Keegan Rosenberry

Setting the Table Week 32: Lee Nguyen's new role, the rise of Ebobisse, and Mutch ado about nothing by Eric Walcott

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.

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Philadelphia Union 2018 Season Preview by Jared Young

At 40-1 to win the MLS Cup the Philadelphia Union aren't extreme underdogs, but they aren't the darlings of prediction season either. The Union made just one significant signing this offseason as they gave cap space to the Chicago Fire in exchange for David Accam, who replaces the departed Chris Pontius. The Union lost two other reasonably important contributors in Oguchi Onyewu and Roland Alberg, and that pretty much sums up the offseason for the Union, and the reason why there is no buzz about the team.

But the unthinkable does happen in the world of soccer.

Two years back Leicester City caught the soccer world by storm by winning the Premier League after oddsmakers put their title hopes at 5,000-1. They did it with exceptional defense and a rigorous commitment to the counterattack. With the acquisition of Accam, the Union could potentially set up in a similar fashion and might just be the unthinkable surprise of the season. Here’s how.

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Player Passing Efficiency in MLS 2017 by Jared Young

To anyone who's watched soccer, it's obvious that all passes are not created equal. Some are routine. Some are exceptional. The usual simple statistic that divides the completed ones by the attempted ones is missing quite a lot of context. Last year, to help solve that problem, ASA debuted a passing efficiency model designed to take into account the difficulty of the pass, similar to how expected goals is developed. Over 300,000 passes from 2015 were used to build three different models, and this year those models were calibrated to match 2017 performance. Ted Knutson over at Statsbomb just revealed a similar model build on 20,000,000 passes from Opta's dataset, which calls into question whether or not our 300,000 sample size is sufficient, but alas, all the MLS passes in the history of MLS wouldn't reach a third of that larger sample, so here we are.

This year we've broken out the model by individual player, which makes things pretty interesting because you can see how different players take different levels of risk depending on which part of the field they are on. For example, Philadelphia Union right back Keegan Rosenberry has an expected pass completion percentage of 57.9 percent in his own defensive third. His main competitor Ray Gaddis has 67.7 percent in the same area. They both have actual completion percentages near their expected level. Gaddis makes higher percentage passes when controlling the ball in a defensive position. That may not tell you which player is more effective but it does indicate that Rosenberry is more likely to send the ball up field, while Ray is going to look for a closer teammate.

Here's a link to the table with the latest results, but it also has it's own tab on our menu, titled "Player xPassing". Thanks to the work of Kevin Minkus (@KevinMinkus) and Drew Olsen (@DrewJOlsen) these stats will be updated regularly, along with all our other statistics. 

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Philadelphia Union 2017 Season Preview by Jared Young

The Earnie Stewart era in Philadelphia has been marked by change but the Union haven’t quite been able to emerge from their history of mediocrity and underperformance. Change, mediocrity and underperformance - remember those words. They underpin the state of the Union. First let’s take a look at a picture of pure mediocrity - a history of the Union, through the results of their three coaches across seven years.

Fancy graphs after the jump.

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