Lowered Expectations: Week Four / by Harrison Crow

by Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow) & Ian L. (@the16thdoc)

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, the week four 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’ll take each one and not only evaluate the results, but also the process that led to these chances.

#5 - Mason Toye, Minnesota United, 84th minute, 0.225 expected goals
Assisted by: Ethan Finlay (through ball)
Number of passes in possession: 7

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One of the things that we’ve written a lot about the last few weeks is how important it is to have good positioning as a forward. But just as important is how a player finds ways to create shots. It’s not always amazing or breathtaking, but it's just as crucial.

It's important to note is this not bad defense by New York. Mason Toye just takes what limited space they give him and creates the shot quick. You can see how the Red Bulls cut down space at each stop on the ball. They suffocate Minnesota and make it difficult to even turn towards goal or distribute the ball. But the quick movement and solid run creates something which Minnesota desperately needed, even when losing by three goals.

#4 - Khiry Shelton, Sporting Kansas City, 46th minute, 0.252 expected goals
Assisted by: Johnny Russell
Number of passes in possession: 4


This week, something subtle that we've done is started these gifs from the start of a possession chain (or earlier). It just so happens that this shot chain starts with Yohan Croizet falling down embarrassingly. 

But the thing to focus on here is Khiry Shelton’s movement and then combination play with Johnny Russell. Shelton picks up the ball just outside the box and then makes an excellent run through the Rapids defense. That first touch is amazing and it allows him to turn on the ball and create a shot.

Also that pass by Russell is subtle but very good. He’s been exactly the game changer on the attack needed by SKC. The talk the last couple of years was the need to replace Krisztian Nemeth and to be honest I think Russell is better. 

#3 - Diego Fagundez, New England Revolution, 36th minute, 0.259 expected goals
Assisted by: Cristian Penilla
Number of passes in possession: 2


I love this possession series. Diego Fagundez wins this ball by sitting in a passing lane--albeit off a poor pass--but then as the attack transitions, he immediately gets forward and finds space, gets the ball after whatever it is that Callens does, and takes a shot.

The sequence is incredibly sloppy and I wouldn't show this as an example of MLS level of play, but what's humorous is that with everything that goes wrong, you might miss that the positioning, timing and the movement are all on point. In the end, that's why this all works.

NYC should have broken up this transition a couple of times. That being said, Fagundez had great positioning to take a shot and this might seem like a huge miss. But the conversion rate on this is only about 22%. We have to realize the difficulties of Fagundez in the sequence of creating the shot. Both a defender and a keeper closing in on him complicate the shot. 

#2 - Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls, 56th minute, 0.260 expected goals
Assisted by: 
Number of passes in possession: 2


It's great how Marc Rzatkowski wins the ball and then deals with this transition. He doesn't have an immediate pass so he allows the play to develop, while taking advantage of possession and then his match-up. 

Bradley Wright-Phillips doesn't have a great look but the run he makes to create just enough separation and thus the shot is great. Most people probably won’t remember this shot, but Matt Lampson is super lucky as he redirects the pass back into traffic. It gets reclaimed by Minnesota and then cleared out. But this sequence is all about the dominance of the Red Bulls through this game. Speaking of which...

#1 - Daniel Royer, New York Red Bulls, 27th minute, 0.636 expected goals
Assisted by: Bradley Wright-Phillips
Number of passes in possession: 5

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I appreciate this slide pass thing by Aaron Long. Intentional or not, it gets the ball forward and BWP times it perfectly by running it down to set up the opportunity.

The possession chain comes about simply because the Red Bulls are constantly the fox in the hen house. Their defensive attacking force doesn't relent. They’re going to create turnovers and they’re immediately trying to create shots off those turnovers.

BWP delivers a solid pass to Daniel Royer. The shot was basically just a redirection of the pass, and props to Royer for getting his foot on it and trying to create something. But really this series encapsulates how good New York was through 90 minutes. 

For our final sets of GIFs let’s give a shout out to this week’s lowest shot probability that actually culminated in a goal being scored.

Diego Fagundez, New England Revolution, 11th minute, 0.037 expected goals
Assisted by: Wilfried Zahibo
Passes in possession: 1


This was another sloppy sequence by NYC and I’m immensely worried about what they’re going to do defensively without Alex Ring. Yangel Herrera turns the ball over and is lucky he didn't earn himself a red card with that elbow to Scott Caldwell

Props to both both Caldwell and Cristian Penilla in creating the turnover, which finds its way to Wilfried Zahibo. Zahibo uses a nice one touch pass to find Fagundez, who makes a nice turn and places the shot perfectly inside the post. The shot wasn’t from a great position, but he nailed the finish and the fact that he turns quickly and sets himself up to take a shot and get it off before Alexander Callens steps up to him.

A Kerfuffle: Things not considered in expected goals


A deflection by Matt Lampson on this corner sends the ball to Royer with enough space that allows him to bring the ball down and then pick out some teammates with the potential to create a high leverage shot by one of Florian Valot, Tim Parker or Aaron Long, all who have a chance to get a foot on the ball.

The deflection happens and perhaps that spoils the pass as Long was just is a half a step slow in capitalizing on the opportunity. But what matters is the sequence and the potential for what could have happened that matters.

The data captures this only as an incomplete pass inside the box, and it has no expected goal value. If any one of those players had gotten a foot on the ball to create a shot, it likely would have created a value at least of .200 xG. It's a good reminder that expected goals models don't necesarily capture every “chance”.


That’s all for this week’s edition of Lowered Expectations. I hope that it lived up to yours. 

An extra big and very special thank you to my podcast mate and @TotalMLS twitter personality Ian Lamberson for providing the high quality GIFs for this post.