Lowered Expectations: Week 20 / by Drew Olsen

By Drew Olsen (@drewjolsen)

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 20 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.

Eds note: You're stuck with Drew writing LE this week because Harrison is on assignment assisting Patrick Mullins on his move from DC to Columbus. If you know Patrick Mullins, please let him know that Harrison is not a stalker, and just wants to help.

#5 - Teal Bunbury, New England Revolution, 74th minute, 0.410 expected goals
Assisted by: Andrew Farrell
Passes in sequence:  12

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This is great buildup from New England - the one-two sequence between Luis Caicedo and Juan Agudelo that the GIF begins with is a beaut - but it ends without much of a threat. Harrison may be gone, but I'm going to continue the Lowered Expectations tradition of hating on crosses. This is a pretty sequence that ends as a dud because Andrew Farrell decides to launch the ball into the box, despite having space to run to the corner. Blame also partially falls on Agudelo, who started to run forward to give Farrell a square-pass option, but then abandons his run and offers the drop, which Caicedo already has covered. Still, it looked like a dangerous sequence until Farrell sent in his cross.

It's a bit of a miracle that Teal Bunbury even touched the ball, and this is perfect example of our xG model overrating a chance. The model only knows that this was a shot from the top of six-yard box with Bunbury's foot; it doesn't know that it's on the full volley with a defender marking him closely. New England has turned things around this season, but it's hard not to feel a bit disappointed in how this sequence turned out.

#4 - Roland Lamah, FC Dallas, 42nd minute, 0.428 expected goals
Assisted by: Michael Barrios

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How about these passes from Santiago Mosquera and Roland Lamah? It begins when Carlos Gruezo does well to see Mosquera and Ryan Hollingshead alone on the wing, which forces the Chicago midfield to quickly adjust right. The Fire are able to close them down, so Mosquera sends a bomb into Lamah, who deftly taps to the ball back to Michael Barrios. The pass from Mosquera is perfectly weighted, but Lamah's understanding of where Barrios is and his ability to drop the ball back is the best part of this GIF. The challenge on those high arching crosses is to control them at all - the skill to find Barrios with a pass that isn't overhit is truly impressive.

After that, it's not as pretty. Barrios crosses it in and it hits off of Lamah, who somehow gets credit for a shot. It seems like an optimistic bit of judgment by the trackers - if anything, it looks like Lamah is trying to pass the ball back to Barrios, not shoot - but maybe they wanted to reward him for his nice pass. Either way I thank them for letting me watch these passes a few more times.

#3 - Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC, 59th minute, 0.444 expected goals
Assisted by: Michael Bradley
Number of passes in sequence:  7

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Trigger warning for the Twitteratti: he's still got it. Michael Bradley isn't having his best season (nobody on Toronto is), but he's still one of the best players in MLS. With Mauro Diaz gone, Bradley may be the only player left in the league that is able to produce passes like this. Bradley receives the ball, picks his head up, sees Sebastian Giovinco start his run, and puts the ball on a rope over the Orlando backline and into Giovinco's path. Giovinco has time to take a touch and shoot, which requires an impressive save from Earl Edwards.

This is Toronto at their best, and it's what they've been missing this season. Their CCL hangover has turned into liver disease, and I think we can now confidently say that they're not going to make the playoffs (assuming 41 points are needed for the last playoff spot TFC would need to average two points per game over their remaining schedule. It would take Air Bud coming out of retirement to save them).

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Jordan Hamilton follows up the rebound with a shot that probably injured a Disney princess in the stands. Hamilton has been mostly terrible; among forwards, he has the 6th worst passing Score per 96 minutes in the league. The players above him can get away with it because they actually score goals sometimes (table below), but he has no excuse. Hamilton hasn't been passing well or creating many chances, but he somehow keeps getting minutes. Despite that, Toronto must be happy with him because rumors suggest Tossaint Rickets may soon be leaving for a team in Israel. 

First Last Team Passes Passes/96 PassPct/96 xPassPct/96 Score/96 Goals/96 xG/96 Assists/96 xA/96
Zlatan Ibrahimovic LAG 414 38.55 0.66 0.74 -3.20 1.02 0.65 0.09 0.16
Teal Bunbury NER 458 25.94 0.66 0.78 -3.10 0.57 0.43 0.06 0.07
David Villa NYC 350 35.15 0.69 0.77 -2.77 0.80 0.67 0.40 0.42
Alan Gordon CHI 218 27.57 0.71 0.81 -2.76 0.51 0.50 0.00 0.02
Darren Mattocks DCU 236 19.63 0.68 0.81 -2.56 0.67 0.64 0.00 0.04
Kei Kamara VAN 405 28.34 0.68 0.76 -2.15 0.56 0.63 0.21 0.12
Jordan Hamilton TOR 215 26.46 0.73 0.81 -2.00 0.25 0.50 0.12 0.16
xPassPct: Expected pass completion percentage based on xPass model. Score: total passes completed over/below expected. (PassPct - xPassPct)*Passes.

#2 - Christian Ramirez,  Minnesota United, 58th minute, 0.550 expected goals
Assisted by: Darwin Quintero
Number of passes in sequence: 6

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This is a peculiar breakdown from RSL. While there's no better entertainment in the world than a Mike Petke rant, their defensive issues in this game were due to a lack of organization, not the referees. Watch Darin Quintero, who starts the GIF in the upper left corner of the image. When the ball is played wide, the RSL midfield rotates and he's literally standing unmarked for a second or two. 

Kyle Beckerman is in the middle marking Rasmus Schüller, and he looks ready to drop so that he's in a position to cover both Schüller and Quintero, but Justen Glad quickly steps up towards Quintero. It looks like Glad is stepping to cover Quintero, but he doesn't actually do that. Instead, he stays focused on the ball, and even has his body turned the wrong way if marking Quintero was his intention. Once the ball is played to Quintero, it's too late for Glad to recover. It almost looks like Glad is worried the ball will go to the corner, even though Danilo Acosta has the sideline covered. I've watched this about 100 times, and I still have no idea what Glad is doing here. It's almost as if he forgets Quintero is there, even as he's stepping up to mark him.

Glad is out of position so the fullback Brooks Lennon needs to quickly rotate to the middle pick up Christian Ramirez, who makes the right run but isn't able to get enough power on the shot. It's a decent sequence from Minnesota to exploit the breakdown, but these are the types of defensive lapses that give Petke migrains.

#1 - Ola Kamara, LA Galaxy, 66th minute, 0.602 expected goals
Assisted by: Romain Alessandrini
Number of passes in sequence: 6

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As a fitting way to end, this one is similar to the sequence we started with, only from the opposite team in the same game. A solid buildup out of the back leads to Romain Alessandrini with the ball on the sideline. He's got multiple options - he can stop the ball and let the defender go by him, drop to Ashley Cole, or pass inside to Jonathan dos Santos. Instead he whips in a threatening cross. Multiple Galaxy players are waiting, but it falls just in front of Ola Kamara, who just manages to get a touch to it.

Contrary to our first example, this is a much more dangerous attempt. It's a great ball from Alessandrini, and these are the crosses that Kamara makes a living on. If Kamara is able to stretch one foot farther, this is in the back of the net. While we don't love crosses at ASA, this is about as good as they get without going in, and it's hard to quibble with Alessandrini's decision here.

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

Roger Espinoza, Sporting KC, 51st minute, 0.0298 expected goals
Assisted by: Graham Zusi

Number of passes in sequence: 10

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Hot damn. There's not much to note about this besides appreciating how patient Sporting KC is. They've got the Red Bulls on their heels and the cross from Gerso Fernandes isn't great, but it forces the New York defense to drop. That creates a gap for Roger Espinoza, whose first touch perfectly sets up this screamer.

Top-10 individuals in Expected Goals from the last week (excludes PKs)
Player Team Shots Dist xG xPlace
Chris McCann ATL 2 7.290952 0.8 0.7
Bradley Wright-Phillips NYRB 3 15.15346 0.8 0.0
Sebastian Giovinco TOR 7 25.8791 0.7 -0.4
Jesus Medina NYC 4 13.00456 0.7 0.0
Johnny Russell SKC 2 16.67043 0.7 0.3
Diego Fagundez NER 5 18.19974 0.7 0.1
Teal Bunbury NER 3 15.4331 0.7 -0.7
Ola Kamara LAG 2 12.76366 0.7 -0.7
Maximiliano Moralez NYC 7 16.24425 0.6 -0.2
Christian Ramirez MIN 1 9.858053 0.6 0.2

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.