Lowered Expectations: Week 24 / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 24 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 - Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, New York City FC, 44th minute, 0.404 expected goals
Assisted by: #N/A
Keeper:  Alexander Bono
Passes in sequence: 6


There isn’t a lot to this. As this is easily summarized as a less than ideal cross, a bad clearance and a broken play all compiled into a surprising chance. But you have to give props to Anton Tinnerholm who runs down that poor clearance.

Tinnerholm’s momentum is already taking him that way as he’s headed for an overlapping run at that back post but follows up on the loose ball and just goes directly to goal with it. I love this because it just makes something happen. Too frequently a player traps it, doesn’t do anything with it, and gets snuffed out by opposing defenders who neutralize the situation before it becomes a thing.

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is likewise also following his momentum as he was headed into the box just as the cross was made and you can see him go into a jog right at the end of the clearance. The great thing here though is he continues to follow through to the front of the box. This gives him a great opportunity to score a goal if not for Alex Bono and his crazy acrobatics.

#4 - Andre Horta, Los Angeles FC, 79th minute, 0.445 expected goals
Assisted by: Benny Feilhaber
Keeper: Tim Melia
Number of passes in sequence: 8


The movement off the ball from Andre Horta is just brilliant. It doesn’t looked quite planned, but as you can see he he sees the pocket of space open up and takes advantage of the opportunity while Benny Feilhaber very clearly watches the play develop and just floats in a beauty of a ball at the far back corner.

The shot by Horta just bounces off the bar and over newly minted LAFC striker Christian Ramirez as he dives into the box head first just coming up short of powering the ball into the back of the net.

#3 - Zoltan Stieber, DC United, 83rd minute, 0.444 expected goals
Assisted by: #N/A
Keeper: Joe Bendik
Number of passes in sequence: 9

There is kind of a cluster of not last last last ditch efforts but still acts of desperation in this build-up. But despite all the desperation and bad crosses, exactly what you’d hope would happen does. A ball basically falls to  Zoltan Stieber in the middle of the box.

Victor Giro (aka, PC) is super lucky as his last ditch attempt to clear the ball was horrible and could have very easily turned into a penalty. But instead of going into the tackle, Stieber goes over the top and becomes off-balanced. It’s due to being off-balanced that his momentum plays against him and he’s unable to get anything more than a tap on the ball and right at Joe Bendik. It’s all of that one subtle moment that prevents this from being a huge opportunity.

This is kind of reminiscent to the goal scored Tuesday night by Sebastian Lletget. But he had much better balance as he approached the ball and the curl he applied which found its way around Tim Howard was equal parts mix of beauty and devastation.

#2 - Cory Burke, Philadelphia Union, 13th minute, 0.498 expected goals
Assisted by: C.J. Sapong
Keeper: Matt Turner
Number of passes in sequence: 2


First of all, I love me some CJ Sapong so you can all sit down and squash whatever mean spirited thing you have to say or think about him. His dribbling in tight spaces followed by this cross is simple but delightful. It’s lofted in a spot that only Corey Burke could get and it allowed him to take a legit shot at creating a goal.

Second, this movement by Burke is very good. He identifies where Sapong was headed with the ball and opens up some space for both Sapong and a late run by Borek Dockal into the box. He also gives Sapong an option to create an opportunity with the run.

Date Home HG HxGt Away AG AxGt GD xGD
3/17/2018 Philadelphia 0 0.63 Columbus 0 0.76 0 -0.13
5/10/2018 Columbus 1 1.65 Philadelphia 0 0.63 -1 -1.02
5/27/2018 New York 0 0.77 Philadelphia 0 1.52 0 0.75
6/3/2018 Atlanta United 3 3.75 Philadelphia 1 0.35 -2 -3.41
7/8/2018 Philadelphia 0 1.24 Atlanta United 2 2.79 -2 -1.55

Unfortunately Burke just looks a bit off-balance in getting to the header and instead of being able to push it past Matt Turner, he hits it off the post. It’s an unfortunate circumstance but it’s one that it’s still an opportunity from open play that shows the dangerous promise of this Philadelphia Union team.

I’ll preach it until they either stop creating these opportunities or start banging goals at an outrageous pace. Philadelphia is a good attacking team and super dangerous. I would not want to line-up against them in the playoffs.

Sure, they have all two points out of 15 from teams ahead of them in the standings. But aside from the two blow out Atlanta losses, the other three games were close. With four of their remaining 11 games against teams in front of them in the standings (in points per game). There is more than ample opportunity for them to prove themselves as not just an player caliber squad but one who is a potential giant killer.

#1 - Jack McBean, Colorado Rapids, 52nd minute, 0.688 expected goals
Assisted by: Marlon Hairston
Keeper: Andrew Tarbell
Number of passes in sequence: 5


The MLS tag team of Bobby Warshaw and Matt Doyle have been preaching how entertaining Colorado has been over the last couple of weeks. This is a GIF that speaks to that partly through the smart but simple passes in the middle of transition.

San Jose overloads Jack McBean’s way ahead and the ball kind of gets away from him. Rather than attempting to force a pass into the box with San Jose’s defenders having the advantage of disarming the opportunity before it even gets started. McBean makes a simple pass backwards to Kelyn Acosta who puts in a perfectly weighted ball ahead to Marlon Hairston who puts in a simple cross into the duo of McBean and Sam Nicholson crashing towards the goal which create a high leverage opportunity that is ultimately saved by Andrew Tarbell.

First, this is the second week in a row that Tarbell has made a save on the number one shot in Lowered Expectations and that deserves a shout because I would say he’s served a bit of undue criticism this season. While he’s not been great, he’s not been terrible either.

Second, McBean is the kind of player who needed a good run of minutes this year for us to identify what he is and where he fits going forward. But after 800 minutes he’s basically exactly who we thought he was. A player with an average set of skills, good movement, but not enough creativity or vision to be secondary striker. He doesn’t embarrass himself technically but also doesn’t have the physical tools to be a dynamic threat on the ball..

He is someone that every team needs in terms of a domestic forward off the bench that can fill in gap minutes for early Open Cup games. But he’s also someone that could be easily replaced by the interesting teenager in your academy pushing into the senior team.

Lastly, it’s easy to miss but Acosta is a critical but transparent cog here. First with the excellent long ball but also with his clean touch and pass to Hairston still in transition and headed towards the goal in open space. I’ve not been the biggest fan of Acosta largely due to his inconsistencies. But this is a subtle moment where I kind of say “okay--maybe, I can see 'it' a bit.”

This week’s lowest shot probability which actually culminated in a goal being scored...
Romain Alessandrini, Los Angeles Galaxy, 7th minute, 0.031 expected goals
Assisted by: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Keeper: Bobby Shuttleworth
Number of passes in sequence: 6


Teams obviously are starting to key in a little bit more on Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It makes sense since he’s pretty much the reason why the Galaxy are sitting above the playoff red line, considering their awful defense.

In this GIF you can see the gravitation of the defenders with his movement as they follow him first to the center of the field and then towards the sideline after his pass. What’s really great though is how Zlatan splits defenders with a pass to Romain Alessandrini after their give and go which creates space for Alessandrini to run at the back line. Collen Warner’s vain attempt to slow down the attack but his movement is a bit slow in identify the run before the pass and as a result it provides Alessandrini the space he needs to get forward.

What makes this worse is that after Alessandrini gets past Warner there is no one to step to him and no one to even cut off his angle to the goal. Both Michael Boxall and Francisco Calvo are so focused upon Ola Kamara that they give Alessandrini an free go at goal. 

The shot itself was a bit spontaneous and done both in the attempt to catch Bobby Shuttleworth out of position and as a response to neither Boxall or Calvo denying the opportunity. Shuttleworth was a bit late on the movement and it looks like he was even possibly cheating to the wrong side. This might be because of the last touch Alessandrini puts on the ball to open up a pocket of space. It looks like he might go at the far post but instead curls the ball just inside the near post.

Moments of transition such as these are always going to be discounted by the model simply because most of these shots are done in a more dense defensive environment. There is also the issue that few are going to have the space to operate in the manner made available to Alessandrini. This is a two percentage shot that given the context has a much higher probability than the model gives it but still not as high as Alessandrini makes it look.

Top-10 individuals in Expected Goals from the last week (excludes PKs)
Player Team Shots Dist xG xPlace
Jack Elliott PHI 2 4.64 1.2 0.5
Ismael Tajouri NYC 5 10.84 1.1 -0.7
Luciano Acosta DCU 4 11.80 0.9 0.0
Cory Burke PHI 2 6.83 0.8 -0.8
Jack McBean COL 3 16.11 0.8 0.3
Bradley Wright-Phillips NYRB 1 6.60 0.7 0.2
Zoltan Stieber DCU 5 27.18 0.6 -0.2
Teal Bunbury NER 5 14.06 0.6 0.7
Victor Vazquez TOR 1 4.34 0.6 0.1
Dominic Dwyer ORL 3 20.41 0.5 -0.4

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 Ian for providing the high quality GIFs for this post.