Lowered Expectations: Week 27 / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 27 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 - Milton Valenzuela, Columbus Crew SC, 52nd minute, 0.394 expected goals
Assisted by: Gyasi Zardes
Keeper: Sean Johnson, New York City
Result: Blocked
Passes in sequence: 5

Milton Valenzuela has a tough job here. He is trying to just get a shot off as the ball moves away from him and you have to give credit to the defender, Anton Tinnerholm, coming back to both the ball and the goal blocking the shot.

Initially Tinnerholm is marking Justin Meram but if you watch his eyes he notices Gyasi Zardes start to turn with the ball and that moves towards the goal where he’s able to step towards Valenzuela when he takes a shot. It’s solid defending mixed with a lose ball in the attack.

One last thing I do believe Zardes trapped that ball on the short pass by Valenzuela via the amazing groin trap which is both impressive and important to point out whenever it occurs. Respect. 

#4 - Cristian Techera, Vancouver Whitecaps, 65th minute, 0.479 expected goals
Assisted by: Yordy Reyna
Keeper: Andrew Tarbell
Result: Saved
Number of passes in sequence: 3

I really enjoy Yordy Renya. The guy can just make some dazzling plays and this simple pass is exactly his brand. It’s a combination of great sight, simple play mixed with a touch of brilliance.

When Vancouver, as a coordinated attack, tend to lean more into those simple combinations and don’t go turn off their brain to push the ball wide in an effort to lump it into the middle via a cross, they can be super interesting and... maybe even, good.

What is said above for the Whitecaps as whole goes double for Christian Techera. The guy is super interesting with the ball at his feet and in space going forward. He gets however substantially less interesting once he gets into the wide 20% percentiles of attacking third where he’s going to do his best to send in the worst looking cross you’ve ever seen.

I get that Vancouver have a tactic and they finally went and got a good striker that works in that tactical construct. But if they reduced their cross attempts by... say 20% (so, roughly, four or five crosses over the course of an individual game), I think they’d see an increase to their goals scored probability. That’s just a theory.

#3 - Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew SC, 18th minute, 0.480 expected goals
Assisted by: Milton Valenzuela
Keeper: Sean Johnson, New York City
Result: Miss
Number of passes in sequence: 3

zardes.png

This scoot pass by Justin Meram is just so aware. He’s obviously disappointed by the no call but makes the play regardless. But the cross into Gyasi Zardes, despite him being open on the back post, is... well, disappointing.

This is a prime example on why crossing should be reserved as a last resort, which, really, in this case it is. Milton Valenzuela has time, picks up his head and identifies the mismatch that is Zardes and Ronald Matarrita. Yet despite loads of time and space he just can’t put it quite on the spot.

This isn’t about how “Valenzuela sucks” or anything like that. But sending a pass and putting it into a very specific box or frame over 20 yards away is... well, difficult to say the very least. The repeatability of such a skill as told by the league success rates year over years (both by teams and players alike) implies maybe expecting a player to repeatedly put the ball on a dime, which is often needed for success, is much more volatile a skill--regardless of the match-up or space afforded the passer than we’ve been willing to accept.

I’d guess, though I don’t have the data to really hypothesize this, crosses in the box to individuals who have the ability to move either towards the ball or have the space to change directions are the best types of crosses. It puts winning the aerial duel on the recieves athleticism (see: Kei Kamara) rather than on the sender for putting it in a specific area. Taking it a step further I’d say putting the ball into a specific area AND a player being able to move towards and allowing for their athleticism to win it creates a better than average cross.  

Again, I have no data specifically on what can be done to help teams better succeed in this specific tactical approach. This is just a theory based up observances from what I see in the data.

#2 - Lucas Janson, Toronto FC, 10th minute, 0.486 expected goals
Assisted by: Ryan Telfer, Toronto FC
Keeper: Bill Hamid, DC United
Result: Post
Number of passes in sequence: 1

janson.png

This is just a really solid 30 second sequence if you’re able to capture the entire thing, and it shows that Toronto isn’t dead just yet.

If you’re new to this know whole column, forgive me, this should have probably been in the introduction but just know I’m big on two things as we review these gifs.

  1. I despise with great passion bad and/or lazy crosses from out wide. They are low percentage chances stacked on low percentage chances. It’s like playing slots at the casino.
  2. At least get the shot on target in moments of high leverage. The rest usually takes care of itself.

You could also add “ninja soccer kicks” as a third thing but... really, that’s a different thing.

Looking at the GIF my two pet peeves are (mostly) taken care of here by Toronto. Ryan Telfer (who might, very quietly, be a better version of Raheem Edwards) makes a great overlapping run into the box and picks out a good end target. It’s thought is good, just not great execution. Lucas Janson basically just stabs at it with his foot and redirects it to the back post which just misses.

While the play doesn’t work out like they would have hoped, in the long term, this is a better and more significant event for the team as a whole than the average shot. This shows their ability to penetrate, to find space inside the 18 and create a shot. Maybe it didn’t work out at that moment and it didn’t work for the game. But these examples provide some semblance of proof what they’re capable of doing. However, how frequently are they doing it leads to more of what their floor is.

I know some feel that expected goals are overrated because they only account for the shots that are taken rather than the shot that isn’t taken. And to that point there is some value in sussing out plays that don’t quite come to fruition. But repeated ability to find, create and take shots is a skill and even more so it’s a skill that when you take it apart and look at the underpinnings of how it happened, it speaks to the attributes of movement, passing, touch and skill on the ball.

This is why shots in general and the quality of the shots as narrated by expected goals is so important to many of us. It’s not just “hey this is scored 20% of the time”. It’s hey look at how they got into good space there. Or... “look at that shot and all the space he had because of that secondary run”. Expected goals is a number but it can also be more than that and this is why.

Also, if you’re like me and wonder “Hey, who is this Lucas Janson guy

  • On loan from Club Atlético Tigre in Argentina through the end of the season.
  • 24 years-old and 5’7... he’s short but still taller than Giovinco.
  • Listed/used as a forward, but spent a little time on the left wing for Toronto
  • Has a goal and two assists through four appearances

So... you’re now caught up. As always we’re here serving you as the best educationally fun website for Major League Soccer on the internet. Once more, you’re welcome.

#1 - Josef Martinez, Atlanta United, 67th minute, 0.522 expected goals
Assisted by: Miguel Almiron
Keeper: Bill Hamid, DC United
Results: Miss
Number of passes in sequence: 1

martinez.png

Ima just let Jay have this one. Take the wheel buddy...

And with that I feel this year has been a huge success. *closes lid to laptop*

Oh, we’re not done for the week? There is one more...okay. Let’s go one more.

*opens lid to lap*

*sigh*

*hits button to turn on laptop*

*waits...*

*logs back on to computer*

*waits...*

*taps foot*

Sorry about this...

*taps foot*

Okay, right... one more.

giphy.gif

This week’s lowest shot probability which actually culminated in a goal being scored...
Santiago Mosquera, FC Dallas, 48th Minute, 0.025 expected goals
Assisted by: #N/A
Keeper: Joe Willis, Houston Dynamo
Result: Goal!
Number of passes in sequence: 3

mosq.png

This is only the second goal this year credited from beyond the 20th percentile of the field in open play. You may remember we talked a bit about this earlier in the season with Jimmy Merdranda’s wonder shot, which for my money... might be the standing goal of the year if not for Major League Soccer's introduction to Zlatan which was... well, impressive as all hell..

Honestly, this is just a bumbling, awkward situation. Not to say that Dallas wouldn’t take this goal back, but you don’t see many keepers play this situation so horribly. But it’s not purely on Joe Willis, who doesn’t get much help at all with Andrew Wenger frozen for a quarter of a second in inexplicably ball watching as it rolls past him in a moment of stunned immobility.

Turning our attention to the build up. This pass by Maxi Urruti is both a abomination and a treasure. Somehow it keys in on that balance of equal parts brilliance and chaos which leads to the goal and for the life of me... I kind of love it. Which kind of sums up why I’ve always kind of been about Urruti.

I can certainly accept and understand Urruti isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and he makes a poor decision or two, if not many many, over the course of 90 minutes. But he has moments like these that while they probably shouldn’t be game changing, they somehow turn out to be and it’s inexplicably wonderful for Dallas when it happens.

Top-10 individuals in Expected Goals from the last week (excludes PKs)
Player Team Shots Dist xG xPlace
Dominique Badji FCD 6 17.41 1.3 -0.1
Damir Kreilach RSL 4 11.67 1.2 -0.2
Brian White NYRB 3 7.36 1.2 -0.4
Valeri Qazaishvili SJE 9 19.70 1.1 1.3
Zlatan Ibrahimovic LAG 7 9.46 1.0 -0.7
Cory Burke PHI 6 15.48 1.0 0.2
Scott Caldwell NER 2 13.09 1.0 0.2
Jozy Altidore TOR 8 21.57 0.9 0.4
Lucas Janson TOR 5 10.81 0.9 -0.8
Josef Martinez ATL 3 14.68 0.9 -0.9

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.