Expected Narratives: What if it isn't Frank's Fault? by Ian L.

I tried to wait before doing the whole “What is happening to Atlanta?” narrative, because it seemed exactly like the kind of thing that would bite me in the ass within a week of publication. We’re now seven weeks into the new season and last year’s defending champions and league darlings have been almost entirely terrible since the start of the team’s third campaign. I’m bringing it up today because of a tweet I saw that gave me pause like no tweet other than that one about Darryl and Socrates.
(photo courtesy of atlutd.com)

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Lowered Expectations: The Misidentification of Will Johnson by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations! Here we review some of the weekend’s best open-play shot attempts which did not quite live up to expectations. We break down the GIFs through the lens of our expected goal model and discuss each one evaluating the results, and  also the process.


This week, we have a couple of shots by Houston, which gives us opportunity to discuss their overall team as they leave Week 7 undefeated. Columbus makes a surprise appearance lead by Pedro Santos. Philadelphia gives me an opportunity to rant about crosses. There is a Will Johnson imposter in Orlando, we talk about Big Chances in expected goal models and lastly we take on goals shot from crazy angles!  LET’S GET TO IT!


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Lowered Expectations: We're Back! by Harrison Crow

WELCOME BACK EVERYONE! It’s time for 2019 Lowered Expectations.

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, 2019 edition! Each week, we go about reviewing 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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Matt Hedges' Quiet New Role in Dallas by Harrison Crow

This past offseason Dallas hired Academy Director Luchi Gonzalez as the teams new head coach and Oscar Pareja’s replacement. Gonzalez was commissioned with the task of integrating the organization’s youth with the first team. This is a rather fitting assignment since over the last three years Gonzalez was, as mentioned, the Academy Director.

Obviously Gonzalez is going to be the one who best knows what Dallas has in terms of young talent, and how to find a tactical style that best fits their pieces. He’s brought with him fresh tactics to incorporate the young talented players, and he comes at a time when Dallas needed a twist to their first team’s style. The departure of Mauro Diaz, the little unicorn, has caused consternation in how the attack operated after his transfer and lead to issues of its own last summer.

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Expected Narratives: Sebastian Who? by Ian L.

I was five years old when I made my first team debut for the Kickerz’ Recreational Soccer League Under 7 Reds. I'll never forget what it felt like to pull on that red tee shirt with the number fifty nine emblazoned across the back in the traditional white Bauhaus ITC font. After our customary pre match traditions, the lineups were announced and I made my way to the substitutes bench. I waited with equal parts anticipation and dread for the gaffer to call my number. I wasn’t made to wait long. We were 12 minutes into our opening 15 minute half when I was summoned to midfield to make my long awaited entrance. I was told that I was to play “stopper” I had never heard of this position before, and little did I know at the time that I was playing an integral role in the tactical development of the defensive midfielder. Too nervous to ask for further clarification on my role in the boss’ system, I just assumed that as I was QUITE bad, I was meant to play some form of defense.

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Expected Narratives: There's a Bad Loon on the Rise by Ian L.

It finally happened! I got one right last week! I did! I was doing a sarcasm and lo and behold I got a take dead on. ANALYSIS! Yes Atlanta and Cincinnati did in fact turn out to be a low scoring affair between two evenly matched sides. It feels like six months ago I was called a straight up hater for raising my eyebrows at De Boer’s most recent entries on his resume, but now discussing whether or not he knows what he’s doing is the take du jour. What can I say folks? I was bashing FDB before most of you had even heard of him. I have it on vinyl.

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Almeyda and Schelotto: Two New MLS Coaches and their Distinctive Styles by Anay Patel

Matias Almeyda and Guillermo Barros Schelotto are two of the most experienced managers in MLS history. They are also both just beginning their careers as MLS coaches.

To start his managerial career, Almeyda retired as a player and took over a River Plate side that had been relegated for the first time in club history. Immediately after that season, he led the team back to promotion with a first place finish in the second division. Almeyda did the same with Banfield in Argentina, winning his second Primera B Nacional title. At Chivas Guadalajara in 2015, Almeyda inherited another difficult situation, tasked with bringing the Mexican giant back into the spotlight. With Chivas, Almeyda won Copa MX twice, Supercopa MX, Liga MX, and CONCACAF Champions League. Now, he has embarked on a new journey with the San Jose Earthquakes, who finished in last place in 2018.

After leading the Columbus Crew to an MLS Cup as a player (he won both league MVP and Finals MVP in 2008), Guillermo Barros Schelotto started his managing career with Lanus in Argentina. He led the club to a Copa Sudamericana, the second most prestigious club competition in South America. Schelotto then signed with the club he spent most of his playing career with, Boca Juniors, and led them to two league titles.

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Using k-means to learn what soccer passing tells us about playing styles by ASA Staff

When you talk about a soccer team, you almost always talk about its style: high-pressing, possession-heavy, parking-the-bus, etc. A team’s style not only signifies how they play on the field but also reflects its coaching. Since there aren't guidelines on how the style of the team should be defined, everyone uses their own rules and we can't directly compare each other's descriptions.

An accurate quantitative description of the style is needed. It can help one to properly analyze not only the opponent's team but also his/her own team. With an accurate method to describe the style, one can scientifically evaluate if a training exercise is efficient at serving its purpose. We previously have used dimension reduction technique, t-SNE, to find MLS teams with similar styles based on the spatial distribution of activities and pass networks. This time we use a different method, k-means clustering of pass types, to quantitatively measure style, tactical specialization, and the influence of coaching on a team’s system.

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Expected Narratives: A Bad Defense of a Bad Defense by Ian L.

We’re back! MLS has returned and as goeth MLS so too goeth the takes. Now, it would obviously be silly to make any grand sweeping proclamations based on only one week of soccer. It would be pointless, likely incorrect, and wildly irresponsible. So obviously we’re going to do it anyway. Let’s get that narrative machine cranked up!

Chatter amongst the savvier MLS analysts has been about Atlanta and SKC rising to dominate their divisions. While I don’t exactly have a seat at that particularly niche Algonquin round table, I do try and make myself available to refill their drinks or mop up any spills Tenorio makes when he gets over excited about a scoop, and impressionable as I am, I too was convinced of these teams being unmatched in their respective divisions. I think a good many MLS enthusiast was surprised to see the opening weekend come and go with neither of the presumptive divisional favorites taking even a point, and Atlanta being the only team in the entire league that couldn’t even muster a goal.

Benny Olsen should charge 200k TAM per team and offer up whatever he’s figured out that often makes Atlanta become utterly pedestrian when they come up against mighty DC. Actually, it seems like whatever the Red Bulls do also works more often than not.

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Passing Model Update by Matthias Kullowatz

We updated our xGoals model a few weeks ago, as well as our process for continuously updating it throughout the season. Naturally, we’ve done the same for the xPassing model, which estimates the probability of any given pass being completed based on a number of details about the pass. You can read more about the original model here, but here’s the summary of the new model:

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