Setting the Table: Week 9 by Eric Walcott

Welcome to Setting the Table, where 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. This is were we focus on chances that ended with the ball in the back of the net.

#5 Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Ola Kamara, L.A. Galaxy, 59th minute, 0.411 expected goals
Passes in sequence: 5

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Lowered Expectations: Week 9 by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, the week nine edition! Each week, we go about posting chalkboards and GIFs of the weekend’s best open-play shot attempts that 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 that led to them.

#5 -  Mac Steeves, Houston Dynamo, 91st minute, 0.463 expected goals
Assisted by: Andrew Wenger
Passes in sequence: 2

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Expected Narratives: VAR She Blows by Ian L.

xN is our weekly look at what you can expect to read, write, and discuss about Major League Soccer this week. We take a look at each prospective narrative and rate it based on its strength and whether or not it has any actual merit.

VAR giveth and VAR taketh away. Despite having a brand new soccer specific stadium to show off, the emergence of a free kick challenger to Giovinco’s throne, and David Villa’s 400th (and 401st) career goal, surprise surprise, everybody is going to be talking about video review again this week. There’s no sense putting this off any longer than necessary. Let’s just get right into it with a comment I received a number of times following last week’s entry:

No, Ian, VAR is actually terrible
Narrative Strength: Evergreen
Narrative Accuracy: B-

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Chalk Talk: The Lee is Free by Jason Poon

Early Wednesday morning, or late Tuesday evening (depending on your time zone I guess), the New England Revolution announced they had sent Lee Nguyen to LAFC for $950k of allocation money. Had the Revolution not been so stubborn about trading Nguyen in the first place, who requested a trade way back in November and then again in December, the Revs likely could've hauled in more for Nguyen’s services. That aside, the folks here at ASA are glad that Lee is free to do his beautiful soccer things.

LAFC picking Nguyen up is a bit of a head scratcher for some, given it’s not entirely clear where Lee will fit under Bob Bradley’s scheme, but here’s how I see him fitting in.

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MLS PScore Update: The most proactive and reactive teams in 2018 by Jared Young

MLS is two months into it's eight month regular season and tactical identities are beginning to emerge. Some identities are obvious, but others are surprising. The PScore is an attempt to analyze aggressiveness both with and without the ball, and you can read about how it was developed and see the 2015-2017 results here. On offense, the goal is to examine whether a team is playing directly or indirectly and trying to possess the ball. Indirect teams attempt shorter passes that are more horizontal and more likely to be on the ground, for example. Direct teams do exactly the opposite. On defense, the goal is to look at defensive pressure being place on the opponent in the attacking half. We look at the passes allowed per defensive action to assess that pressure. A higher number means low pressure and a lower number means a team is pressing more frequently.

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Setting the Table: Week Eight by Eric Walcott

In recent weeks we’ve come to know and love Harrison Crow’s Lowered Expectations series, where he takes a look at the best open play shot attempts that did not end in goals. This new series, Setting the Table, will look at the highest quality chances created, focusing on those that did end in goals. Each week, we’ll share the top five assisted goals and break down how they happened.

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Lowered Expectations: Week 8 by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, the week seven edition! Each week, we go about posting chalkboards and GIFs of the weekend’s best open-play shot attempts that did not quite live up to expectations. We look at each one and not only evaluate the results, but also the process that led to them.

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Expected Narratives by Ian L.

Expected Narratives is our weekly look at what you can expect to read, write, and discuss about Major League Soccer this week. We take a look at each prospective narrative and rate it based on its strength and whether or not it has any actual merit. 

Anybody that was hoping for a quiet weekend of MLS action last week will surely have been disappointed. If I’m being honest, it’s likely that I’m the only person that kind of was, as outside commitments prevented me from indulging in my usual 20 something hours of soccer.  If you like goals (and oh I do so like goals), this last weekend was an absolute treat. Heck. The three Canadian teams alone conceded 16 amongst themselves. Many MLS fans are feeling pretty high on the hog at the moment, but let’s spare a thought for those who suffered the ignominy of nearly losing by a football (American) score.

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Zack Steffen: Three Areas to Improve by Bill Reno

Typically MLS’s spring season is marred by goalkeepers shaking off rust from an extended offseason, but this season fans have witnessed a breath of fresh air when it comes to goalkeeping. First, we've had a number of young goalkeepers far exceed expectations, despite not even being starters last year. Tyler Miller, Matt Turner, and Richard Sanchez were all sitting a bench somewhere last year but have shown the public (and previous employers) why they are worth putting in goal. Luis Robles and Alex Bono have done well in the Champions League, while Sean Johnson and Jimmy Maurer are seeing some resurgence in their careers. It hasn't been all daisies and roses, but compared to previous years, it’s been a blast seeing goalkeepers win games instead of costing their teams points.

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An Updated Expected Passing Model by Matthias Kullowatz

In the offseason we upgraded our passing model, and its outputs are now featured in our xPassing tables (both interactive and static). After a few minor tweaks this week, now is as good a time as any to explain how it works. 

Much like our Expected Goals (xG) models, the purpose of this model is to estimate the probability of success. Only, in this case, a success is a pass that is completed rather than a shot that is scored. For example, if Player A is passing the towards Player B, we can assign a likelihood of that pass being completed. We do this based on a variety of factors, such as the circumstances and player postion on the field, pass type, and the direction of the pass. And in this case, we opted to use a gradient-boosted ensemble of decision trees (GBM) rather than a logistic regression model (GLM). 

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