In the Sporting Kansas City playoff preview last year I wrote that for SKC in 2018, the bottom didn’t fall out. That doesn’t sound particularly noteworthy, but it has been an ongoing theme through the years with Peter Vermes’ teams. His up tempo and high press style has often faced scrutiny due lack of rotation. It’s led some to question whether Vermes’ tactical approach is viable for 34 to 40 games per season.
But their late season volatility isn’t all that surprising when you consider how a lack of depth during an MLS season can cause issues. It’s even less surprising that SKC would have encountered it considering their organizational constraints over the years. Read More
During a recent American Soccer Analysis shareholders meeting in the penthouse suite of the swanky hotel we built in Minecraft (it’s our Slack channel), we discussed our favorite ASA articles of the past year. Because it is the season of listicles and we relish every chance to talk about ourselves, we decided to put them all together in one official post. Also, our site traffic is essentially zero at this time of year, so it seemed like an easy way for us to remember where we put them.
It was a great year for MLS (though perhaps not American soccer overall) and the most successful in our five year life as a website. We added interactive tables, introduced xPG, rebooted the podcast (new episode coming out soon! …probably), and added a lot of great new writers to our existing ranks of stale old writers. They’re not all represented in the list below, but special shout out to our weekly contributors who put together content every week - Little Things (@harrisonhamm21), Lowered Expectations (@harrison_crow), Expected Narratives (@ahandleforian), and Setting the Table (@ericwsoccer) - showed us the individual plays each week that made up the whole of the MLS season. We’d also like to extend a special thank you to Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post, for including us as a part of the WaPo’s incredible World Cup coverage. Read More
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. Read More
Welcome to Setting the Table. Each week we take some time to focus on the best chance creators in MLS from the last weekend. If you want to see the best chances that were wasted check out Lowered Expectations. Here we focus on chances that ended with the ball in the back of the net. Read More
Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 20 edition! Each week, we go about posting chalkboards and GIFs of the weekend’s best open-play shot attempts which did not quite live up to expectations (and rarely do we update this paragraph). We look at each one and not only evaluate the results, but also the process leading to them. Read More
Peter Vermes has his Sporting Kansas City squad working together and playing a beautiful attacking style of soccer. Wanting to play a brand based on possessing the ball and working it creatively into the attacking third, Vermes has had to form a roster capable of carrying out his vision. Last season, with center backs Ike Opara, Matt Besler and mid-season acquisition CDM Ilie Sanchez, SKC was known for being defensively dominant. In 2017, they only allowed 0.79 goals per game and 0.93 expected goals per game. Both of those numbers were good for first place in all of Major League Soccer. This year, the defensive numbers have slipped slightly; while Kansas City is still in the top three in terms of goals against per game, their expected number has increased to 1.45. Those statistics illustrate the shift in Vermes’ system from a defensive focus to an offensive one. With the offseason additions of Felipe Gutierrez and Yohan Croizet in midfield and Johnny Russell at right wing, Kansas City now has the fire power to play the brand Vermes wants. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
On July 7th the United States Men will play their first competitive match in nearly a year, and in so doing begin their defense of the Gold Cup. A successful run through the final in Philadelphia would guarantee their place in the Confederations Cup in 2017, and confirm them as the dominant force in CONCACAF. Failure to win would not be the end of the world, but it would put a damper on the momentum the team has recently built with a positive World Cup run followed by overall strong performances in this cycle’s friendlies. In the end, a Gold Cup win keeps the U.S. on Jurgen Klinsmann’s aggressive path to improvement. An exit of any kind will start to raise doubts if the team has the talent to make a serious run this cycle. Read More