Lowered Expectations: Pedro Santos did a thing / by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations! Here we review some of the weekend’s best open-play shot attempts which did not quite live up to expectations. We break down the GIFs through the lense of our expected goal model and discuss each one evaluating the results, and  also the process.

This week,  LET’S GET TO IT!

5. Carlos Vela, 47th minute, LAFC
Pass from: Christian Ramirez
Keeper: Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders
Expected goal value: .334
Shot Distance: 15 yards
Body Part: Left foot

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Stefan Frei takes this shot right at point blank and aside from that kind of humorous moment there isn’t much to take away from this play. You might question why Carlos Vela didn’t try to chip Frei but the keepers’ length and reaction is so good that it makes sense Vela would just try to force Frei into making a save of some kind.

Also, that pass from Christian Ramirez is lights out great. Delicious even.

Since we’re here, I think it’s important to call attention to something which caught my attention earlier this week. I’ve been bonkers over Vela since he came in to this league. I’m probably not alone and it’s a huge coup that Bob Bradley and LAFC figured out a way to pull it off.

This year Vela has cranked everything up to 11 and taking opportunities at goal from open play like we’ve haven’t seen since... well, last year and Josef Martinez. But that isn’t to diminish what he’s doing it. What Martinez did was really special and for another player of this quality to be doing it, it’s something to take notice.

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But then, you look at how Carlos Vela is also providing other members of his team and he’s helping create shots, it’s above what Almiron was doing last year for Atlanta over his first nine games.


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Vela right now is playing both parts of Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron who were equally brilliant last year for Atlanta. Add in an “oh, yeah, he has an awesome team too” and you have an easy recipe for record paces and potential trophy grab storylines. If you get a chance to watch Vela and LAFC this year, do it. Take every chance either via ESPN+, Youtube, in person, whatever.

4. Corey Baird, 47th Minute, Real Salt Lake
Pass from: N/A
Keeper: Spencer Richey, Cincinnati FC
Expected goal value: .356
Shot Distance: 9 yards
Body Part: Right Foot

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This counter attack is great. Corey Baird doesn’t take the easy route either, he gets on the ball and forces himself inside on Alvas Powell. As soon as Baird is on the ball on the inside of powell he sees the moment he needs, waits on it and delivers it to Albert Rusnak.

Everything else is kind of downhill, the cleat first dive by Sam Johnson to finally put the goal home for RSL notwithstanding.

Rusnak absolutely takes too long, loses his opportunity for a shot and it kind of blows me away. He doesn’t even look like he wants it. Rusnak is then forced to cut it back to Damir Kreilach who now has a much worse shot. His quick fire forces dive from Spencer and block from Nick Hagglund which then spins the ball back out to Baird. Baird connects with it and puts the shot on frame but also right where Alvas Powell is standing.

I’m sure there is someone saying he should have take it better or he should have done “x with his body”. Overall I don’t realistically see how you could ask Baird to take a better shot. It was a difficult approach, he hit the ball pretty square and put it on frame. After that, everything is pure icing.

As I mentioned at the end of the clip you have Sam Johnson diving in and putting the ball in the back of the net so it ends all happy, unless you’re a Cincinnati FC fan. Then it probably ends in a bit of a nightmare.

A quick post script on this place; I mentioned on the podcast this week that I’m not a huge fan of RSL’s attack, which is saying something a week after they scored three goals. It sounds kind of like something a dumb person would say.

But hear me out: Rusnak is the only player they have which makes the top-50 in xG+xA from open play (2.1). Kreilach, Sam Johnson and Jefferson Savarino all check in the top-75 with 1.5 with Corey Baird finishing 93rd (1.2 xG+xA). The team has the second lowest cumulative xG For in the league and I don’t see that changing widly any time soon.

Yes, Sam Johnson is going to help and will grow more into his role over the season, but this is a team that is wildly inconsistent in creating chances from week to week and it’s time they figured out why. It’s only a matter of time before Sporting Kansas City gets out of their short lived funk, Portland hits the trail back home and Vancouver actually starts turning those last second losses into draws and the draws into wins. When that happens RSL isn’t going to retain that 7th seed much longer.

3. Jozy Altidore, 41st Minute, Toronto FC
Pass from: Richie Laryea
Keeper: Vito Mannone
Expected goal value: .374
Shot Distance: 8 yards
Body Part: Right Foot

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I really love how Michael Bradley starts this play off. His head is on a swivel and almost calculating the best and most optimal route to goal. There are days that I love him and there are days I just am so exhaustively frustrated by him. But on Friday there were moments like this reminding how good he can be in possession.

He makes a solid pass to Richie Laryea making a run into open space who in turns cycles a pass to new TFC star Alejandro Pozuelo for a bit of a give-n-go. Laryea is given enough of a start just to run onto the ball while Rasmus Schuller gets caught ever so slightly ball watching Poz. Schuller’s tackle is terribly mistimed and Laryea has a moment to recover and adapts his path with a nice bit of technique.

Laryea’s pass to Jozy Altidore is basically sent over on a golden platter, not to mention it looks much closer than the 8 yards we gave it. But Jozy somehow skies over the top of the goal bar in a kind of a terribly amazing moment.

Forget about the finish by Altidore, Toronto is picking up steam and doing so with games in hand. Their points per game (2.17) leads all teams in conference and with the cumulative failings of those teams out east, it seems primed for the taking.

2. Krisztian Nemeth, 74th Minute, Sporting Kansas City
Pass from: Kelyn Rowe
Keeper: Daniel Vega
Expected goal value: .509
Shot Distance: 8 yards
Body Part: Right Foot

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Kelyn Rowe opens this play with a wonderful bit of skill. He can’t beat his defender down the sideline so instead he does the next best thing and he finds a way to give himself space to create an opportunity.

Now, I don’t condone his pass selection he had a couple of immediate opportunities to combine and create space down that flank to create a better chance than lumping a cross in, but I can understand this decision being down by three on the road in the 74th minute. He was just trying to create something. Anything. I’ll let that go.

Krisztian Nemeth’s movement though in getting to this ball. Just getting to the ball itself was phenomenal and then he had the opportunity to challenge Daniel Vega who, as we saw last week, has a propensity for dropping shots. It’s all really very good stuff.

Don’t be down on SKC, they won’t stay down too long.

1. Josef Martinez, 87th minute, Atlanta United FC
Pass from: Gonzalo Martinez
Keeper: Jose Luis Gonzalez, FC Dallas
Expected goal value: .588
Shot Distance: 9 yards
Body Part: Left Foot






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Josef Martinez hasn’t spent a lot of time on this column except in moments for me to talk about how good he is or the fact that you can’t continue to lean on his penalties. He’s here on the end of the pass, breaking through the defense on an extremely sneaky run.

When he chests the ball down it kind of got a bit further away from Martinez. You can see he kind of has to shuffle his feet up a bit to strike the ball with the foot he wants, but the space was there for him to put it past Jose Gonzalez on his right side. He just doesn’t get it right. Sometimes that happens.

I’m just going to throw a paragraph out here, because I know my friend Ian is going to comment about it later. Gonzalez ‘Pity’ Martinez has taken it on the chin quite a bit since arriving to MLS but this past he sends is brilliant. He gets on the ball, picks up his head, looks to almost nod at Martinez and then sends him through with a near perfect pass to unlock a really good Dallas defense.

Martinez has missed a few early games and as all of 251 minutes on the pitch so far. But if you were to filter down to 251 minutes, Pity would lead the league in expected assists per96 on the ASA Leaderboards. He’s very likely going to be good over the course of a full season.

ONE TO GROW ON!

Pedro Santos, 69th (!) minute, Columbus Crew
Pass from: N/A
Keeper: Jeff Attinella, Portland Timbers
Expected goal value: .015
Shot distance: 38 yards
Body Part: Left foot

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38 yards! THIRTY EIGHT YARDS AWAY.

This is just such an amazing strike and you can see it has to be on point otherwise either Larrys Mabiala or Attinella get back and prevent the opportunity from being a goal. The ball just slices across the front post with such lethal precision that all you can do is tip your hat to the guy.

I love Jeff Attinella and he’s made this list twice in the three columns so far this year, but despite the occasional howlers, I contend he’s still a pretty good keeper. A bad pass sets the whole play up. It looks like he’s trying to hit Sebastian Blanco to launch a counter attack and Santos jumps the pass. I’m not sure if Attinella can’t see him because Santos is ghosting Zarek Valentin a bit or if Attinella just mishits the ball.

Can I also mention, if it’s not completely sacrilegious, how close Santos was to completely missing this shot. Part of the beauty is that he had to hit this perfectly. Yet, every time I watch it from the back replay angle I swear it’s going to hit the post.

Whatever the reason, it’s good to see the Columbus managed to score a goal this week. Because as good as they’ve been (their defense is in all seriousness really good), the results they’ve gotten are not due to their attack, but in spite of it.

Columbus has new leadership from top to bottom and with them assured of staying in Columbus and the Eastern Conference just having a complete meltdown, now is the time to strike for this club.  They don’t have designated player money like many clubs do, so they have to be a bit more fiscally conservative, but there are options out there and if they want to take a serious run at MLS Cup in 2019, They need to make a move to import a difference maker in the attack and do it sooner rather than later.

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

ShooterTeamShotsDistanceAvailabilityxG
Carlos VelaLAFC819.75.931.52
Danny HoesenSJE310.85.451.2
Jordan HamiltonTOR28.26.551.14
Josef MartinezATL311.386.970.88
Zlatan IbrahimovicLAG512.914.920.87
C.J. SapongCHI13.713.460.77
Sam JohnsonRSL14.614.910.72
Angelo RodriguezMIN518.256.910.66
Krisztian NemethSKC318.085.070.65
Djordje MihailovicCHI14.873.590.64