Lowered Expectations: Week 21 / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 21 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 - Christian Ramirez, Minnesota United, 71st minute, 0.457 expected goals
Assisted by: Darwin Quintero
Keeper: Matt Turner
Passes in sequence:  3

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We do a lot of Ninja Kicks on this column. While I criticize them often they’re also my favorite part of writing and breaking down these gifs. Here I have NO idea what Christian Ramirez was trying to accomplish... however part of me feels like he was trying to rabona while in mid-air which is... quite something had he actually pulled it off.

Instead it looks dreadful and kind of wasteful too. But at least he got on the field which I feel is kind of a bit thing being that Minnesota seems intent on BWP’ing him (that’s forever what I will call it when a team has a really good player at a really good value but they keep trying to figure out how to replace him).

Also, check Darwin Quintero out.

Okay, this pass is a bit underwhelming, but the dude has been straight fire over the past month coming in second in xG+xA (6.8) trailing only Josef Martinez (7.4). His contributions might even lead to an outside chance at Minnesota challenging for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Probably not, but maybe!

#4 - Roland Lamah, FC Dallas, 72nd minute, 0.460 expected goals
Assisted by: #N/A
Keeper: Joe Willis
Number of passes in sequence: 5

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My first few times watching this there wasn’t much to pull out of this besides Roland Lamah having great positioning and a weird distribution goalmouth available to him at the time of his shot. Despite missing it he did have great positioning which I think deserves to be highlighted especially for a winger making a transition to the middle of the field. He comes to the picture just as Maynor Figueroa is about to cross and he stays planted on the top of the 18. It’s disciplined positioning and a good showing.

Looking at this play aside from Lamah’s contributions and positioning, the overlapping run by Figueroa is a bit surprising. He’s not very attack oriented and you can tell once he gets to the ball he has a one track mind to deliver a cross though I’m not sure what he’s hoping to do aside from create chaos.

It leads to an interesting question. Being so close to the end line was it better for Figueroa to attempt the cross or perhaps pull up and cycle the ball back to Michael Barrios? The cross leads to a good attempt for Lamah but that’s partly a result of the attackers crashing the net and creating chaos on the rebound rather than the cross itself and the end result isn’t always a good example for future decision making.

I’m not sure there is a right answer but it’s an interesting question.

#3 - Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers, 53rd minute, 0.484 expected goals
Assisted by: Sebastian Blanco
Keeper: Evan Bush
Number of passes in sequence: 3

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Diego Valeri makes such a great run here. It’s a bit of a disappointing final moment but with Valeri unable to harness the pass from Sebastian Blanco and turn it into something. But Valeri is so very good it’s easy to forgive him for this moment.

That said the great moment here is the lead-up. First, the pass by Larrys Miabla to Blanco. It’s really not a great pass but it’s pinpoint with a bit of gusto which Blanco just plucks and then is on to create space. His feint to create space for a turn is brilliant but not just because of what he did but the anticipation and vision to see the play develop.

#2 - Kendall Waston, Vancouver Whitecaps, 49th minute, 0.527 expected goals
Assisted by: #N/A
Keeper: Stefan Frei
Number of passes in sequence: 2

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Cristian Techera is a really interesting player to me and has been for a lot of reasons (I love the way he moves with the ball, he has solid vision and he’s not afraid to take guys on one-v-one) but his cross here is just awful and it’s not like he’s not been one of the worst at passing in the league or anything...

The one redeeming factor is that it’s in to Kendall Waston.

Waston is a strong man. He’s an imposing man. He’s a person I wouldn’t ever calls names or mock or generally pick a fight. Because, while I’m sure he’s a heck of a nice guy, at 6’5 and the muscles protruding from his jersey he looks like he could very easily kill me, you or anyone in a room full of people should Joe Carroll inspire him.

However, we’re all lucky he’s chosen instead to use his physicals gifts, year after year and game after game since coming to MLS in 2014 to do one thing; win aerial challenges. Waston wins nearly 75-85% of his attempts. That’s good. That’s really freaking good.

While Waston didn’t really do much with the cross (and really how could you expect him to?)  the idea of crossing it into him and giving him the chance to draw one back right before half makes a lot of sense.

#1 - Franco Escobar, Atlanta United FC, 87th minute, 0.600 expected goals
Assisted by: #N/A
Keeper: David Ousted
Number of passes in sequence: 10

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This was all pretty frantic and at the same time I had to check to make sure I got something that was played normal speed. The last three seconds of the sequence is a mix of “loose ball, score a goal” and “hey we’re up by two already and DC is playing awful defense, lawl”.

Starting at the top, Miguel Almiron is so comfortable on the ball. Just a bit of extra pace dribbling across the midfield while on the ball allows Almiron the ability to create separation from Fredric Brillant who then for “reasons” drops back into the defensive line. I think he was assuming Asad was going to pick him up though at this stage no one was really playing defense anyways.

Almiron then delivers a great slip a pass to Julian Gressel. And now I’m not fond of this type of hard low cross into the box, especially with five opposing player's occupying space, but the cross by Gressel has a nice thought to it with Brandon Vazquez just plainly out soccering Oneil Fisher. Once more Vazquez’s hustle creates just a bit of space for Franco Escobar to make some sort of backward kicking action at the ball. This very obviously doesn’t work and quite honestly is kind of embarrassing. This subsequently to a whole mess of scramble that doesn’t work and the ball eventually is cleared from danger momentarily.

Now, real fast let’s talk about David Ousted. I wrote so many articles in January about his trade to DC that were never published because they were very long, very grumpy, and I mostly try to shield you readers from that work. But let me just put in a few sentences here:

I still do not understand the purpose and general reasoning DC felt the need to overpay for Ousted’s services. He wasn’t ever very good for Vancouver and while he’s someone that has experience that’s kind of point is made moot by signing Steve Clark last summer. Clark who was already signed to a sizeable contract at the time of the trade. But--that’s all... yeah, whatever. I promised only a few sentences.

I digress.

Ousted basically creates this situation all on his own and gives Atlanta an opportunity to make something of this when in reality that cross was probably headed out of bounds. You can see the cross had some merit but it was too far in front of Vazquez and despite having space and position on Fisher, he doesn’t look capable of getting to the ball.

Now I can understand that Ousted doesn’t exactly know if a run is being made behind him at that far post. There very well could have been someone posted and ready for tap in. But through the entire GIF he never checks his surroundings. He doesn’t find out where his defenders are, he doesn’t take a short peek at traffic and instead makes a late dive towards the ball deflecting it back into traffic.

I’m not trying to kick a DC defense that everyone knows is bad and knows that they desperately need to improve. From all reports they’re planning on making improvements but it’s these issues regardless of if they’re up by two goals or down by two goals, which are frustrating to watch.

This week’s lowest shot probability which actually culminated in a goal being scored...
Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders, 31st minute, 0.027 expected goals
Assisted by: Victor Rodriguez
Keeper: Stefan Marinovic
Number of passes in sequence: 2

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This is a goal that’s a result of simple luck due to the spin of the ball and a weird dive on a complete misread of the situation by Stefan Marinovic. I don’t really want to focus on it because... well, there isn’t much really to break down. Instead let’s talk about Nico Lodeiro and his 2018 season.

Since his arrival in Seattle he’s been lauded as a difference maker and he has been from time to time. However, those brilliant flashes has created frustration with misunderstanding both Lodeiro’s skillset and role within the Sounders attack.

Lodeiro has never been a guy to take the shot. It’s never been his role and I’m not convinced he could or would do it on a regular basis. This is what made his partnership at times with Clint Dempsey so wonderful.

But for whatever reason either getting old or running through a barrage of unfortunate events (not sure they are mutually exclusive or either one is incorrect. You can pick one, either or both) Dempsey is no longer a starter for the Sounders. And while that’s entirely different conversation, the effect it has on Lodeiro is rather dramatic.

Player Sea Min Shots G xG xPlace G-xG KP A xA A-xA xG+xA
Clint Dempsey 2017 2395 3.97 0.40 0.47 -0.08 -0.07 1.68 0.16 0.18 -0.02 0.65
Clint Dempsey 2018 959 3.4 0.10 0.36 -0.05 -0.26 1.30 0.10 0.17 -0.07 0.53
Clint Dempsey 2016 1488 3.42 0.39 0.37 -0.06 0.02 1.42 0.06 0.12 -0.06 0.49

Dempsey was the one that would take the type of shot that Lodeiro did and do so with regularly and without hesitation. Now Lodeiro is expected to step in and be that one... at least until Paolo Hurtado is signed and starting. But, again, that’s not been the best part of Lodeiro’s game and it might not even be something the Sounders should want him to do.

Player Season Min Shots Goals xG xPlace G-xG KP A xA A-xA xG+xA
Nicolas Lodeiro 2016 1236 1.94 0.16 0.15 0.02 0.01 2.80 0.39 0.36 0.03 0.51
Nicolas Lodeiro 2017 3111 1.57 0.12 0.12 -0.02 0.00 2.87 0.28 0.35 -0.07 0.47
Nicolas Lodeiro 2018 1249 1.84 0.15 0.12 -0.04 0.03 3.23 0.15 0.28 -0.13 0.41

Lodeiro is first and foremost about ball movement and creation. His expected assist numbers and expected buildup numbers both are a bit of down this year but both of those numbers are depending upon those further up the field. The Sounders with losing Victor Rodriguez, Dempsey and Jordan Morris have lost their regular shot takers. However, looking over at Lodeiro’s numbers with passing score both overall and in the final third are up from the past two seasons.

The Sounders have had a lot go wrong for them this year between both injuries and an aging squad. Lodeiro seems as likely a scapegoat as anyone else in the organization. He did not make the Uruguayan national team for the World Cup, his direct creation numbers are down and the team has struggled to score goals.

But the addition of Ruidiaz, and perhaps Hurtado too, is going to change the paradigm of those on the field who are apt to take a shot on the field. I think the next few months of the season we’re going to see a version of Lodeiro that will harken back to what he was his first two years.

Top-10 individuals in Expected Goals from the last week (excludes PKs)
Player Team Shots Dist xG xPlace
Josef Martinez ATL 5 5.892 1.8 -0.3
Christian Ramirez MIN 8 19.189 1.8 0.5
C.J. Sapong PHI 4 8.845 1.4 0.9
Diego Valeri POR 4 9.767 1.4 -0.3
Darwin Quintero MIN 10 18.482 1.1 0.6
Nemanja Nikolic CHI 4 8.905 1.1 0.0
Gyasi Zardes CLB 4 12.33 0.8 0.6
Stefano Pinho ORL 2 12.461 0.8 0.1
Daniel Royer NYRB 2 6.893 0.7 0.1
Alejandro Silva MTL 4 16.397 0.7 -0.7

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.