Lowered Expectations: Week 23 / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 23 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.

I know it’s been a few weeks but we have five missed opportunities and one very surprising success! Let’s get to it.

#5 - Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders, 3rd minute, 0.375 expected goals
Assisted by: Nicolas Lodeiro
Keeper:  Bobby Shuttleworth
Passes in sequence:  1


I don’t think I’ve said this enough because it’s something that surprised someone on twitter this past week. If you’ve heard it before bear with me here because you’ll hear it again: we do not take into account the defensive player position with our expected goals model.

Do defenders always impact an opportunity? Not necessarily. Obviously Michael Boxall doesn’t get a piece of the ball but I do think it’s fair to say disrupts the opportunity and makes the shot attempt by Raul Ruidiaz more difficult.

How much difference is there had Boxall not been there on the opportunity? It’s rather difficult to say and something many teams around the world are trying to value presently as it helps better quantify defenders value to a team.

It looks like Ruidiaz was going to try and take the shot on his first touch but is that because he knew where Boxall was? Was it because he felt the pressure of Boxall coming down on him? All we can say is that on average, when shot with the right foot, these shot from this spot tend to be converted 37% of the time.

But not every time.

#4 - Jo Inge Berget, New York City FC, 5th minute, 0.379 expected goals
Assisted by: Maximiliano Moralez
Keeper: Stefan Marinovic
Number of passes in sequence: 3

  1. Don’t sleep on the fake pass into the box followed by the outlet to Maxi Moralez. Alexander Ring seems to get his share of love on social media, but what he does seems so frequently to be one of those things you can either miss or under-appreciate that it’s worth mentioning here.
  2. Moralez going 1-on-1 here against Bernie Ibini is hilarious. You know he wants the ball on his left foot. I know he wants the ball on his left foot. He gets the ball on his left foot. It’s just so sick how he roasts Ibini. He’s been everything this season they could have hoped for when they original bought him last season.
  3. Jo Inge Berget just keeps getting so very unlucky. It’s a solid header, decent enough placement and poor luck. I know he’s been super underwhelming when it comes to shot creation with xG. But considering all he does off the ball... (checks expected goal chains) well, at least David Villa should be back soon. Right?

I generally dislike crosses and especially when the person you’re crossing it into has to battle two other defenders (who are plus aerial defenders) and the keeper but the pin point accuracy is so perfect that I’ll let it slide but here... but don’t think I’m not a process over outcome. Still, I would have rather seen Maxi cut inside on Ibini, who was super out of his depth here trying to defend Moralez 1v1, pull another defender and then find one of the other blue shirts for a shot but, I digress. This was probably fine too.

#3 - Miguel Almiron, Atlanta United, 53rd minute, 0.466 expected goals
Assisted by: Hector Villalba
Keeper: Alex Bono
Number of passes in sequence: 1


<Insert Expletive Here>


Eight. Seconds.

Tito Villalba stole Gregory *I have the most pretentious name in Major League Soccer* van der Wiel lunch money and went to town, sends Almiron through splitting Eriq Zavaleta and Chris Mavinga like they were arguing over whether Serenity completed the Firefly series or not (it’s fine), and Almiron just beat those two for pace. It takes them all of eight seconds.

By the way, have a look at Michael Bradley pulling up at the midfield line as Almiron goes full Jetstream on the centerbacks. When people talk about whether or not Bradley has much left in his legs this is what they’re talking about. Even if Villalba doesn’t send that pass forward, I’m honestly not sure Bradley does anything to impede him.

Anyways, this is all so very brilliant and if you’re any other team in Major League Soccer you’re praying this doesn’t happen to you. It’s why few teams, if any, allow their whole (okay, well... eight guys) forward. Toronto was desperate to get a draw and while they got it, it wasn’t without losing a few extra heart beats in the process.

Now, let’s have that discussion here about Almiron’s finishing. Just this year he’s created roughly 8.7 expected goals from open play while scoring just four chances. Now, right there most people would immediately say “SEE HE’S NOT FINISHING”. Well--firstly, whoa there Danny. Stop using caps.

Secondly, before we jump to any conclusions yet let’s take a look at post-shot xG. Post shot expected goals is basically about where the shot ends up on the goal. It can tell us how likely it was for the keeper to save the shot. Most of the time we call this xPlace on the interactive tables.

Taking a look at his xPlace you can see he’s losing roughly two goals on the placement of his shots. This means regardless of the shots being on target or taken in good spots they’re generally in spots not as highly valued because of where they end up on the goal mouth. Post-shot expected goals should be used sparingly but in this situation it helps tell us why he might not be as successful. And in fact we can see that Almiron has had the most second most (27) shots saved by keepers in MLS this season just behind Alberth Elis (30) and just ahead of Sebastian Giovinco (26).

But that’s not all.

Compounding the issue is the amount of shots Almiron takes away from goal. In fact he’s 8th in the percentage of his total shots which are more than 20% of the field*. That is to say roughly outside the 18 yard box. We use a percentage of the field as the actual distance and dimensions change from field to field and percentages make it easier for us to calculate.

And while he’s putting 55% of his shots on target, just 5% off the league average, the farther away he’s taking shots the less likely it’s on target. That’s not to say he’s taking bad shots, I think he’s taking the shots he’s being given, which speaks to him being opportunistic and reading situations something he’s shown to have a supreme talent in as a playmaker. Ultimately he’s on a bit of a cold streak right now.  But the tendency for shooting from range leads to being rather streaky. This has less to do with ability and more to do with the law of averages.

#2 - Josef Martinez, Atlanta United, 55th minute, 0.467 expected goals
Assisted by: #N/A
Keeper: Alex Bono
Number of passes in sequence: 2


We unfortunately don’t have a GIF for this shot and so there isn’t much to really break down but likewise I think it’s a bit fun to talk about Josef Martinez in the same vein that we talked about Miguel Almiron.

The talk much of last year was how good a finisher Martinez was. And to be fair his scoring rate has been downright ridiculous since coming in the league. But he was putting up over three and a half shots per 96 minutes, had a positive xPlacement and his average shooting distance (14.6) was the fourth lowest in Major League Soccer.

This isn’t to take away from the skill of what Martinez was and is able to do to score. Rather these numbers are all representative of what he’s able to do. This year is much the same. He’s continued his scoring rate, sure by taking advantage of penalties, but also he’s increased his expected goals despite taking fewer shots.

He also has the shortest average distance per shot. Not just in Major League Soccer in 2018. But he has the shortest average shot distance for anyone with more than 50 shots in our database. But add that to another season of slightly positive xPlacement and you have another year of him beating his xG. And sure, he’s beating his open play xG by three goals this season but his G-xG on a per96 basis is only 0.14.

The take away here is simply this; don’t expect him to stop scoring. He’s not going to. He’s very skilled and it has less to do with being a great finisher and more with him just being a great striker.

#1 - Michael Barrios, FC Dallas, 52nd minute, 0.522 expected goals
Assisted by: #N/A
Keeper: Andrew Tarbell
Number of passes in sequence: 8


I’m not going to rant on the cross. I know I said that about Maxi Moralez cross earlier, and then I did, but I’m not going to do that here. Really there isn’t much to say about this opportunity. Michael Barrios is in the right spot at the right time and his shot is reactionary, in a decent place and has a bit of velocity behind it.

It doesn’t go in because... well, that’s just how this goes sometimes.

This week’s lowest shot probability which actually culminated in a goal being scored...
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Chicago Fire, 48th minute, 0.021 expected goals
Assisted by: Drew Connor
Keeper: Nick Rimando
Number of passes in sequence: 5


I talked about Almiron and his propensity for taking long shots above. This isn’t quite the same thing. Taking long shots is a bit haphazard with conversion and to be perfectly honest this is all sorts of impressive. But it’s also kind of selfish with a guy in his hip pocket.

You can see Bastian Schweinsteiger has just enough space to either get a pass off or taking a really low leverage shot. Raheem Edwards is moving forward and calling for a through pass. Edwards obviously would have cut through the defense but it’s fair to question whether or not he would be able to have created a shot.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter because the shot became a goal and most of the time that’s all fans care about. But the shot itself isn’t great and not just because it’s a low leverage shot. This isn’t just someone taking advantage of an open shot or an attack having problems breaking down a team and shooting from distance simply because it might change tactics. It’s a bit of a symptom of an underlying issue with this team.

Top-10 individuals in Expected Goals from the last week (excludes PKs)
Player Team Shots Dist xG xPlace
Michael Barrios FCD 5 17.549 0.9 -0.2
Josef Martinez ATL 6 7.732 1.5 -0.8
Jo Inge Berget NYC 3 10.525 0.7 0.1
Hector Villalba ATL 4 24.562 0.2 -0.2
Miguel Almiron ATL 6 25.876 0.9 -0.3
Joao Plata RSL 5 17.168 0.3 -0.2
Damir Kreilach RSL 4 11.125 1.2 0.4
Valeri Qazaishvili SJE 8 26.844 1.1 0.0
Roland Lamah FCD 3 8.743 1.2 -0.2
Daniel Royer NYRB 3 9.814 1.2 0.7