MLS Cup 2015: Where the goals come from / by Kareem Williams

By Kareem Williams (@kareemw9)

The purpose of this post is to investigate the origin of regular season goals conceded and scored for both teams. I have aggregated the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew’s goal locations in order to shed some light on their defensive and offensive strengths. 

The Portland Timbers are one of the best defensive teams in the league with 39 goals conceded and five goals conceded in the playoffs. Conversely, the Columbus Crew are one of the best offensive teams in the league with fearsome firepower in the likes of Kei Kamara. They conceded 52 regular season goals and three more in the playoffs. 

When looking at the ratio of goals scored to goals conceded, Columbus Crew’s attacking strengths compensated for their propensity for leaking goals with a 1.096 ratio. The Portland Timbers finished with a regular season ratio of 1.051. 

Ratio of goals scored to goals conceded
Portland TimbersColumbus Crew
1.051 1.096

For the purpose of this analysis I decided to investigate the origin of the regular season goals conceded and scored for both teams. Below is a table that shows where those goals came from.

Columbus Crew
Corner/CrossFreekick/longshotsInside the 18 yardbox* 
Conceded 10 9 33
Scored 19 1 37
Ratio 1.9 0.111 1.1212
Portland Timbers
Corner/CrossFreekick/longshotsInside the 18 yardbox*
Conceded 8 14 17
Scored 14 5 22
Ratio 1.75 0.357 1.294
*Excludes Corners & Crosses

Some areas worth noting are Columbus Crew’s deadly performance inside the 18 yard box, where they were clinical with crosses and corners and short distance shooting. For Portland Timbers it is worth noting that they also are deadly from crosses/corners but are also a considerable threat from freekicks and longshots and are strong at defending inside the 18 yard box.

Over their last 10 games, Portland scored 25 goals and conceded 15 goals whereas Columbus scored 29 and conceded 18 goals. Although very close, Portland has the slight edge of late. 

Ratio of goals scored to goals conceded in the last 10 games
Portland TimbersColumbus Crew
1.6667 1.6111

In conclusion, the MLS playoff finale will probably be a closely contested game. Both teams had a very close goals conceded to goals scored ratio for the overall season with Columbus Crew having a slight edge. If we were to just look at the last 10 regular season games and their playoff performance, Portland performed slightly better than the Crew. However as we all know, anything can happen in soccer and either team can win. Personally, I believe that form is the most important variable when looking at playoff games and I’m picking the Portland Timbers to keep it a low scoring game. Based on their goals scored/conceded ratio I predict that the finals will go to penalties or result in a 2-1 win over the Crew.