Narrative: Ambition Rankings
If there is one day on the MLS calendar that I dread with a clarity and purity often seen only in very expensive diamonds (let’s call them “diamonds of ambition”), it’s Grant Wahl’s annual musings on which MLS teams have proven their ambition the most. For those unaware, every year our nation’s preeminent soccer scribe sends out a questionnaire to every MLS team asking them to flex their financial bonafides and then ranks them according to how expensive their DPs are, whether or not they get good crowds, and that “it” factor that you can’t explain but Grant knows it when he sees it. Unsurprisingly, Atlanta tops this year’s list and Colorado pulls up the rear, but the middle is just gluttonously full of incisive takes. “We’ve invested 10 million dollars in our academy says one team”, “oh yeah well WE expanded our stadium so suck it” says another. “Tell me more” says Grant Wahl, and we’re left with a bunch of people squabbling over whether Jan Gregus or Pedro Santos is a more ambitious signing. Read More
The Vancouver Whitecaps' 2018 season was dull. Their biggest highlight last season wasn't Alphonso Davies's dazzling dribbles, nor his record-breaking sale to Bayern Munich. It certainly wasn't their dirty laundry washing exercise in the form of a season-ending press conference. The players must have found out the management had decided to clean house before they publicly lashed out at each other. The decision to rebuild is painful, but it was also Vancouver's best accomplishment last year. Read More
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. 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, the week thirteen 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.
#5 - Maximiliano Urruti, FC Dallas, 20th minute, 0.500 expected goals Read More
Assisted by: Michael Barrios
Passes in sequence: 5
Welcome to Setting the Table, where 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.
#5 Bradley Wright-Phillips to Daniel Royer, NYRB, 5th minute, 0.387 xG Read More
Passes in sequence: 1
Welcome to Little Things, a weekly look at some of the nuances that occur in MLS games. Technical and tactical aspects will be looked at to better evaluate players and teams on a larger scale, and of course statistics will be put to use.
Here’s our inaugural analysis, including an example of how not to press by Minnesota United, an interesting set piece fad, and an impressive build-up by Orlando City: Read More
xN is our weekly look at what you can expect to read, write, and discuss about Major League Soccer this week. We take a look at each prospective narrative and rate it based on its strength and whether or not it has any actual merit.
The good news is that aside from this sentence, I’m not going write a single word about video review this week. Nay, much more compelling narratives are swirling about, mostly regarding fanbases posturing at each other in a miasma of insecurity or self loathing. We have Orlando claiming to be the real deal. Atlanta continuing to make light work of their opponents, and Seattle fans in their annual early season bout of despair. Needless to say, it’s a good time to be writing about narratives. Read More
We’re a bit more than a month into the 2017 season. While that’s way too early to say anything definitive, it’s probably enough time to get a feel for where teams stand. Here are 22 stats (one per team), that explain something of each team’s season so far.
Columbus: $642,500 - combined guaranteed compensation due Ola Kamara and Justin Meram (as of September 2016’s salary release)
For the money (equal to roughly one Nocerino), Kamara and Meram are the best attacking partnership in the league. Meram has looked good both out wide and in the middle, which bodes well for the Crew as Federico Higuain hits the wrong side of the age curve. And Ola Kamara has picked up exactly where he left off last year, with 3 goals in his first six games. Read More
It was a disappointing 2016 campaign for the New England Revolution, as they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Starting slow out of the gates with one win in their first 11 games, the Revs' instability was found at both ends of the pitch.
The back line was consistently unsettled, which resulted in the interchanging of central and wide defenders out of their native positions. Conceding 54 GA (6th worst in MLS) out of a predicted 55.5 xGA (3rd worst in MLS) was a product of a constant search for a comfortable, defensive mixture. Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves and London Woodberry all took their turns at CB, with Kelyn Rowe even taking a stab at the RB position.
Offensively, coach Jay Heaps struggled to find the right combination within their talented pool. Three of the Revs' attackers were in the bottom 25 players of G-xG (Teal Bunbury -3.96, Kei Kamara -2.3 and Juan Agudelo -1.68) representing almost eight goals unrepresented on the pitch. Although these numbers might incrementally be negligible, amassed as a whole eight goals could propel a team into the playoffs. It's hard to say if that was just a bit of unluckiness, or if it was a product of Heaps' system for attack.
The streaks of poor performances defined last season for the Revs. Not only were they slow to start, but in a crucial run in the middle of the competition saw the club post a record of 2-2-8. Although Agudelo and Kamara started firing toward the end of the season, the hole was too deep to dig themselves out of. Read More