Defending

Evaluating Defensive Prospects for the Expansion Draft by Kevin Minkus

FC Cincinnati will face many difficult decisions over the next three months, as they build their expansion team to be ready for the 2019 season. Their next set of choices takes place today, in the Expansion Draft. What the team decides there may not make or break their season, but they do have the opportunity to add important pieces for their inaugural year.

One strategy, the path I’ll discuss here, is for Cincinnati to grab cheap, young players. The hope is that, while they weren’t key contributors for their former teams, those players will continue to develop. A team with enough of these works in progress, and with a sufficient capacity to develop them, might reasonably hope for a few to pan out into full-time starters.

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Tactics, Talent, and Success: Diversity in Scoring and Chance Creation by Benjamin Bellman

I’ve been wondering for some time about soccer teams’ reliance on star power and top statistical producers. Is it really a good strategy? Are teams with one main goal scorer or playmaker easier to “figure out”? When the game is on the line, is a singular threat easier to neutralize than a team with a plethora of attacking options? And would this kind of reliance actually hamper a team’s success across a season?

My skepticism must seem foolish to European executives, given the huge fees Gonzalo Higuain and Paul Pogba went for this summer. But the conventional wisdom is different in the American sports landscape. In our most popular sports, one person simply can’t do it all. Here, Defense Wins Championships. The San Antonio Spurs, the best NBA team of the past two decades, emphasize team play over everything. Peyton Manning was completely underwhelming in both of his Super Bowl wins, needing his incredible teams to carry him to glory. One star pitcher or one star hitter is simply not capable of winning a World Series on their own. The anecdotal evidence even appears in MLS. Chris Wondolowski’s 27 goals in 2012 didn’t get the Earthquakes past the first round of MLS playoffs; neutralize MVP Sebastian Giovinco, and 2015’s Toronto FC didn’t have much else to offer.

More after the jump.

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How to Evaluate Defenders Using Data by Kareem Williams

As the majority of us know, Major League Soccer has taken tremendous strides to improve the game over the past decade or so. There has been a strong drive to bring in aging stars such as David Beckham (31 years old), David Villa (32 years old), Thierry Henry (33 years old), and Kaka (32 years old). The premise of this strategy is that these stars, who are slightly past their prime, will be able to improve the fan base and the overall appeal of Major League Soccer. The majority of these players are attacking superstars, mainly because for fans, the most exciting part of the game always occurs in the scoring of goals. However games are not necessarily won by scoring a ton of goals, but rather (to loosely quote Louis Van Gaal) to “score one more goal than your opponent.”

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A couple thoughts on MLS Fantasy Football by Drew Olsen

I won't be so bold as to suggest what players you want on your team(s) this year, but I will offer up some interesting statistical data for your consideration. In looking at Defenders, there has been some guidance offered that talks about going with a 'team' of defenders versus some individual defenders. If you consider looking at a team of defenders, here's a look at how some teams compare to others for Bonus Points...

Defender Blocks, Interceptions and Clearances:

Oddly enough the Chicago Fire have a total score of 9.50 bonus points per game while Toronto (8.67) Real Salt Lake (8.44) and FC Dallas (8.22) follow somewhat close behind.

How I got there: I took the total defender blocks, interceptions and clearances per game (added them up) and then divided by 6 (actions per bonus point).

For the Recoveries bonus points I took the same approach and here's the top teams on recoveries after three weeks:

The Columbus Crew lead with 5.92 bonus points per game in recoveries, followed by New York at 5.06, Toronto FC at 4.92, and Seattle at 4.83 bonus points per game.

Reminder: these are team averages, not individual averages added collectively. Matty confirms that adding up a bunch of individual averages won't necessarily lead to the same as the team average.

Next up are negative points for goals against (roughly). In looking at the team defenses in that Category the best teams (that don't yield negative points) are Houston (0); with Columbus, Colorado and Toronto all yielding just -1 point.

All told the top five defending teams with respect to bonus points are:

1) Toronto (averaging 13 per game)

2) Columbus (averaging 12 per game)

3) Houston (averaging 10 per game)

4/5) Seattle and Chicago (averaging 9 per game)

What this is offering is that if you run a flat back four with just one team--say, Houston--you could have averaged 10 bonus points per game with your players.

This does not take into account all the other ways to capture points in Fantasy Football but perhaps it may help locate some cheaper defenders that will get you a better-than-average point total per game.

With the defending side of the pitch offered up for bonus points here's a look at which teams offer up more crosses than average and how successful they are in that effort.

The team that averages the most crosses per game is San Jose with 30.5. Montreal follows with 28.3 per game, while the LA Galaxy offer up 24.5 per game.

The team that averages the most successful crosses per game is also San Jose, with 10 per game hitting their target. Montreal is again second with 8.7 successful crosses per game while Sporting Kansas city leapfrogs LA with 7 successful crosses per game. Of note is that LA drops down to 5.5 successful crosses per game (sixth best).

In considering that information, perhaps a way to capture some additional bonus points for crossing would be to pick out at least one midfielder/forward for San Jose and perhaps one from Montreal or Kansas City.

All told, that may give you better chances of getting points week-to-week with somewhat less money invested than just buying the stars. 

All the best, Chris