Lowered Expectations: Week 31 / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 31 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 - Bacary Sagna, Montreal Impact, 21st minute, 0.399 expected goals
Assisted by: Quincy Amarikwa, Montreal Impact
Keeper: Bill Hamid, DC United
Result: Saved
Passes in sequence: 20

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SagnaxG.gif

First and foremost this is a heck of a possession series, 20 passes in all and to cap it off the movement and overlapping run into the box towards to get on the end pass is excellent. As much as I rail against it but there are few experienced fullbacks in MLS that a) dare to make this run or b) have the vision to see this opportunity develop. It’s frustrating when MLS teams give huge chunks of their budget to 35 year olds but it’s also really cool to see moments like this.

Secondly, what a freakin’ save by Bill Hamid. His movement is calculated with no grand extravagant or wasteful movement. He shifts his weight knowing the ball is coming into the middle of the 18 and that a shot will be redirected his way. He’s exactly where he should be to make a save.

Third and last, I see a lot of mentioning of finishing skill on twitter again. Look--most of you know where I stand on the issue. In the long run it mostly comes out in the wash. But saying Barcary Sagna shows a lack of class with his finishing skill because he puts it on target but has it saved because Hamid is in solid position.

I don’t think anyone said that on this specific occasion but I hear/read that on other chances. “Player A put three of five shots on target but lacked class to finish them. They’ve really dropped off over the last two weeks”. That’s crap.

We go over opportunities week after week in this column and sometimes a shot is missed because the player came in on a ball off-balance or just lack the athletic ability to strike the ball true after a bad bounce. Maybe the defense made a good play. Maybe, as is the case above, the keeper is just in the best position. Maybe it’s just a lot harder than what we all think and bad things happen over the course of 5-10 shots.

Personally think we have a problem where we watch a single game and make generalized overarching statements on a player’s ability based on two or three shots. When really we need multiple games (5-10) to even gauge a team’s ability. Let alone a sole individual.

Anyways... I’ll rant on this again (I’m sure). But I think it’s important to remind us to take these moments in stride and instead of trying to clump together a couple occasions and say “Player A sucks at <insert here>”.

#4 - Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew SC, 79th minute, 0.333 expected goals
Assisted by: Justin Meram, Columbus Crew SC
Keeper: Andre Blake, Philadelphia Union
Result: Saved
Number of passes in sequence: 3

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Two things that come to mind with this.

  1. Justin Meram is back!

I don’t say that just that because this is vintage Meram (and it kind of is). But since rejoining Columbus he’s been back on his way to becoming a game changing talent once more.

SeasonMinShotsGoalsxGxPlaceKeyPAsstsxAxG+xA
20185022.870.190.28-0.061.7200.160.44
201726852.110.460.290.051.640.180.20.49
201626942.490.140.2301.670.360.240.46
201522973.010.250.22-0.071.460.130.160.38

But for a moment, just look at his September performance:

SeasonMinShotsGoalsxGxPlaceKeyPAsstsxAxG+xA
20183813.530.250.36-0.072.0200.20.55

he game state altering moments aren’t there, and that’s obviously a huge a thing (duh), but we’ve shown these numbers have significant power in predicting future performance. Meram could play a huge part of Columbus playoff run.

2. The movement by Gyasi Zardes here is so very good.

The defenders has positioning in front of him as he makes his run towards goal. Zardes makes a move to position himself right behind the defender rather than drift towards the back post. This allows him to make a quick darting move in front of the young 19-year old Mark Mckenzie who has mistaken Zardes positioning.

SeasonMinShotsGoalsxGxPlaceKeyPAsstsxAxG+xA
MARCH4743.040.810.8-0.080.2000.78
APRIL3693.120.260.5-0.292.08000.88
MAY4623.320.620.90.010.83000.96
JUNE3852.740.50.50.191000.53
JULY4872.370.590.60.270.39000.65
AUGUST2871.340.670.30.161000.29
SEPTEMBER3832.760.250.6-0.110.75000.79

Nothing comes of the chain of events but the move by Zardes is a good reminder for what remarkable 2018 he’s had. Yes, he had a bit of a rough summer. But the arrival of Justin Meram has seemed to help reinvigorate him.

#3 - Lucas Janson, Toronto FC, 89th minute, 0.374 expected goals
Assisted by: Jay Chapman, Toronto FC
Keeper: Brad Knighton, New England
Result: Saved
Number of passes in sequence: 2

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Toronto has been a lot of things this season and I know it’s largely been frustrating for their supporters but for the most part they’ve stayed a pretty good attacking team. In fact they are third in expected goals for from open play.

The addition of Lucas Janson from Tigre (Argentina, not Mexico) has been, in a small sample size, has been a critical underrated move.

In the clip above it’s his speed and maneuvering leading up to the shot that is obvious and easy to spot but the moments leading up to the pass by Jay Chapman are what give him the opportunity to stand out. The nice little slip between Michael Mancienne and Jalil Anibaba while managing to stand onside is so deft and brilliant that it might go unnoticed.

Brad Knighton is just lucky this isn’t the fifth goal he gave up.

#2 - Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC, 62nd minute, 0.388 expected goals
Assisted by: Lucas Janson, Toronto FC
Keeper: Brad Knighton, New England
Result: Saved
Number of passes in sequence: 5

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OsorioxG.gif

Again, not to be a jerk, but Brad Knighton just gets lucky here. It’s incredible how a keeper could get so lucky and then still give up four goals.

Lucas Janson for all the praise I just gave him looks like--Gyasi Zardes? Let’s keep a sense of humor about it all. The touch isn’t great but the situation still yielded fruit, and I think that’s something to keep in mind about it all.

Bad touches happen in the game... even in the Champions League. But please don’t tell anyone I tried to humanize the mistakes made in MLS and didn’t use it as a showcase for why it’s an awful league.

Also, Sebastian Giovinco is so good in tight space. I could watch, rewatch and then rewatch again, over and over, that three seconds of him getting into the box and finding Janson.

Oh, and Jonathan Osorio has been super good this year. But... if you’re coming to this blog you’re probably aware of that. That being said, he’s part of a growing core for the Canadian National Team that’s looking really really good, not to mention exciting and fun to watch. Oh wait, this is American Soccer Analysis? Not, Canadian Soccer Analysis? Muh bad. I said something nice about another National team. Sue me.

No, please don’t sue me.

#1 -Mauro Manotas, Houston Dynamo, 68th minute, 0.658 expected goals
Assisted by: Romell Quioto, Houston Dynamo
Keeper: Andrew Tarball
Result: Save
Number of passes in sequence: 3

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Mauro Manotas has been so good this year. It’s not just that he’s been “good” it’s that he’s repeatedly putting himself in good position. Yeah, he’s had good help in Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis but he’s equally responsible for being in position when that support pass or run is being made.

Manotas’ run to the ball is similar to Gyasi Zardes run and how he manuvered around Mark McKenzie above. He shadows him and then at the right moment cuts in front him for a chance at the shot. Unfortunately for Manotas his teammate, Memo Rodriguez, is making a redundant run without noticing they’re both going for the ball. A crash happens and the chance is ultimately wasted but the event is indicative of what Houston would create through the rest of the game and how they’d end up winning three to two.

This week’s lowest shot probability which actually culminated in a goal being scored...
Wayne Rooney, DC United, 82nd Minute, 0.026 expected goals
Assisted by: N/A
Keeper: Evan Bush, Montreal Impact
Result: Goal!
Number of passes in sequence: 1

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RooneyxG.gif

Rooney.

Seriously, I don’t even know what happened here. So let’s just break this all down step-by-step so we figure out what the heck happened.

  1. Joseph Mora steps in front of the pass here.

  2. Passes back to Acosta

  3. Acosta dribbles out of trouble despite being kicked a half dozen times in the foot by Rod Fanni’s walker. He should really get some tennis balls for that thing.

  4. Acosta makes a brilliant pass to a streaking Arriola who looks like he’s marching naked through the quad. Seriously he never comes back into the shot. He’s going for beers.

  5. Montreal defenders trot collectively in a circle.

  6. Evan Bush comes sprinting 20 yards hard off his line to get to the ball because there is a coupon for a free meal to a restaurant besides Chipotle glued to it.

  7. Bush clears the ball away... kind of.

  8. Rooney collects clearance a solid 10 feet away from Bush which at that very moment you have to think Bush is upset with the decision of getting out of bed for the day.

  9. Rooney introduces Luciano Acosta to his favorite type of Darjeeling tea, Oolong.

  10. Rooney and Acosta play Super Mario 3 like buddies.

  11. Rooney lifts the ball over Rudy Camacho who is distracted reading ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ and didn’t realize the game was still being played.

  12. Rooney runs to high five his friend Acosta after scoring the goal. They then agree to see “A Star is Born” over “Venom” this Friday night because Lady Gaga looks like she put in an amazing performance in the trailer but also Wayne is super disappointed by both the 90’s-esque visual effects and Tom Hardy’s attempt at an American accent in the Venom trailer. Russell Canouse, who had been standing there the whole time, awkward inserts himself in the conversation (fishing for an invite) adding that it’s a similar situation to when Kevin Costner failed at the an English accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Everyone nods their head. Rooney gives that boyish clever smile to Acosta and they hug once more because now they’re best friends.

  13. Montreal points to expected goals as the reason why they “won” the game.

  14. Rooney puts on shades.

That’s all I’ve got this week.

Top-10 individuals in Expected Goals from the last week (excludes PKs)

PlayerTeamSeasonShotsDistxGxPlace
Raul RuidiazSEA2018920.610481.430.411524
Kei KamaraVAN20181113.16031.4190.05935
Lucas JansonTOR2018612.678431.3190.638866
Rodney WallaceNYC2018211.449210.980.205396
Mauro ManotasHOU2018617.832740.940.179853
Tim ParkerNYRB201812.0757230.9320.059723
Ola KamaraLAG2018212.578510.9270.016198
David VillaNYC2018513.266170.9140.224213
Emmanuel BoatengLAG2018415.850850.862-0.20251
Romell QuiotoHOU2018217.301950.8450.121255

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.