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.
#5 - Jordan Hamilton, Toronto FC, 34th minute, 0.573 expected goals
Assisted by: Jay Chapman
Passes in sequence: 7
This pass from Ager Aketxe to Jay Chapman is great and his little header to set up Jordan Hamilton just seems perfect great. You almost expect Hamilton to immediately bury the shot, and he probably should have struck the ball first time. Unfortunately, he either tries to find a better moment or settle the ball prior to the shot. Regardless of what he tries, it doesn't really work out, as a scramble ensues with DeMarcus Beasley tucked nicely inside leading to the situation being defused and possession being reset.
#4 - Josef Martinez, Atlanta United, 69th minute, 0.615 expected goals
Assisted by: Miguel Almiron
Number of passes in sequence: 5
It’s not a very popular a opinion so I won’t shout this too loud but... THIS WAS ALWAYS GOING TO HAPPEN. SETTLE DOWN. This season
Josef Martinez has missed two high leverage shots under 10 yards and a third one from 12 yards. Last year he had only two shots over 0.40 xG that did not find the back netting. One was saved rather miraculously by David Bingham (but still led to a goal) and the other cut down via a block before it reached Cody Cropper. Both happened in games of huge blow outs and the events went under the radar. This moment comes on the heels of the game against NYC and probably gets a bit more attention than it deserves.
Regardless of if you think Martinez will keep up his scoring pace or not, he’s one of the most dynamic and explosive counter attacking talents in MLS. Misses like these are going to continue to be a rare occurrence, but it was inevitable they would be more common than last season.
#3 - Niko Hansen, Columbus Crew SC, 42nd minute, 0.618 expected goals
Assisted by: Gyasi Zardes
Number of passes in sequence: 3
I’ve long been a fan of Niko Hansen and this weekend he finally returned some of the faith. Last week we talked about finishing and how it comes down to composure and decision making. There is a third part and that’s *gasp* luck.
Saying something is lucky or unlucky sometimes becomes a bit trite, especially when you write about probabilities of goals. The fact is that in most situations like this one, the ball ends up in the goal rather than the advertising board.
But I’ve watched this rather agonizing clip well over a dozen times and I’m not sure, from a coaching or even a fan perspective, that I’d want him to do anything different. Hansen's mechanics are all there. It’s an excellent run and his slide to get his foot out looks nearly perfect.
I suppose you could question whether he needed to slide, but to be honest I can’t tell if he’s too early to the ball or too late. This is just one of those where I feel at peace to chalking up to bad luck.
Oh, and how I love how Artur jumped on that loose ball plus the dish to and then by Gyasi Zardes. Columbus is like ampm, too much good stuff. #SaveTheCrew
#2 - Alberth Elis, Houston Dynamo, 36th minute, 0.657 expected goals
Assisted by: NA
Number of passes in sequence: 4
This looks so much like the Alberth Elis attempt last week that when digging up the passing chalkboard I initially grabbed the one from last week against San Jose.
Romell Quioto is once again exciting and stunning on the break. His ability to just blow by Julian Dunn-Johnson after that gravy of a pass by Mauro Manotas put him into space seems so easy. Quioto concludes it all by then taking an extra second, which he’s created, to line-up his shot. The whole series is nearly goosebump worthy. If Quioto could do this consistently, Houston would have a counter attack game that rivals Atlanta.
But Quioto and his daring attempt to nutmeg the keeper are not why we’re here. Once more, Elis wasn’t able to convert on a “gimme” situation. I’m not sure if Elis intended to slide or he legitimately slipped. What we do know is that he should have done much better on this.
As Elis transitions to the slide he gets a touch of the ball, but not enough to really propel it into the back of the net. Instead it becomes an easy clearance for the defense. It’s a disappointing end to a sterling sequence.
#1 - CJ Sapong, Philadelphia Unions, 58th minute, 0.750 expected goals
Assisted by: NA
Number of passes in sequence: 13
Full hat tip to Jimmy Mauer on this one. He lays out and grabs hold of just enough of the ball to tip it wide. It’s a ridiculous save after already saving the initial volley by David Accam.
It was a tough night for CJ Sapong, who comes away from this game with four really good shots and nothing to show for it. I’m sure Philly fans will hound Sapong about his body language after the shot as he appears to believe the ball is going in until quickly realizes it's not. But I’m not sold on the idea there was anything he could do about it, even if he had realized it the whole time.
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...
Jimmy Medranda, Sporting Kansas City, 30th minute, 0.019 expected goals
Assisted by: Daniel Salloi
Number of passes in sequence: 11
This shot and general attempt by Jimmy Merdranda is just so upbeat and spunky. He spies the moment of opportunity and just like Nicolas Cage crashed through a window with a stolen Ferrari, he gives this the look of “well, why not”. The shot attempt isn't even phased by a ninja jumping Aly Gazal as it zooms past the Egyptian and past a diving Stefan Marinovic into the top corner of the netting in a situation that saw the 1.9% of outcome achieved.
What’s crazy is this is the second goal that takes place in 15th percentile of the far left of the penalty box this season, when it’s happened only a total of five times over the past four years. The difference is Merdranda’s is from the run of play AND a good three yards farther away.
The other goal is a DC United set piece credited to Yamil Asad. What makes Merdranda’s so much more interesting is Asad’s happens purely out of chaos as the tide crashes against the face of goal and Joe Bendik loses it amongst the crowd. That doesn't take away from it, but the shot (pass?) itself isn't overtly dangerous and rather is the result of the anarchy of it all.
The only other similar event from open play in our data set (which dates back to 2015) is Real Salt Lake’s goal by Chris Wingert against Vancouver just last fall. A key difference being that David Ousted managed to save the initial shot, but with all the spin the redirected save managed to sneak in.
Along with Asad, there have been three other freek kicks from a similar spot this season, but Merdranda didn't use spin, a mass of bodies, or a set piece to get the ball between the posts. He just hoofed it hard and into that top corner. It’s truly one of the most astounding and impressive feats of a goal scoring event we've seen this season.
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.