Andrea Pirlo

The Art of a Free Kick and How To Giovinco by Eliot McKinley

Sebastian Giovinco’s free kick prowess is well documented, but what if your team is not blessed with a formica atomica to bang in 13 direct free kick goals over the last 3 seasons? How do MLS teams score, or not, from free kicks?

From 2015-2017, 12,728 free kicks were taken in MLS play in the attacking half, resulting in 272 goals. Free kicks can be taken a number of ways, a direct shot on goal, a cross into the box, speculative long balls, through balls, or quick restarts, among others. The type of free kick restart is generally dictated by the position it is taken from. If a free kick is given close to goal, in the center of the field, a team will generally take a direct shot on goal (zone 14; 57.0% shots). Free kicks close to the goalline, but near the touchlines are most likely crosses (zones 13, 15, 16, 18; 57.1% crosses). Free kicks farther away from goal are almost always some other form of restart than a direct shot or cross (zones 10-12; 95.1%).

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NYCFC 2018 Season Preview by Jared Young

New York City FC had their best season ever in 2017. They finished second in the league with 57 points and sported a +13 goal differential. But NYCFC plateaued and was bounced from the playoffs by Columbus, which prompted a good deal of change this offseason. NYCFC declined options on eleven players, and also moved upcoming star Jack Harrison to Manchester City, much to Pep Guardiola’s surprise, er, I mean, excitement. But it’s safe to say that NYCFC upgraded their overall talent with some smart and exciting signings. The big question that remains; did Claudio Reyna and Patrick Vieira do enough?

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New York City FC 2017 Season Preview by Benjamin Bellman

After earning the club their first playoff appearance in year two, expectations continue to rise for NYCFC. Coach Patrick Vieira is seen as one of the best young coaches in MLS, and the team appears to have added even more talent in the offseason. Still, their superstars continue to age - can they still be relied on to carry the team in terms of workload and minutes in 2017?

2016 in review

Last year was a tale of two seasons for NYCFC. The first half was a continuation of the struggles of their inagural season, and NYC managed to earn only 18 points in their first 15 games. The nadir of that stretch was the now-famous 7-0 loss at home to their neighboring-state rivals. Skeptics began to question if Vieira would even last as long as his predecessor Jason Kreis did.

But that 7-0 humiliation was also the season debut for Frank Lampard, and his return (symbolic or not) coincided with dramatic improvement in form. Over the remaining 19 games of the season they averaged almost two points per game and went from being well out of the playoff race to finishing 2nd in the Eastern Conference. Lampard certainly added something to the midfield, as his 8.17 expected goals and assists were 2nd best on the team, despite his playing only 1342 minutes. With Lampard’s return, what had been a chaotic and inconsistent series of lineups from Vieira found some stability as the team’s form improved.

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NYCFC in 2016: Viera's New Style by Alex Brodsky

Following an underwhelming inaugural season under Jason Kreis, New York City FC’s ownership sought a dramatic change. They enlisted the help of Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira to oversee their team’s sophomore campaign. Opting for a foreign manager raised more than a few eyebrows among MLS media. The former French National Team captain has proved doubters wrong but still 2016 has been anything but smooth for NYCFC.

After New York City FC’s first game against the Chicago Fire, it appeared as though history may repeat itself. They edged out with a 4-3 victory but defensively they looked as shaky as in 2015. Since that game, however, Vieira has taken great strides. By implementing a unique style of build-up play Vieira has managed to maintain NYCFC’s strong attack while addressing their porous defense. New York City’s 1.56 xG against/game sits at 5th worst in the league but they’ve improved from 2015 by .26, the highest mark over that time. 

More after the jump.

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Only one MLS expansion team (Seattle in 2009) since the turn of the millennium has made the playoffs in their first season. Given the tumult that surrounded NYCFC’s existence prior to ever kicking a ball, it always seemed unlikely they would be the second. But expectations for Jason Kreis’ side were high, he didn't live up to them, and so he was dismissed. There have been numerous and significant changes going into the 2016 season, and there can be no question that a significant improvement is expected for the upcoming season. How realistic those expectations are is yet to be seen.

2015 in review

In my 2015 preview for NYCFC I began with a series of questions. The answers to those questions at the end of the season were supposed to determine whether the season was a success or not. As I said at the time, “success in 2015 is unlikely to be measured in team performance, but rather a series of more existential factors.” Let’s see if the answers to those questions give us insight into what happened to the club last season.

1. “Has the city of New York accepted the team?”

This seems to be a fairly resounding “yes.” The average attendance of 29,016 people per game was good for 3rd in the league, despite playing in a baseball stadium that is less than ideal for the beautiful game. Advantage NYCFC.

2. “Has the organization created a more stable front office?”

Conversely, this seems to be a fairly resounding “no.” Kreis went to Manchester to learn from from his superiors, was poised to bring his MLS Cup winning experience to the job, and had over a year to prepare his team and roster. Then he was given unrealistic expectations and was handed a team consisting mostly of cast-offs, misfits, geriatrics, and David Villa. While he certainly wasn’t blameless, he also was far from the only reason why his team didn’t work.

A big part of that is Kreis apparently didn’t have as much control as we (and maybe he) thought he did. We won’t re-hash the Lampard fiasco here, but it became apparent early that he was but the marionette puppet and the Abu Dhabian overlords were actually pulling the strings at NYCFC.* (To add insult to injury, Kreis is now forced to stare longingly on as an assistant to a coach he is far better than.)

More questions after the jump.

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