Carlos Vela

Expected Narratives: It's The Hot Taking-est Time of the Year by Ian L.

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? The time of year where we decide which MLS players to award with our annual plaudits. It’s a little earlier than the rest of the nation does it, but I have a very good reason for that. The reason is that I figure if I can get these out earlier I can help influence the votes towards the candidates I believe are most deserving. Some of these will be easy. Some will be hard. I think this may be the most difficult best XI I’ve ever tried to pick. A lot of you are going to disagree with my choices. I’ve thought long and hard about it and decided that if this is an issue, then you’re welcome to write your own article. But seriously, a lot of guys this year that would get usually get these distinctions are going to get left out. That totally sucks for them but is a great sign of the improved quality of the league. Let’s go ahead and start with a spicy one.

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Using Expected Threat to Find the Best Shot-Creators in MLS by Arjun Balaraman

Growing up as a Manchester United fan, I have been fortunate enough to have seen some brilliant attacking players, but amidst a bevy of exciting talent one man stood out as a different kind of goalscorer – a comparatively unheralded striker from Mexico: Javier Hernandez – more commonly known as Chicharito.  

The fascinating part about Hernandez’s game was how he scored those goals. Chicharito is the ultimate goal poacher, a real throwback to the earlier decades when strikers were meant to sit in the box and score goals – nothing else. While Ronaldo et al., often created their goal scoring opportunities with their ability to move with the ball, Chicharito’s skill was moving without the ball. With his ability to, somehow, always be in the right place at the right time, Hernandez has made a career of tap-ins and intuitive finishes. In fact, all 52 of his goals in the Premier League have come from inside the box.

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Records Are Fun - Let's Acknowledge These Accomplishments Before Vela Erases Them by Jacob Beckett

Records are fun. Recognizable numbers like 56 (game hitting streak - baseball), 100 (points in a game - basketball), 2,000 (rushing yards - football), 61 70 73 (home runs - baseball) give everyone something to root for and an easy way to track the greatest games or seasons of all time.

For a long time, MLS had 27. In the inaugural 1996 season, Roy Lassiter scored 27 goals, and no one was able to match it for a decade and a half. But then a man named Wondo hit the figure in 2012, Bradley Wright-Phillips did it again in 2014, and a seemingly very angry young man named Josef Martinez obliterated the mark with 31 goals last season.

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Breaking the Unbreakable: LAFC is Dominating MLS but Can Anybody Stop Them? by Cheuk Hei Ho

LAFC aren’t just good. They are a force.

They have 1.43 Expected Goal (xG) differential per game. No team in MLS history has had more than 1 xGD/game since 2013. LAFC’s xGD is only 0.12 fewer than Atlanta United’s and Red York Red Bulls’ COMBINED. Granted, we haven’t finished even half of the schedule. Things may change comes the last part of the season when LAFC slow down to prepare for the playoffs. But for now, you are witnessing the best team MLS has ever produced. They don’t just beat you, they obliterate you. 

The Supporter Shield is as good as gone; our prediction model gives LAFC 76% to win the league. But MLS is about the playoffs. In the new single game format, you only need to get lucky once. Every team has weaknesses. You just need to find those cracks.

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Expected Narratives: There's a Bad Loon on the Rise by Ian L.

It finally happened! I got one right last week! I did! I was doing a sarcasm and lo and behold I got a take dead on. ANALYSIS! Yes Atlanta and Cincinnati did in fact turn out to be a low scoring affair between two evenly matched sides. It feels like six months ago I was called a straight up hater for raising my eyebrows at De Boer’s most recent entries on his resume, but now discussing whether or not he knows what he’s doing is the take du jour. What can I say folks? I was bashing FDB before most of you had even heard of him. I have it on vinyl.

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Los Angeles FC 2019 Season Preview by Eric Walcott

Los Angeles Football Club was, according to points total, the best expansion side in the history of Major League Soccer. They’re hoping to improve on that in 2019.

2018 in Review

LAFC’s 57 points surpassed the 56 earned by the 1998 Chicago Fire and the 55 by 2017 newcomers Atlanta United. They scored the second most goals all-time of an expansion side, with 68. By all accounts, it was a very good debut season.  

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Postseason Preview: LAFC by Jamon Moore

n one year of existence, Los Angeles Football Club have earned my respect, not my disdain. From the very beginning this club has seemed to do everything right, from their ownership group, to their colors, to their stadium, to their manager and then their roster construction -- everything has come together very well to this point. It’s difficult to hate on them for it. With that said, let’s talk about this LAFC team and their chances in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup playoffs.

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Expected Narratives Week 33: End of Year Awards 2018 by Ian L.

It was a pretty light weekend in Major League Soccer featuring a match seeking to answer that age old question “what happens when the opposite of an immovable object meets the opposite of an unstoppable force?” The answer? Colorado wins 2-0, I guess. That match will probably be remembered more for the altercation following the final whistle which featured two players being showed red cards FIFTEEN minutes into stoppage time so I guess Colorado and MInnesota aren't’ best friends now, which could be problematic as previously they seem to be the only destinations that would actually want some of the other’s lackluster players. I sure hope they work it out. I’ve got $5 on a Franz Pangop for Yannick Boli trade.

But also, Oh my god DC United are just so irresistible right now. It’s like watching Michael Jordan in that flu game but instead of Michael Jordan it’s more like BJ Armstrong and instead of the flu it had something vaguely to do with raccoons. I predicted a few weeks ago that this team would find its way to the postseason and I’m feeling more and more confident about this every week. Watching people eat their crow flavored Pot Noodle about Wayne Rooney has become appointment viewing during office hours. To say Rooney has been a revelation is only true if you’re one of these people who have apparently never once watched Wayne Rooney play soccer. You aren’t seeing some surprising late career renaissance version of a softer more reflective Rooney, you’re getting the same bullish kid in a dad’s body with an innate ability to grab a game by the scruff of its neck and drag it wherever he wants.

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Ranking the Wingers by Harrison Crow

We’re all here because someone on Twitter started a discussion pertaining to ranking MLS wingers. I’m certain that my rankings won’t satisfactorally answer that question to everybody’s liking, but hopefully it adds something useful to the conversation. First of all, let’s establish some rules.

1)    The definition of a winger for this context is going to be super vague. Essentially a wide player lined up in the midfield according to the team lineup provided at the start of a match. Argue that however you wish. This just seems easiest.

2)    The player has to have played 500 minutes in the position his season. We’re not doing this “well--he’s been a winger in the past” or “he’s been really good when played out on the wing in a few games”. I’m not playing this game. It’s 500 minutes, meet it or beat it.

3)    If you’ve met the criteria above you get a mention in this.

4)    I’m going to provide some data with these thoughts. That will of course come from American Soccer Analysis. I could have broken things down far enough to where we only consider the advanced metrics, but we have to draw the line somewhere so we’re using numbers agnostic of the position played.

5)    Look. This is a rankings list. We’re not going to agree on all of these. It’s perfectly reasonable for you to think that I am in fact, wrong. That is fine. I might be.

Let’s get on with it.

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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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