Lowered Expectations: Week 6 / by Harrison Crow

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

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, the week six 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.

#5 - CJ Sapong, Philadelphia Union, 54th minute, 0.298 expected goals
Assisted by: N/A
Passes in sequence: 9

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This is a good example of when the xG doesn’t really jive with what we’re actually seeing. The model can’t know the shot comes by way of a failed glancing ninja kick by CJ Sapong. Honestly, Sapong does well to get anything on the ball here at all. Even though this will go down as a missed shot in the record books, only a timely intervention by Harold Cummings prevents Fafa Picault from having an easy tap in.

It’s a mostly unremarkable play but let’s take a moment to look at the creation process. While it’s some early combination play between Auston Trusty and Matthew Real that open up the play down the sideline you can tell at the very first pass in the GIF (which is the 10th pass of the sequence) Haris Medunjanin rotates the ball back to Real and begins the break. The only bit of skill here comes from Real, who advances the ball up the sideline and then attempts a deflected cross that Sapong is able to flail at.

#4 - Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew SC, 72nd minute, 0.312 expected goals
Assisted by: Wil Trapp
Number of passes in sequence: 13

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This looks to be a huge blown opportunity at first glance, and Gyasi Zardes maybe should have scored here, but considering the series of events it’s impressive that Zardes even gets a chance at all. For a man who is oft mocked for his lack of a first touch, I want to specifically highlight how delicately he brings down the pass from Wil Trapp with his off foot and puts it right in his path for the shot off the crossbar. It’s just a beautiful pass over the head of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Sure, it didn't lead to a goal being scored but it led to a great shot. It happens. It’s easy to just write this one off as a miss but there’s a lot to like here from Zardes and Trapp. Richard Sanchez was beaten and Columbus just gets a bit unlucky in the end.

#3 - Artur, Columbus Crew SC, 54th minute, 0.389 expected goals
Assisted by: Gyasi Zardes
Number of passes in possession: 4

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One of the few things that I love about Zardes is the intensity at which he makes his runs and chases down balls. In this GIF he makes a nice run in front of Kevin Ellis and times his cross perfectly with Artur, who puts himself in great position to create a dangerous attempt.

The downside of this situation is that as soon as Zardes finds himself in the box and on the ball, he has limited help and few choices at his disposal. Artur’s run to the near post makes sense considering the defenders, but that’s almost always going to result in a low percentage chance. Zardes doesn't really have a lot to work with here but when you’re stuck between a low percentage chance and no chance at all you take what you can get.

The one thing you might make mention is that Pedro Santos comes into the picture late just beyond the top of the box. I still think the best situation is putting it into Artur and creating an opportunity. Sending it backwards to Santos might just reset the play without a chance being made at goal, but it would have maintained possession.

#2 - Cristhian Paredes, Portland Timbers, 48th minute, 0.400 expected goals
Assisted by: N/A
Number of passes in sequence: 9

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The shot in question here is the 2nd one by Cristhian Paredes, which comes after Sebastian Blanco's caroms off the crossbar, which is the result of some great build-up from Portland. It's coded wrong by Opta in the chalkboard above, and is bizarrely listed as a pass backwards towards the penalty spot. Mohamed El-Munir gets a weird ninja kick (is this a new trend?) block on the shot that otherwise probably would have buried Orlando at this stage.

Looking the two shots by Blanco and Paredes may lead to a question as to what the difference was between them. According to our model, is the gap between the two is approximately 0.253 expected goals, which is pretty sizable.

The biggest difference between the two is distance. Blanco is almost 15 yards away from the center of the goal mouth and is slightly askew at the time of the shot. Paredes, was only seven yards away. This a huge differentiator that at first glance may not seem like much, but the closer you get to goal, the higher and more probable a goal is to be created.

Another couple details from Paredes' shot is that it’s coming unassisted, and there is a slightly larger percentage of the goalmouth being exposed. These small factors on top of distance stack together and compound to the increase probability of a goal in most cases.

#1 - Matt Hedges, FC Dallas, 92nd minute, 0.431 expected goals
Assisted by: Tesho Akindele
Number of passes in possession: 10

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The situation with Matt Hedges is a bit odd and I’m not even sure if it’s legal. I can't really tell what happens regardless of how many times I watch the GIF or even when I saw it live. Lots of legs, arms, flailing a ball scooting loose and Tim Howard screaming at the referee.

After the failed header by Maxi Urruti (which let’s just pretend didn't happen so I don’t write a paragraph) everything becomes a bit of a free-for-all and it almost looks like Matt Hedges toe pokes the ball out of Howard's grasp and ends up going wide. Oddly, Tesho Akindele is given the assist on the shot, but isn't credited with a key pass. Beyond the fact that it's impossible to get an assist where a ball isn't passed, it's also unclear he ever touches the ball. 

No foul is called here so we’ll just assume everything was on the up and up. This is a really odd situation where Howard just about cost his team the one point they stole from the road. Considering the location of everything it’s kind of impressive that this ball just misses the goal.

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...

Andrew Farrell, New England Revolution, 51st minute, 0.070 expected goals
Assisted by: Diego Fagundez
Number of passes in possession: 9

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This isn’t a crazy unexpected goal and to be honest a lot of the goals scored from the run of play this weekend were pretty high on the expected goal scale. Another interesting note on how it was scored: Diego Fagundez got the assist, but wasn't credited with a key pass in the chalkboard above. Feels a bit like deja vu from Hedges' shot above.

Teal Bunbury fails to trap or... dummies(?) the cross, Fagundez gets a touch to it, and it lands nicely for Andrew Farrell who just kind of takes a shot because it’s a good look and there isn’t any reason not too. Though I am a bit curious why he was so high up the field.

The model doesn’t rate it highly for a few reasons. It wasn't an overly difficult shot, and being about 17 yards from the center of the goalmouth there was time to see the play develop, not to mention the shot being taken. There are other details related to the shot such as the pass itself. It is coded as a cross and most of the time those are a bit haphazard. It just so happens that this one falls to Farrell in acres of space and time to get off

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 L. for providing the high quality GIFs for this post.