends in the data that I wanted to look a little closer and try to see if there is a “right” number of changes that teams should make on a week-to-week basis.

After looking at each squad’s rotation and how it affected their performance over the past three years, it makes sense to look at how changing lineups from one week to the next effected team’s performances in that week. That is to say, given a team’s roster changes from the previous week, how likely were they to perform well?

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Reshaping The Game: How Fran Taylor is Using New Tools to Build a Better Team by Mark Asher Goodman

Taylor, the 29-year-old Assistant General Manager for the Colorado Rapids, joined the team in January of this year to bolster the data-driven team of Padraig Smith in trying to use numbers to build a better soccer club. While baseball and basketball teams have adopted advanced metrics to try and divulge information that will give their club a competitive edge in their respective sports, soccer is still finding its way in the moneyball era. Newly discovered numbers are illuminating the game, but only in the hands of those who know what to look for.

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Quantifying Successful Possession (xPG) by Cheuk Hei Ho

Some elements of soccer don’t present a clear and direct interaction with the shot, such as the tactical or the formational change. You can use the location of the players to decipher the shape of a team, but how do you measure the efficiency and the individual contribution of each position? To this end, we developed an xG-based score – Expected Possession Goal (xPG) – that is dependent on the location of the ball but not the shots creation.

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Expected Possession Goals: The Value of a Possession and Comparing xPG to Other Metrics by Jamon Moore

It is probably easier to identify good possession by sight rather than a textbook definition: decisive movement and accurate passing lead to good looks, so I’ve been very interested in whether a metric like xG could quantify the value of a possession. If you have not already read it, please begin with Cheuk Hei’s Expected Possession Goals article [hyperlink: Expected Possession Goals (xPG) as a metric to quantify successful possession]. Expected Possession Goals (xPG) attempts to create a more holistic view of a soccer match by focusing on possessions rather than just shots. Possessions occur at about a 10-to-1 ratio to shots, so they can provide 10x the data for analyzing the flow of a game. Take into account just the average number of passes in a possession, and you get around 3x more data.

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Little Things from Week 19: Luis Gil's first touch, Khiry Shelton’s strengths and weaknesses and Laurent Ciman’s fizzing set pieces by Harrison Hamm

Luis Gil’s first touch and the beauty of the best players

In the later stages of the midweek 2-2 draw between the Houston Dynamo and LAFC, as the Dynamo chased LA’s 2-0 lead, Luis Gil had a play that demonstrated the importance of the first touch, and how difficult it can be for even professional players to combine the mental foresight and technical ability required to make even simple passes.

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Lowered Expectations: Week 18 by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 18 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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Pass Chain Analysis: Should Teams Build From The Back? by Jamon Moore

What’s so great about playing out of the back anyway? I have heard coaches give the standard answers, and I get the advantages of the times you do successfully “get out,” but how well does this work in MLS where the current narrative is the attacking is better than the defending? When players several years older than my son can hit a ball 70 yards and change the point of attack in an instant, why would teams make several passes forward, backward, and sideways to cover the same ground? These are philosophical questions that different coaches and their teams answer each game with their choices and execution.

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Lowered Expectations: Week 17 by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 17 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.

#5 - Alejandro Silva, Montreal Impact, 62nd minute, 0.414 expected goals
Assisted by: Matteo Mancosu
Passes in sequence: 2

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Little Things from Week 17: The Union Midfield, Gressel's Quiet Contribution, and Jeff Attinella's Decision Making by Harrison Hamm

Philly’s Midfield

The Philadelphia Union are making a concerted effort to keep the ball this season. They are fifth in MLS in passes per game and have built their attack around getting the ball into the half-spaces and putting the wingers (especially Ilsinho) in positions to run at defenders.

Their 4-0 home win against Vancouver was a manifestation of their newfound approach. They were on the front foot for most of the game against the bunkering Whitecaps, so even with midfield distributor Haris Medunjanin suspended, they demonstrated how good they can be with the ball.

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