How the Quakes Dominated the Cali Classico... Again by Anay Patel

In addition to being one of the most storied rivalries in MLS history, the California Classico has an extra flair to it in 2019. New San Jose manager Matias Almeyda played for and managed Argentinian giant River Plate, and new LA Galaxy manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto played for and managed their hated rival Boca Juniors. In addition to that, Almeyda managed Banfield for a period, the rival of Lanús, where Schelotto managed his first side. So on paper the coaching matchup should be about equal. In reality, it hasn’t been.

Following San Jose’s 3-0 win in the first edition of the 2019 California Clasico, LA Galaxy manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto and captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic dismissed the win, claiming that the scoreline was not reflective of the close nature of the match. After all, the Galaxy were missing key players Jonathan dos Santos and Uriel Antuna, who were away on Gold Cup duty. Earthquakes homegrown player Tommy Thompson was dismissive of the comments, remarking that “there’s always a scoreboard, after the game and it said 3-0.” For the rematch only two weeks later, the table was set for a very interesting tactical matchup between two new managers trying to implement their philosophy into their clubs. In actuality, Almeda’s side came out on top again, this time by a score of 3-1.

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Loons Calling: How Minnesota United is Exceeding Expectations by Carl Carpenter

Making the step up from the NASL into Major League Soccer can be extremely difficult (commiserations Cincinnati fans), and Minnesota’s first two seasons in MLS are an excellent example of this. Defensively, the Loons struggled to keep the ball out of the net consistently (Statistically the worst defense in the league in 2017, and tied for third worst in 2018). Adrian Heath’s insistence on playing a high-risk/high-reward brand of soccer was seen as extremely foolhardy considering the construction of his roster, and his history of “brand over results” which ultimately cost him his job at Orlando City. 

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Breaking the Unbreakable: LAFC is Dominating MLS but Can Anybody Stop Them? by Cheuk Hei Ho

LAFC aren’t just good. They are a force.

They have 1.43 Expected Goal (xG) differential per game. No team in MLS history has had more than 1 xGD/game since 2013. LAFC’s xGD is only 0.12 fewer than Atlanta United’s and Red York Red Bulls’ COMBINED. Granted, we haven’t finished even half of the schedule. Things may change comes the last part of the season when LAFC slow down to prepare for the playoffs. But for now, you are witnessing the best team MLS has ever produced. They don’t just beat you, they obliterate you. 

The Supporter Shield is as good as gone; our prediction model gives LAFC 76% to win the league. But MLS is about the playoffs. In the new single game format, you only need to get lucky once. Every team has weaknesses. You just need to find those cracks.

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There's Something "a miss" in Wondo's Legacy by Jamon Moore

Christopher Wondolowski should be an American sports icon. He should be beloved and admired. If he is hated by anyone, it should be by MLS fans in the same way Indianapolis Colts fans “hate” Tom Brady. He is the underdog of underdogs – the working class man who beats the talented elite at their own game. At 36, he keeps breaking scoring records in MLS, including setting the all-time big one a few weeks ago with a four-goal match. He is on the precipice of being the first player to score 10+ goals in 10 straight MLS seasons. His time and opportunity with the US Men’s National Team should have been longer than it was – but for many fans, there would be no cry for Wondolowski’s return to the national team. No matter how many goals he scored or how often his league form was more impressive than the strikers getting the call, his national team legacy was cemented. Outside of a few San Jose Earthquakes fans and pundits, there are no calls for “Wondo” to be on the team by the American soccer public because of one infamous situation that occurred on July 1, 2014.

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Expected Narratives: Get Your Game On by Ian L.

Boy I need MLS to get back in the full swing of things again, and not this cockneyed 80% of the good players are off on international duty and we’re trying to cram these matches in with four available subs kind of MLS either. Last week I did nothing but complain about Grant Wahl articles and MLS initiatives and I’m glad I had enough foresight to get my soap box reinforced with rebar, because I’m about to get back up on it again. Yeah, you know what I’m about to say. The All Star game.

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Lost in Transition by Cheuk Hei Ho

Chris Armas is fighting a losing battle; in 2018, Jesse Marsch’s Red Bulls were one of the best teams in MLS. Their expected goal differential (xGD) was the fourth best since 2016, only behind Toronto (2016), Atlanta United (2018), and Los Angeles FC (2019). They were so good that many are sure that had Marsch stayed, they would have won the MLS Cup last year. Anything less than that was seen as a failure, which made a peaceful transition to a new era almost impossible in the critics’ eyes.

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Expected Narratives: Have Some Ambition by Ian L.

Narrative: Ambition Rankings

If there is one day on the MLS calendar that I dread with a clarity and purity often seen only in very expensive diamonds (let’s call them “diamonds of ambition”), it’s Grant Wahl’s annual musings on which MLS teams have proven their ambition the most. For those unaware, every year our nation’s preeminent soccer scribe sends out a questionnaire to every MLS team asking them to flex their financial bonafides and then ranks them according to how expensive their DPs are, whether or not they get good crowds, and that “it” factor that you can’t explain but Grant knows it when he sees it. Unsurprisingly, Atlanta tops this year’s list and Colorado pulls up the rear, but the middle is just gluttonously full of incisive takes. “We’ve invested 10 million dollars in our academy says one team”, “oh yeah well WE expanded our stadium so suck it” says another. “Tell me more” says Grant Wahl, and we’re left with a bunch of people squabbling over whether Jan Gregus or Pedro Santos is a more ambitious signing.

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The Impact of VAR on Penalties by Alex Bartiromo

A couple weeks ago I took a look at the role that penalties play in adding luck to the outcome of an MLS match. In the process of writing that article, something came up that warranted further investigation, but didn’t quite fit into my initial piece. We wondered whether the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in 2017 had changed the distribution of penalty calls in MLS. With that in mind, I decided to take another look at the penalty data to see what I could find about the nature of penalty calls themselves, rather than how they affect the outcome of a match, and whether the introduction of new technology affected referees’ decisions.

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A Humble Request by ASA Staff

We have a humble request of you, our dear reader.

Honestly, we never expected to get here, but nonetheless here we are. American Soccer Analysis has been a labor of love for years. We are staffed by people with day jobs and families who create and maintain the site in their spare time (or at their day jobs when the bosses aren’t looking). While soccer analytics has yet to reach the same levels of mainstream awareness that we’ve seen in other major sports, we’re starting to see it gain a lot of traction. People beyond our initial circle of friends are now starting to become interested in what we’re producing, and that’s a wonderful thing that we could only have dreamed about just a few years ago.

With growth comes the occasional growing pains, and that’s where we find ourselves today. The Interactive Table application is the centerpiece of our website and by far the most accessed and utilized thing we offer. For the first time since its inception we are nearing the limit on user hours under Shinyapps.io’s “Basic” plan ($440 annually). We would very much like to upgrade to the next tier in order to ensure that the table isn’t shut down at any point due to overuse, but unfortunately upgrading increases our costs to $1,100 per year (the “Standard” plan).

So guess what we’re going to do next:

We’re asking for money! Not a lot of money, really. This would be one of the least ambitious kickstarters or gofundmes out there. The internet tip jar has been shown to be a viable method for a lot of people in our situation, so we’re biting the bullet and throwing one out there. That brings us to the point where we have to use those five little words that you long to hear from all of your most favorite podcasters and content creators: please check out our Patreon.

Here’s the whole pitch. If you enjoy the site, podcast, use our data, or just happen to be extremely wealthy and looking for something to do with your extra money, we would greatly appreciate a couple of bucks a month. We don’t need a lot to keep the site running, but we do need a little help.

So then, it’s very possible you have some questions about all of this and what it means for ASA going forward. I will try and answer some ahead of time:

Why do you need money all of a sudden?
More people are using the site! A lot more! This is excellent news for our community, but it means that our operating costs are about to jump sharply, as mentioned above. And that doesn’t include the roughly $200 it costs to maintain the website on Squarespace.

So how much money are you asking for?
We would at the very least like to get to $1,000 per year in order to pay for the next tier of bandwidth usage and cover general website costs. That’s something like $83 per month. There’s a Patreon for some people that make animations using Minecraft that gets like $1,700 per month, surely we can do $83.  

What if you get more money than you need?
We’ll buy the Colorado Rapids! Well, probably not, but having a little extra coin would give us the freedom to do new things. We’d like to make the interactive table a mobile app, we’d like to be able to have access to more data, pay for help to optimize the website, maybe do more podcasts - who knows? Also like two years ago at Sloan we ran up a $400 bar tab that Drew covered, and not one week goes by that he doesn’t remind us about that, so it would be good if we could finally pay him back.

What if you don’t get the money you need? Will the site stop?
We don’t think it will come to that, but the interactive table app may shut down at a certain point during the month if it’s accessed too much. We’d love to be able to keep paying out of pocket for this, but on a site that generates no income it’s just not feasible for us to keep doing so as the costs increase.

What will I get if I donate?
How does a sense of satisfaction from supporting something you use and appreciate sound? We’re still kicking around some ideas about some possible backer rewards, but we really don’t want to hold data or anything else back as exclusive. Certainly you’ll get a nice thank you and a mention somewhere on the site. If you have any ideas let us know. Hell, if there’s just something you want, ask and we may be able to do it.

How many goals would Josef Martinez have scored in 2017 if he hadn’t been injured?
If we say 50 will Atlanta fans each donate a dollar a month? Because if so, at least 50.

If I donate $100 a month will you fire Ian?
Definitely.

So that’s the pitch friends, we appreciate you taking the time to look this over and consider our request. We don’t want or expect to become rich as a result of all of this, we just want to keep providing the same level of access we’ve been able to thus far. If you can’t help at this time, that’s fine! Maybe someday down the road you can, but for right now, keep on using the site and the data. If you can throw a few dollars our way - it means more than you know. Here’s the link one more time.

XOXOXO,
Matty, Drew, Kevin, Ian, Harrison