Benny Feilhaber

xN: Deadline Day Musings by Ian L.

It’s always fun to see what happens in MLS when the player store is about to close for the season. Some teams, having resolved all of their player needs early, get to relax and stand in judgment of those teams forced to scamper about on deadline day looking for oh god just ANY decent midfielder please. There’s a parable about an ant and a grasshopper you’ve no doubt heard. The ant stores up all the food they need for winter, while the grasshopper spends its time, I don’t know, hopping on grass I suppose. When winter comes the grasshopper begs the ant for some food but the ant is like lol, and there’s a lesson to be learned in that. Anyway, LAFC are the ant, Colorado are the grasshopper, and New England is the heretofore unseen third character - a drunk shirtless carpet beetle rolling around the snow screaming how they’re going to live forever.

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Colorado Rapids 2019 Season Preview by Benjamin Bellman

Folks, this is what a re-build looks like. Dick’s Sporting Goods Park might as well have had a “Pardon Our Dust” sign posted at the ticket office every home match, and the only good thing about the Colorado Rapids’ 2018 season is that it’s over. Still, 2018 was not wasted by the club, with players joining and leaving the roster all year. In many ways, this was the “game” that fans, including myself, have really been paying attention to. Head coach Anthony Hudson and GM Padraig Smith certainly had their work cut out for them a year ago, and it’s clear that this was always going to be a multi-year process, especially given the two bloated Designated Player contracts expiring at the end of 2019.

The Rapids are poised for an interesting 2019 season as the roadies for Tim Howard’s Magical Retirement Tour. They won’t (and shouldn’t!) be on anyone’s playoff prediction lists, but they’ll be a sleeper pick by a couple experts (pump Bobby Warshaw’s takes directly into my veins). Now that seven teams from each conference get a playoff game, Colorado should strive to be in the hunt all year, and given the crapshoot that is MLS, there’s no reason to say they can’t make it. But playoffs or not, Rapids fans would be truly pleased with some wins, some goals, and some talented young players to carry the team into a new decade.

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LAFC: All About Attacking Depth by Joseph Lowery

Bob Bradley and the Los Angeles Football Club front office have created something few other MLS teams can replicate. They have formed a team that plays one of the more entertaining styles that MLS has ever seen and they are getting results.

LAFC’s brand of soccer is all about controlling the game through passing and dynamic attacking. They pass extremely well in every third of the field (they are in the top five in terms of passing completion percentage in each third), which leads to dangerous attacks pressuring opposing defenses from all areas. The only way this style can be sustained in Major League Soccer is if the team using it has enough players outside of the starting eleven capable of coming into the lineup and playing that style without a clear drop off. In the same way the New York Red Bulls need every single player on their roster to excel at closing down opposing players and cutting off passing angles in their pressing system, LAFC’s style demands that every rostered player is capable of playing their passing, attacking style.

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Chalk Talk: The Lee is Free by Jason Poon

Early Wednesday morning, or late Tuesday evening (depending on your time zone I guess), the New England Revolution announced they had sent Lee Nguyen to LAFC for $950k of allocation money. Had the Revolution not been so stubborn about trading Nguyen in the first place, who requested a trade way back in November and then again in December, the Revs likely could've hauled in more for Nguyen’s services. That aside, the folks here at ASA are glad that Lee is free to do his beautiful soccer things.

LAFC picking Nguyen up is a bit of a head scratcher for some, given it’s not entirely clear where Lee will fit under Bob Bradley’s scheme, but here’s how I see him fitting in.

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Los Angeles FC 2018 Season Preview by Kevin Shank

In October of 2014, it was announced that an expansion team was coming to Los Angeles. Three and a half years later, it seems like LAFC are still waiting for a full team. That’s not to say that head coach Bob Bradley cannot field a talented or competitive team, but with only 20 players on their roster, 2018 will be a long season if they cannot fill out their team.


LAFC’s current situation seems like a mix between 2017 expansion sides of Atlanta and Minnesota with their top-level coach, headline-worthy foreign signings, and a thin roster that leaves people wondering where this team will finish. While this is not Bob Bradley’s first time coaching in MLS or even managing an expansion team, it’s clear that this is a different league than what he oversaw up until 2006. Nevertheless, Bradley will be a great coach for the Black and Gold as he has one of the more impressive resumes in the league (although I bet Atlanta’s Tata Martino or NYCFC’s Patrick Vieira couldn’t last 85 days managing an EPL side).

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Sporting Kansas City 2018 Season Preview by Kevin Shank

The 2017 campaign saw Sporting Kansas City bring home silverware in the US Open Cup while simultaneously having a confusing, and ultimately disappointing MLS season. On the back of a rebuilt attacking corps, they're hoping for a return to MLS Cup in 2018.

2017 in review

It is hard to define the 2017 season as a success or failure because SKC was a team that had the league’s best defense but was also paired with an underperforming offense whose top attacker was traded midseason. In addition, Kansas City backed into the playoffs and lost their fourth straight knockout round playoff game, but all in all, they still managed to win a trophy.

Let’s start the 2017 season analysis with the impressive SKC’s defense that led the league with 33.77 xG conceded and 27 goals against (excluding own goals). Looking at the backline, SKC was the only team to allow fewer than one expected goal against per game by limiting their opponents to few and low-quality shots. The graphic below shows just how good the defense led by Goalkeeper-of-the-Year Tim Melia and an injury-free Ike Opara was compared to the rest of league.

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Sporting Kansas City 2017 Season Preview by Jason Poon

The 2016 campaign for Sporting Kansas City ended on a .500 note (13-13-8), but it was not a team that went through the season that picked up wins, losses or draws on a consistent basis. It was a campaign that saw the team enjoy the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and everything in between. 

Sporting roared at the start of the season, picking up four wins out of five, seemingly ready to put behind the demons of that gut wrenching penalty playoff loss to Portland in 2014. But after flying out of the gates, SKC immediately washed away those gains by picking up just one win in the next 11 matches. SKC would limp into the playoffs as the fifth seed, only to be knocked out by the eventual MLS Cup winners (again) on a late header from Seattle Sounders' forward Nelson Valdez.

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During a span lasting from late April to mid-August, Sporting Kansas City picked up 31 points over 15 games. That tremendous run was highlighted by a 4-0 thrashing of FC Dallas and a gripping 4-3 result over Vancouver. During that stretch, SKC did it all. They put up four goal games. They eked out 1-0 nail biters. They created chances from the middle of the park. They created opportunities from the wings. They looked like a complete team. Sporting KC's form during that stretch is the stuff Supporters' Shields are built on (and the stuff their phenomenal Open Cup run actually was built on).

After a 5-0 home loss to San Jose on August 19th, though, that form began to crumble. The team lost seven of their last 12 games, on their way to a sixth place finish in the West and an exit in the knockout round after a heartbreaking penalty kick loss to eventual champions Portland.

The question is, which Sporting Kansas City side should we expect in 2016? The team that looked like true MLS Cup contenders, or the good, but not great, side we saw at the end of the season?

The answer, like with many questions (“What is the best Muppets movie?” being an obvious exception) probably lies somewhere in the middle of the two options. Using the simple, though by no means definitive, metric of performance relative to expected goals (G – xG), suggests Sporting Kansas City's true form may have been worse than they looked from April to mid-August, and better than they looked from mid-August through October. During the aforementioned 15 game run of mostly impressive performances, SKC over-performed their expected goals by eight goals. This over-performance came from converting a high (though not necessarily unsustainable) 16% of shots into goals. During the mostly dismal stretch of 12 games at the end of the season, they underperformed their expected goals by about five. They converted only 8% of their shots into goals over that part of the season.

This rough analysis, then, suggests Sporting Kansas City last season were neither true championship contenders, nor a side that should've struggled to make the playoffs. Intuitively, that feels about right. Do they have the pieces to make that ascension in 2016?

A look at the roster after the jump.

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D.C. United: Shooters, Providers and What? by Drew Olsen

As you might have seen from our twitter stream, I kind of wrote an article on DC United last night. Then I scrapped it. Then, Alex Olshansky dropped this brilliant mess concerning Michael Bradley, and I was like "that's basically what I was doing... on a team level!" So it kind of nudged me to at least put forth an effort to finish it...only not really. What I did was basically compiled stats for four "core" attacking players on three different clubs. Two of those clubs (Sporting KC and Houston Dynamo) have shown consistent success the last two years, while D.C. United...well, you know, they have kind of stunk the place up.

The rest I submit to you without further inane commentary.


D.C. United


SH=shots, KP=Key Passes SH/KP = Shots/key passes ratio ShCPG =Shots created per 90 minutes played %ofTeam= the total percentage of the teams shots that the individual created




Houston Dynamo


SH=shots, KP=Key Passes SH/KP = Shots/key passes ratio ShCPG =Shots created per 90 minutes played %ofTeam= the total percentage of the teams shots that the individual created




Sporting Kansas City


SH=shots, KP=Key Passes SH/KP = Shots/key passes ratio ShCPG =Shots created per 90 minutes played %ofTeam= the total percentage of the teams shots that the individual created