Harrison Crow

Weekend Kickoff: The Return to League Play by Harrison Crow

There are a lot of crazy things going on this week. Forget all the hype and insanity that has taken center stage around the Cascadia Open Cup match-up. After losing to the Cosmos in the USOC this week, NYCFC continues to look bad and perform terrible. Philadelphia somehow staved off a very tenacious Rochester Raging Rhinos club that had upset written all over it. Charlotte Independence found a way to be the first USL Pro team to knock off a MLS club in the tournament and lastly Orlando beat former USL foe Charleston that went to penalty kicks (Danny Mwanga!).

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ASA Spring MLS Top-50 Rankings: Final Thoughts by Harrison Crow

by Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)

If you haven't yet, check out the top 50 MLS player rankings that we released last week.

The initial conversation that took place when we entered the planning stages for this project had us talking about a top-100. Looking back, that maybe would have lead to a lot less scrutiny. What's the saying: "aim small, miss small?" Had we posted a top-20 more comments and frustration would be directed to those that were included than those left out. I think 50 has been a good mark and I think that's what we're going to stay with.

One the biggest things that has been hardest to discern in this endeavor is what type of value one position has in relation to others. I think we can all agree that attackers have most of our attention, the problem that most of us have is determining at what point does the value of an attack diminish that a defender or goalkeeper becomes just as valuable? Obviously that answer isn't necessarily spelled out in this project but it's something that each of us that had to consider with our vote.

Beyond the existential questions that come with this sort of thing there are some interesting correlations and general observances that come too. Let's talk about some of these things.

POSITIONAL REPRESENTATION

While we talked about strikers being highly valued (six of 14 finished in the top-10) there were more midfielders included in total. However, you have to consider there are twice as many midfielders on the pitch taking up minutes.

Looking on the defensive side you have Omar Gonzalez finishing 15th as the top defender in the pool and Bill Hamid finished with top honors at 16th overall for keepers.

However, an interesting note is that Chris Tierney made the list (barely) while ranking fourth overall in expected assists while teammate Kelyn Rowe who is having a big season thus far and siting 20th overall in xG+xA.

TEAMS REPRESENTATION

The biggest take away from this is that no longer can MLS teams have a player or the top 2-3 players and dominate. DC United, while agonizingly frustrating to understand,* exist as a cohesive and effective compilation of talent. Sporting has five players voted in the top-50 and yet sit mid table. In other words, having the best players doesn't translate to having the best team.

Teams need depth and more specifically quality depth. The chart above is another example of why managing your budget and not just counting on landing quality designated players is so very important.

* Check back here tomorrow for more on how DC United consistently "beat" the model.

Weekend Kick-off: Chicago Tries to Burn down City and the return of the Watchability Scale by Harrison Crow

by Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)

Tonight our soccer weekend is treated to a special showcasing of New York City and Chicago Fire with two great American midfielders battling head-to-head. Yep, you guessed it; Dax McCarty v. Ned Grabavoy. Still a better and more pay-per-view worthy showcase than Mayweather vs Pacquiao. Still I will guess there will be at least two shoving altercations between the two in the match and that'll be something special.

Chicago went from being a team that you didn't know if they would win any games two months ago to questioning your sanity with if they could be contending for a playoff spot. I've said it once before and I'll say it again in a more cunning way; the Chicago Fire will go as far as their bleeding gunshot victim defense will allow them to go. It's not that they're bad so much as it's just that they're not good. They don't have one person on the defense that can stand up in the last few moments of a match and be the the difference maker. The whole time the Fire are leading you're not wondering if they can keep the lead but if they can score again to win the game... despite already leading. It's exciting and awful all at the same time, kind of like eating one of those 2,500 calorie burgers that you know are going to blow up your heart or clog your arteries. At least you'll enjoy the moments leading right before death.

New York City is kind of like that, only much worse. Much, much, worse. How much worse? They're a 2,500 calorie burger you're trying to eat in under five minute for a t-shirt" worse. A LOUSY T-SHIRT! Adam Richtman nearly died and we're still doing this. WAKE UP, SHEEPLE.

I suppose you could be a nihilist and point to the fact that NYC keeps possession of the ball. Heck, they rank second for possession. But as you might have figured out possession means squat. Oh, don't come at me with this whole Manchester United and Barcelona are good teams playing attractive soccer argument; for every one of those teams there is an equally beautiful team losing.

New York City attempts to play entertaining soccer, but they don't do it well. Whether that fault lies with Mix Diskerud, David Villa or someone else, on the pitch the bottom line lands just south of "it hasn't all clicked". I have a very rough guess of where things stem from but I don't think it'll be very welcomed. (This is where I share them regardless of if they are welcomed or not) I personally believe that some of this has to be laid at the feet of Diskerud. Not because of who he is or what he was supposed to be to this team, but the fact that his team holds the majority of it's possession in the midfield and he leads his club in touch% with 12.4%.

NYC hasn't used a lot of long passes (14th in MLS), thriving instead on short passes connecting the defense to the attack through a type of tiki-taka style possession intended to open up and expose their opponent's defensive shortcomings. Unfortunately for them, this has led to the most turnovers in MLS, most often occurring in the midfield, explaining why they have one of the highest expected goal differentials in MLS, sitting in the negative (because teams counter attack them to death). Yes, Chicago aren't a team that is traditionally going to punish you quick on the counter, but they have some pieces that could do it. Please wave high, David Accam. *David waves hello*

FANTASY PERSPECTIVE

CHICAGO FIRE

Harry Shipp (24.3% Selected, $7.9 Cost)

Shipp is possibly the most exciting player to emerge from MLS into the US pool in the past few years. It's not just that he plays a position that has some questions surrounding it in the coming future. He's unique in his approach and shows creativity, a skill that is specifically lacking within the depth.

Lovel Palmer (11.1% Selected, $5.8 Cost)

Make all the jokes you want about Palmer and his propensity for launching shots from 30-40 yards out like he was Morten 'Great Dane' Andersen running around with one bar on a football helmet.  But he doesn't cost much and his return on investment from is actually pretty good because... well, Chicago has no full back depth.

NEW YORK CITY

David Villa (12.1% Selected, $10.3 Cost)

If we've learned much to this point about New York City it's that the attack begins and ends with David Villa. The cost is steep but if he plays the payoff should be worth it. The question most will have to consider is the how Villa's health will continue to hold up.

Mix Diskerud (8.8% Selected, $9.1 Cost)

A good amount of people keep spending the money on Disk and I don't know why. Look, Mix is a good soccer player--he even came in 21st in our MLS Top-50 this week--but he's not a great fantasy player because what he is good at doesn't translates to most numbers that are of value in MLS fantasy. He's 39th overall in total points for MIDFIELDERS. Just not what I'd call a good buy.

THE WATCHABILITY SCORE

The Watchability score is back, get excited!

We're back at it and just right off the top you'll see the score really likes NYC-CHI Friday night. This is largely due to NYC being considered the most watchable team in MLS right now. It's also to do with the fact that both teams create shots, don't turn the ball over too often, and don't often foul or get fouled.

WS = Watchability Score, xGD Even = Expected goal differential in even game states

WS = Watchability Score, xGD Even = Expected goal differential in even game states

Looking ahead to Saturday, Houston and Portland looks to be a good game likely due to the amount of pretty ball handling and x`the likelihood for a close score line. Sporting and Colorado could be fun too (which is interesting considering one team takes tons of shots and another team prevents very few shots) and Sunday's Philadelphia and DC game might surprise you too because MLS!

Interestingly enough, the model isn't keen on two top of the standings teams facing off in Frisco with Dallas and Red Bull prepared to exchange blows. The model surprisingly projects this match to be one of the least interesting match-ups this weekend. This could be to the overwhelming amount of fouls that Dallas is apt to provide while also being apt to allow their opponent the lions share of possession against a team from Harrison, New Jersey that wants all the possession. This model might actually be onto something. The other is followed the next day by two bottom of the table teams in Montreal and Real Salt Lake.

THE WEEKEND MATCH-UPS

(expected goal differential in even game-states)

FRIDAY

New York City (-0.62) AT Chicago Fire (0.11)
Prediction: I'll take Chicago

New York Red Bulls (-0.02) AT FC Dallas (0.31)
Prediction: Surprisingly enough, I'll take Red Bulls. I'll admit that's because of BWP and my blossoming man-crush.

SATURDAY

Real Salt Lake (-0.69) AT Montreal Impact (-0.10)
Prediction: Montreal, I guess.

Seattle Sounders (0.39) AT Vancouver Whitecaps (0.15)
Prediction: I call a Draw. Bring it on Canada. I'm prepared to be wrong and considered bias. I just think Vancouver is falling back to earth.

Toronto FC (0.19) AT New England Revolution (0.35)
Prediction: Draw. Leave TFC alone!

Portland Timbers (0.03) AT Houston Dynamo (0.03)
Prediction: Draw...because somewhere there is a joke. Yes?

Columbus Crew SC (0.42) AT San Jose (-0.22)
Prediction: I'll say Columbus here but I'm 100% prepared for San Jose to do something ridiculous.

SUNDAY

LA Galaxy (-0.20) AT Orlando City (-0.05)
Prediction: Orlando City, if only because we'll get more stories about Steven Gerrard retiring to MLS and LA being in trouble.

DC United (-0.38) AT Philadelphia Union (-0.42)
Prediction: Philly, because you know what--they deserve something special damn it. I love you Jared, have a good weekend!

 

NERD IMAGERY


Because New York City is basically the sports embodiment of Britta Perry. It's true. Sad, but still true. Call me when Jason Kries gets desperate enough to start Patrick Mullins every match.

 

 

ASA Spring MLS Top-50 Rankings: 10-1 by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Monday, I introduced the who, what, where and why of this ranking, which was culled from the ballots of team front office personnel, MLS players, journalists, league analysts and other MLS experts. I'm sure there are going to be some disagreements, so hit us up on twitter or leave a comment below.

Check back later in the week for the rest of the rankings:
Monday: 50 through 41
Tuesday: 40 through 31
Wednesday: 30 through 21
Thursday: 20 through 11
Friday: 10 through 1

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ExpG: Expected Goals according to our player rankings
ExpA: Expected Assists
ExpSaves: Expected Goals Against minus Actual Goals Against according to our goalkeeper rankings.
Touch%: Percent of team's touches while on the field
TxGp90: Total Expected Goals per 90 minutes
Shots Created: Shots plus Key Passes

10. Fabian Castillo - Midfielder, FC Dallas
Total Score: 631

9. Michael Bradley - Midfielder, Toronto FC
Total Score: 632

8. Jozy Altidore - Forward, Toronto FC
Total Score: 640

7. Octavio Rivero - Forward, Vancouver Whitecaps
Total Score: 648

6. David Villa - Forward, New York City
Total Score: 703

5. Robbie Keane - Forward, LA Galaxy
Total Score: 719

4. Sebastian Giovinco - Forward, Toronto FC
Total Score: 848

3. Clint Dempsey - Forward, Seattle Sounders FC
Total Score: 907

2. Obafemi Martins - Forward, Seattle Sounders FC
Total Score: 918

1. Kaka - Forward, Orlando City SC
Total Score: 925

ASA Spring MLS Top-50 Ranking: 20-11 by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Monday, I introduced the who, what, where and why of this ranking, which was culled from the ballots of team front office personnel, MLS players, journalists, league analysts and other MLS experts. I'm sure there are going to be some disagreements, so hit us up on twitter or leave a comment below.

Check back later in the week for the rest of the rankings:
Monday: 50 through 41
Tuesday: 40 through 31
Wednesday: 30 through 21
Thursday: 20 through 11
Friday: 10 through 1

----------------------

ExpG: Expected Goals according to our player rankings
ExpA: Expected Assists
ExpSaves: Expected Goals Against minus Actual Goals Against according to our goalkeeper rankings.
Touch%: Percent of team's touches while on the field
TxGp90: Total Expected Goals per 90 minutes
Shots Created: Shots plus Key Passes

20. Dom Dwyer - Forward, Sporting KC
Total Score: 438

19. Kei Kamara - Forward, Columbus Crew
Total Score: 493

18. Harry Shipp - Midfielder, Chicago Fire
Total Score: 525

17. Darlington Nagbe - Midfielder, Portland Timbers
Total Score: 583

16. Bill Hamid - Goalkeeper, DC United
Total Score: 589

15. Omar Gonzalez - Defender, LA Galaxy
Total Score: 594

14. Pedro Morales - Midfielder, Vancouver Whitecaps
Total Score: 594

13. Federico Higuian - Midfielder, Columbus Crew
Total Score: 602

12. Bradley Wright-Phillips - Forward, New York Red Bulls
Total Score: 606

11. Benny Feilhaber - Midfielder, Sporting KC
Total Score: 624


ASA Spring MLS Top-50 Ranking: 40-31 by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Yesterday, I introduced the who, what, where and why of this ranking, which was culled from the ballots of team front office personnel, MLS players, journalists, league analysts and other MLS experts. I'm sure there are going to be some disagreements, so hit us up on twitter or leave a comment below.

Check back later in the week for the rest of the rankings:
Monday: 50 through 41
Tuesday: 40 through 31
Wednesday: 30 through 21
Thursday: 20 through 11
Friday: 10 through 1

----------------------

ExpG: Expected Goals according to our player rankings
ExpA: Expected Assists
ExpSaves: Expected Goals Against minus Actual Goals Against according to our goalkeeper rankings.
Touch%: Percent of team's touches while on the field
TxGp90: Total Expected Goals per 90 minutes
Shots Created: Shots + Key Passes

40. Wil Trapp - Midfielder, Columbus Crew
Total Score: 228

39. Ignacio Piatti - Midfielder, Montreal Impact
Total Score: 243

39.png

38. Perry Kitchen - Midfielder, DC United
Total Score: 250

38.png

 

37. Graham Zusi - Midfielder, Sporting KC
Total Score: 253

37.png

36. Blas Perez - Forward, FC Dallas
Total Score: 279

36.jpg

35. Dillon Powers - Midfielder, Colorado Rapids
Total Score: 285

35.jpg

34. Matias Laba - Midfielder, Vancouver Whitecaps
Total Score: 293

34.jpg

33. Chad Marshall - Defender, Seattle Sounders
Total Score: 312

32.  Osvaldo Alonso - Midfielder, Seattle Sounders
Total Score: 316

31. Ike Opara - Defender, Sporting KC
Total Score: 327


The Weekend Kick-off: Orlando City Are Good, New England Is (Probably) Better by Harrison Crow

by Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)

I'm not sure that many of us knew what to make of Orlando City prior to this season. Sure, they spent some money and got some interesting talents but that doesn't always translate to something or even anything, ask Toronto.  But Kaka has turned out to be maybe the best player in Major League Soccer, Aurélien Collin is still a very good defender and it turns out that Kevin Molino (before ripping his ACL in half) was an above average MLS winger.

Right now, Orlando City looks like a potential playoff team. The big difference between them and, say, the LA Galaxy who are actually sitting in a playoff position is Orlando's horrible home record. Which is all kinds of crazy considering they're sitting second in home attendence with over 39,000.

You have to think that if they can unearth a striker--or maybe just borrow some of Phil Rawlings millions to buy one--who can take advantage of all the chances that Ricardo creates, Orlando may just be a formidable team come the end of this season. Also there is a chance that I might have "borrowed" bath salts from Rafael Ramos.

New England is picking right up where they left off last season. But this time they're doing it in a bit more sustainable fashion. Currently the Red, White and Blue are posting great expected goal numbers in both zero-gamestate situations and overall.

Lee Nguyen isn't overperforming his expected goal numbers astronomically like he did last season, but the Revs don't need him to do that this go-round. Kelyn Rowe is having a break out season, Chris Tierney stepping up to create goal scoring opportunities and Juan Agudelo (who is 3rd in expected goals) is everything they needed him to be last year to be when he went on his sabbatical to the Netherlands, driving a camper between Utrecht and various Scottish cities along the border of England with the hope some magic gate would open to... Stoke (I might have vomitted in my mouth a bit typing that).

New England has seen a once mighty generation come and go with little-to-nothing to show for it. This time around their window is open with the pieces needed to start to fill that trophy case that sits right next to the case of deflated balls that Tom Brady (the greatest of all time! I lost a bet. Don't ask.) has attempted to hide.

The real question is will they be able to keep their expected goals against so low? Don't misunderstand me; it's not as if we're really expecting regression with opposing clubs and their scoring rates. New England is still sitting in the middle of the pack, but considering how horrible they were last year (in the bottom third) and with losing perhaps their top defender... it's just a head-scratcher that they've improved in this manner. I'm going to chalk it up to Jay Heaps and his transition from the Just for Men to Just for Men Touch of Gray.

On a positive note, the team appears set to bring in local boy Will Packwood from Birmingham, England on a discovery claim (assuming they do have sole custody of his rights) which should help supplement a defense that at times has looked unsettled and needing some... well something better. Let's just see how this plays out, Cotton.

Prediction: I'm going with New England on the road with the win.

FANTASY PERSPECTIVE

ORLANDO CITY

Kaka (20.6% Selected, $11.4 Cost)

Ugh, the guy is the best player in the league. The best. Forget what he costs. Best. Player.

Rafael Ramos (12.2% Selected, $5.2 Cost)

So long as you're fine with the unmedicated outbursts that result in red cards from time to time burning your fantasy club to the ground, I'm sure you'll get along fine.

NEW ENGLAND

Bobby Shuttleworth (6.1% Selected, $5.6 Cost)
I think it's funny how much I get bent out of shape about the disparity between the cost of keepers and their points versus any other position. Most people look at Shuttleworth and think "5.6, WHOA, not made of money here" but really considering what any keeper provides versus their costs. There seems to be one right answer.

Lee Nguyen (4.7% Selected, $11.1 Cost)

He's still really good. Probably not $11 good. But good enough to where it might draw a few suckers.

THE WEEKEND MATCH-UPS

(expected goal differential in even game-states)

FRIDAY

New England Revolution (0.43) @ Orlando City SC (0.06)
Predictions: NE

San Jose Quakes (-0.05) @ Colorado Rapids (-0.30)
Predictions: Draw?

SATURDAY

Real Salt Lake (-0.35) @ Chicago Fire (-0.28)
Predictions: Draw??

Portland Timbers (0.12) @ Montreal Impact (-0.10)
Predictions: Draw???

Sporting KC (0.71) @ DC United (-0.46)
Predictions: SCREW YOU, DCU... I'm going with SKC

Philadelphia Union (-0.26) @ Vancouver Whitecaps FC (-0.06)
Predictions: VAN

Seattle Sounders FC (0.88) @ Columbus Crew SC (0.23)
Predictions: Draw

LA Galaxy (0.06) @ FC Dallas (0.14)
Predictions: FCD

SUNDAY

Houston Dynamo (-0.14) @ Toronto FC (0.13)
Predictions: TFC

New York City (-0.48) @ New York Red Bulls (0.11)
Predictions: NYRB

 

NERD IMAGERY

I've been saving this for weeks...it's all for you, Toronto.