Lowered Expectations: Superman, Super miss? / by Harrison Crow

by Harrison Crow (@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 lens of our expected goal model and discuss each one evaluating both the results and the process.

This week,  LET’S GET TO IT!

5. Christian Ramirez, 72nd minute, LAFC
Pass from: Diego Rossi
Keeper: Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders
Expected goal value: .439
Shot Distance: 5 yards
Body Part: Right foot

THE MISS.

Oh wait--not that miss, not yet. It’s just another miss.

But let’s talk our first flying ninja kick of the year!

Christian Ramirez’s positioning is really good in this clip, which isn’t unusual for him. He waits for the cross to come from Diego Rossi and sits just in front of Kim Kee-Hee, his defender. He holds his run just for a moment as Rossi moves towards the ball and then starts moving behind Kee-Hee as Rossi connects with the ball. Kee-Hee is left standing a bit flat-footed and ball watching.

The flying ninja kick is a result of Ramirez just trying to get to it and redirect it on frame by any means necessary. He manages to get a foot on the ball but there is no way he’s putting that on frame a universe which adheres to Newton’s second law of motion. He can take the value of the shot home with him as a nod to the bit of work he did to create a high leverage shot, but a ball from that pass isn’t going anywhere else but out bounds unfortunately.

I don’t mean to come down on Rossi. He identifies the situation pretty quickly and obviously has very astute vision of what he should do given the situation, but he’s just unable to execute the cross this time around.

As the cross is launched there are really only four real outcomes possible here as a result of the play made by Rossi. He helps create a shot, the ball is headed away, they get a corner kick or the opposition gets a goal kick.

But Rossi almost seems to purposefully over kick this as to eliminate one of those four possibilities as the ball now cannot be headed and cleared away. There is no one but Ramirez who is getting to that ball. Unfortunately, all that Ramirez can do is try to direct it towards the general direction of the goal.

4. Ayo Akinola, 81st Minute, Toronto FC
Pass from: Alejandro Pozuelo
Keeper: Steve Clark, Portland Timbers
Expected goal value: .503
Shot Distance: 6 yards
Body Part: Right Foot

xGAkinola.gif

This isn’t quite another ‘ninja kick’ but it’s the pretty close so let’s just give Ayo Akinola an honorary jacket for joining the club.

I like pointing out ninja kicks because their mostly frivolous and while they add a bit of pizazz to the play they also rarely help in shooting the ball or scoring a goal. This, however, had real potential to be a goal if things had worked our a half yard differently here or there.

Akinola puts everything in to this, and it’s actually quite stunning he gets anything on frame at all. If he’s another half pace in front and he can lower his foot, and the angle as a result, this is an absolute banger of a goal.

Let’s not leave Alejandro Pozuelo in the cold on this one. His footwork and technique to create space on the ball and then drop a dime behind the line, into open space, and in front of goal is simply brilliant.

3. Adrien Perez, 79th Minute, LAFC
Pass from: Mohamed El-Munir
Keeper: Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders
Expected goal value: .570
Shot Distance: 6 yards
Body Part: Left Foot

xGPerez.gif

Here we have Mohamed El-Munir running along, getting on the end of passes, and delivering a kill one touch cross into the middle of the box. The pass is ripe for the taking, and that’s exactly what Roman Torres does.

Adrien Perez half dive there at the end makes me question whether he actually got any of the ball from this angle, but his movement is good enough that I’m glad he gets some credit within expected goals as a takeaway for his effort.

The real champion of this play, is Torres, who recognizes the separation Perez gets from Kelvin Leerdam, sees the development of the play, and knows exactly where to go. This is stunning because--well, as you may suspect he’s A) not a person that’s “always in the moment” and B) not necessarily known for making darting 3 yard runs. But he does here and good on him.

Torres is starting to reach the point where his shortcomings are a bit glaring and it’s nice to see him come up big in moments like these to remind us he’s still a capable defender.

2. Christian Ramirez, 48th Minute, LAFC
Pass from: Latif Blessing
Keeper: Stefan Frei, Seattle Sounders
Expected goal value: .772
Shot Distance: 3 yards
Body Part: Left Foot

xGRamirez1.gif

I think this miss has been talked about enough and there isn’t much that I can really add to the conversation except this:

Since coming into MLS with Minnesota we can break down Ramirez’s shooting habits pretty easily. He’s taken 81 of his 115 shots with his right foot. Ramirez attempted to score on this play with his less dominant foot. It’s kind of impressive because you don’t even notice it. He does it because instinctually he knows that using his left gives him an extra fraction of a second of time. This is a thing good goal scorers do naturally.

I’ve yet to see anyone criticize his slide or the placement of his foot. His technique was all very good. His run on the ball was also very good. There isn’t anything in this that you can say “freeze frame, he should have done that different”.

That doesn’t do a whole lot for people sitting in the stands, at home, or on social media saying “how does he miss?” Misses happen, it seems hard to believe but 22% of the time this isn’t a goal.

Sometimes it isn’t a goal because the individual missed the shot, it was blocked, saved by the keeper or even went off the post. Why it comes about is all spectacular drama, even more so in an even game state.

Chaos knows no bounds.

This led to an interesting question posed by our friend, Jamon Moore. Does the value which the model provides give it ample weight? Should this be an example of a situation where we all say “how does he miss?” and in turn increase its value as result of the circumstance?

One of the reasons we enjoy situations like these, is that they stir conversation about how we can better ourselves and our model.

Also, I’d like to point out who I was right about something.

1. Gerso, 72nd minute, Sporting Kansas City
Pass from: N/A
Keeper: Cody Cropper, New England Revolution
Expected goal value: .965
Shot Distance: 1 yard
Body Part: Left Foot/Leg/Body/Everything

As soon as  the Christian Ramirez chance occurred, I began rifling through our dataset which goes back to 2011. I looked for any and all shots from open play which received a better than a designed .80 value assigned.

There are, surprisingly enough, a good amount of those shots. Even narrowing it to .90 shots there were a total of nine just last season. Seven became goals, one a blocked shot and the other was saved by Brian Rowe. So far this year we have two.

Often, we get caught up in these “big chance” moments - and understandably so - they are, after all, incredibly exciting. It’s unfortunate though, that when the chance goes wanting we’re left with our hands behind our head, our face a mask of incredulity. We’re left to rue the lost opportunity, and forget all of the good work that made the moment even possible.

Yes, it is astounding the ball managed to stay out of the goal and Cody Cropper deserves a ton of credit here for sacrificing every part of his body in his wild and chaotic attempts to prevent it. Let’s not forget some excellent work however from Graham Zusi, who decides to quickly take a throw in, and uses the space available to deliver an excellent ball to Nemeth. Still, Nemeth’s job is hardly a simple one. He has to create space from his marker and wrap his foot all the way around a ball moving at a not insignificant pace and direct it on frame. More credit still to Gerso, who reacts unbelievably fast to the loose ball and cannot be faulted for a lack of effort in trying to propel it over the line to equalize late in the match.

This one will just go down as a miss, but given that it resulted in Gerso needing surgery on a broken wrist, and would have ultimately been the difference between the eventual one point SKC received and three that they may have, it seems like a moment that’s worth crystalizing as SKC continue their campaign.

ONE TO GROW ON!

Pass from: N/A
Keeper: Maxime Crepeau, Vancouver Whitecaps
Expected goal value: .055
Shot distance: 21 yards
Body Part: Right foot

The shot was valued at 0.055 but it’s not what I would call a “bad” shot. I don’t really believe we can watch the play and even call it a low leverage shot. I think it’s kind of similar, though not completely, to that of Damian Lillard’s 35-foot shot which helped the Portland Trail Blazers dispatch the Zombie Sonics in the NBA Playoffs..

The defender on the play, Paul George, called the shot a attempt a “bad shot”. I suppose if you were to look at where shots are taken and their statistical outcomes from average shooters that might be true. Lillard isn’t an average shooter though, and the data would suggest that for shooters of his quality, the location of his series winning shot was actually a really good spot from which to launch it.

There are always circumstances which affect the data and contribute to its narrative. It’s those such contributions that we have to cognizant of when we look at expected values and compare what happened in the result.

An example is how there was almost no defensive pressure able to be applied to Kacper Przybylko as he carries the ball into the 18. Secondly, without any additional pressure. Max Crepeau had to cheat towards his near post and try and force Przybylko into using his less favored left foot to hit the far side of the goal. Unfortunately for the Canadian keeper, Przybylko’s angle of entry and Crepeau’s positioning left too much of the right side of the goal mouth open and gave the Polish striker arguably a bigger window with which to score than make a mistake.

Most of the time when a shot from this location is taken with the right foot, it’s up off the ground, skied and curling through traffic aimed at the upper ninety of the back post. Prybylko didn’t have to try any shenanigans here. He just popped a shot as though it was warm ups. He kicked it hard and low, and that gave Crepeau little to no recourse.

BUT WHAT ABOUT DOM DWYER?!?

Dom Dwyer, 68th minute, Orlando City
Pass from: Ruan
Keeper: Sean Johnson, New York City
Expected goal value: .325
Shot distance: 6 yards
Body Part: Head

I was asked about this miss by Dom Dwyer on twitter by one of our cool new ASA guys, Anay Patel (who b-t-dubs, does awesome weekly MLS visuals. If you’re not following him, you’re in the wrong--go follow him now) when I mentioned Christian Ramirez miss wasn’t number one on this weeks list.

However, when looking at the value associated, to the surprise of others (and myself), the shot was only worth .325. If you’re curious about where it falls on the weekly shot-xg-richter scale it places 24th in total value from open play this weekend, and 11th in shots which didn’t result as a goal.

I mention this specific shot because I think it’s important to talk about why it only came in at .325 compared to some of the other shots which were taken from further away but accrued higher value despite the distance.

Dwyer is placed at six yards away from the center mouth of goal. He is just inside the box but somewhere between the middle and far post which pushes the distance just a smidge. The distance and location matters but the next part is most important aspect, Dwyer heads the ball.

If I wanted I could fill this article with nothing but missed headers inside the six yard box week after week. But likely you’d hate it, grow old hating crosses, then hate me and never want to read my stuff again.. Point is headers are extremely difficult to get on frame.

Consider this; you’re not only trying to angle your head in the direction to which you want the ball to fly from you but at a professional level you’re also having to also adjust for the speed, rotation and angle (not to mention wind in some cases) from whomever you are receiving said cross or pass.

You might be able to do it in pick up games or at the park with your youth team but doing in a professional setting is different and the numbers bear that out.

An example of this difficulty is the fact that we’ve had 156 open play shots come off the head with 55% (87 in total, just to be precise) which have either missed entirely, hit the post, or been blocked by an oncoming defender prior to making the target. Just getting a shot on frame and forcing the keeper into a save is hard enough business in and of itself.

Of those 156 total shots only 25 have been converted into goals. These are all shots that, I think, we could agree are mostly from pretty good locations. Which just goes to help emphasize my point. Now stop calling Dwyer names on the internet and go watch more of his instagram posts of his child running to met him in the airport. They’re darling.

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

shooter ShotsDistanceAvailabilityxG
Carlos VelaLAFC516.265.891.51
Christian RamirezLAFC37.963.71.36
Shea SalinasSJE412.314.811.15
Angelo RodriguezMIN513.856.151.08
Juan Fernando CaicedoNER27.736.641
GersoSKC11.755.560.97
Juan AgudeloNER418.395.990.86
Mauro ManotasHOU416.37.340.79
Julian GresselATL28.385.610.7
Zlatan IbrahimovicLAG418.775.920.66