Lowered Expectations: Week 14 / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week fourteen edition! Each week, we go about posting chalkboards and 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.

#5 - Luis Solignac, Chicago Fire, 57th minute, 0.349 expected goals
Assisted by: N/A
Passes in sequence: 0

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I love the sequence of Aleksandar Katai finding a lose ball sending a beautiful looping pass into Alan Gordon in the middle of the box for a free shot. Part of why I like this so much is because Gordon CONTINUES to be relevant. It’s not that he’s some dominant forward but his 0.53 xG per96 is just so solid. He’s 36, putting up solid numbers, and Chicago got him for free.

Gordon’s shot just misses the inside of the upper ninety and Luis Solignac is there, positioned perfectly, to prey on the rebound. He beats Andrew Tarball but that isn’t enough as Nick Lima is positioned behind to clear the ball off the line.

Lima is one of the better left backs of this league and his hustle to head this off the line was impressive. But even more so, once he got stuck behind Tarbell after the rebound he was able to serve as a back-up 'keeper and keep San Jose in this game in the second half.

#4 - Chris Pontius, LA Galaxy, 11th minute, 0.382 expected goals
Assisted by: Emmanuel Boateng
Number of passes in sequence: 8

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Chris Pontius had a solid go of it at striker. I’m not sure how many games he’s played up top over the years, but his flexibility is huge to an LA Galaxy team that needed attacking talent on the field. At times it wasn’t pretty, but it all worked out and the Galaxy got a needed point on the road against a tough Timbers team.

Emmanuel Boateng does exactly what he does best. He runs. He runs on to this ball sent in by Servando Carrasco, creating just a bit of separation with his speed, and as Boateng gets to the ball he crosses. We all know how I feel about crosses - they’re low percentage plays - and even here it’s worse because he just gives the ball to Portland in the hopes that Pontius figures out a way to deal with it. Pontius does a great job to get outside of a slow-to-react Larrys Mabiala and create a shot. Unfortunately the finish by Pontius isn’t very good as the angle coming onto the ball was awkward, but it was a decent chance created out of not much.

Boateng is= a polarizing figure between the traditional scouting and data crowd. He’s good athlete, has a lot of speed, and shows some technical ability from time to time. But that hasn’t manifested into anything from an event standpoint that you could tangibly capture... until this past season.

His passing has improved this season while incorporating more risk. As a result he’s creating more shot opportunities. He's posting 2.64 key passes per 96 this season, a career high, and directly contributing to a rise in his expected goal chain of 0.67 per 96..

I’m not sure if at 22 he’s starting to mature and we’re seeing him come into his own, or if playing with guys like Ola Kamara and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have just improved those numbers because they’re shot happy. I imagine this will be one of those “wait and see" things.

#3 -Jesus Medina, NYCFC, 4th minute, 0.424 expected goals
Assisted by: Maximiliano Moralez
Number of passes in sequence: 4

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Headers are hard are tough to direct on frame. I feel like I’ve beat thit drum a lot, but just to emphasize it one more time, headers are difficult to put on frame.

Medina was someone who showed promise at the start of the season. He bagged an early goal, help set up another goal and showed promise on the break. Then he kind of disappeared off the “O-M-G radar”.

The thing about it is he’s not been one of the core chance creators for NYC. He’s apt to turn the ball over (averages 5.1 turnovers a game) and his passing, relative to his peers, hasn’t been good (-5.6 score per 100 passes, 8th worst among 17 forwards with at least 1,000 minutes). But he’s subtly been an important piece for NYC in the attack.

His 23 dribbles inside the attacking third ranks 30th in MLS.and leads the team giving NYC a unique ability to challenge defenders out wide. Looking over at his xG+xA per 96 from the run of play, it’s a paltry 0.39 but the 21 year old has 41% of his expected goal chain from build-up play good for 0.67 per 96, the same as Boateng above.

Medina’s passing hasn’t been good, but looking specifically in the attacking third his score is a much more acceptable -0.4 per 100. That also explains why his xBuildup is so high. While he’s not been regularly helpful deeper in the field, he’s asked to do less of it and when he does it’s combination play running at defenders. His contributions in total are a bit masked, but make no mistake this young player is a solid piece of what Patrick Vieira has going on at New York City.

#2 -Brandon Vazquez, Atlanta United, 93rd minute, 0.432 expected goals
Assisted by: Julian Gressel
Number of passes in sequence: 15(!)

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This is one of those situations where I think, in the moment, fans became a little greedy and in turn were a little harsh on Brandon Vazquez. I love how he immediately recognizes the mismatch of him 1v1 on Fabinho and Julian Gressel obliged, in yet another great set up pass.

On the year Gressel has a +2.0 per 100 passes in the attacking third but combines that with a touch percentage that is fourth highest on the team. While Miguel Almiron and Ezequiel Barco do a huge amount of work, Gressel is quietly (though... much less quiet this season) the third option in the attack for creation.

Back to the play, Vasquez skirts by Andre Blake with a nice touch and then awkwardly turns around on Fabinho to give him a look at goal. The shot is a hurried one and he drags his foot through the ball, you can see a trail of turf like pellets follow him on the shot, and Blake gets back fast enough to throw his body in front of the open goal.

There is a lot of respect to be given on this sequence to both defense and attackers alike. Sometimes it goes that way... except Fabinho. He’s out of position, moves late on the run and just wilts on the turn kind of giving up on the play. He gets nothing.

#1 - Shkelzen Gashi, Colorado Rapids, 78th minute, 0.581 expected goals
Assisted by:  N/A
Number of passes in sequence: 4

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Ninja Kick. The number one cause of failed shots in this league, not bad crosses. I had no idea how many of these flying kick shots existed until doing this column and I’m continually stunned by how they’re attempted because there doesn’t seem to be one approach.

Credit to Shkelzen Gashi, he’s just trying to deflect the ball in for a shot in as it comes in at an awkward height, roughly about belt high after the defenders' deflection. It’s not high enough for him to use his head or chest the ball down but still high enough to where he kind of has to hop up to use his foot to redirect the ball towards goal.

The cross is just all kinds of bad and desperate. Crossing into a Vancouver 18-yard box in general seems a desperate act of a desperate individual. And not just like “we just need something to go right” desperate but more like “everything is dying and I will spend my last $50 on a Pitbull look like to make it go off right”. It’s a bad a call and the fact that it weirdly and stunningly almost works out doesn’t validate the process.

This week’s lowest shot probability which actually culminated in a goal being scored...

Tyrone Mears, Minnesota United, 11th minute, 0.0268 expected goals
Assisted by: Rasmus Schuller
Number of passes in sequence: 3

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This is a shot that is subtly important and generally underrated by the analytical crowd. The shot is a low percentage but made with plenty of space and a direct line of sight on the goal, which the model can’t see but improves the chance.

The shot itself isn’t the only reason to like it. The attempt displays a willingness to use the space given by your opponent. As the game goes on either your opponent is going to continue to let you take free low leverage shots or their going to step up to try and deny the opportunity and in turn create space behind. It’s a shot which can evolve the tactical approach of the game.

Looking at the shot from the perspective of the goalmouth and where it lands, I guessed that the expected goal might even go down due it being taken so far away (barley inside the attacking third). However, according to our post-shot expected goal model, the probability actually goes slightly up.

I would guess this is due to it being on frame and normally forcing the keeper into action whereas the majority of shots from 30 yards out don’t land on target, let alone go straight down the middle of the goal mouth in a high save location.

Top-10 individuals in Expected Goals from the last week (excludes PKs)
Player Team OPP Shots Dist xG
Josef Martinez ATL PHI 5 14.5 1.2
Alan Gordon CHI SJE 3 6.4 1.0
Teal Bunbury NER NYR 2 10.3 0.9
Danny Hoesen SJE CHI 3 8.2 0.9
Adama Diomande LAFC FCD 3 13.0 0.9
Miguel Almiron ATL PHI 7 18.9 0.7
Daniel Salloi SKC MIN 4 11.9 0.7
Maximiliano Moralez NYC ORL 4 12.8 0.7
Maximiliano Urruti FCD LAFC 5 16.2 0.7
Brandon Vazquez ATL PHI 3 17.2 0.6

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That’s all for this week’s edition of Lowered Expectations. I hope 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.