Lee Nguyen

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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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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Little Things from Week 20: Tyler Adams' New Role, LAFC's Midfield, and Chad Marshall's Head by Harrison Hamm

Tyler Adams and the New York Red Bulls Under Chris Armas

Tyler Adams, who is two months younger than Kylian Mbappe, is on the verge of becoming a world-class soccer player. After this season, when he (probably) joins Jesse Marsch at RB Leipzig, he will be placed directly on that track.

Already, he’s one of MLS’ best midfielders. His touch percentage of 10.5 percent shows how important he is to the Red Bulls’ system. He fits perfectly into what they want to do — he covers ground, controls himself well in space and wins the ball when he has to.  

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Chalk Talk: The Lee is Free by Jason Poon

Early Wednesday morning, or late Tuesday evening (depending on your time zone I guess), the New England Revolution announced they had sent Lee Nguyen to LAFC for $950k of allocation money. Had the Revolution not been so stubborn about trading Nguyen in the first place, who requested a trade way back in November and then again in December, the Revs likely could've hauled in more for Nguyen’s services. That aside, the folks here at ASA are glad that Lee is free to do his beautiful soccer things.

LAFC picking Nguyen up is a bit of a head scratcher for some, given it’s not entirely clear where Lee will fit under Bob Bradley’s scheme, but here’s how I see him fitting in.

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New England Revolution 2018 Season Preview by Ian L.

Before I get started I feel that I need to disclose two very important things for the sake of transparency. The first is that at the time of my writing, the Lee Nguyen situation has not resolved itself, and that’s obviously going to be a huge factor in whatever happens with New England in the forthcoming campaign. The second thing is that while I know it’s incredibly unlikely, I’m wishing with all of my heart and soul that somehow Lee Nguyen winds up at Roma or Torino for no other reason than I could then write something with the headline “Nguyen in Rome”.  Now that you know my qualifications, let’s begin. 

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2016 ASA PREVIEW: NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION by Sean Steffen

New England continues to thrive with a balanced attacking core which balances veterans with young talent.

Last year the Revs had an expected goal differential (xGD) of 0.11 but a GD of 0.03, which is why they finished lower in the table than many predicted. This was mainly to do with a shaky defense which unperformed their xGA by 0.16 goals a game.

This has a great deal to do with their attacking set-up with less emphasis on midfielders tracking back. New England's attacking posture continues to be most the most aggressive in the league, seeing more possession in the final third than any other team over the last two years. While such a style is fun to watch, it puts enormous amounts of pressure on their center midfielders to absorb pressure, which is partially why Jermaine Jones instantly transformed that team in 2014, providing both defensive cover, and a passing backstop which brought players back into the midfield more often to receive the ball. His importance to the team in 2015 was significantly less, however, and the addition of Gershon Koffie should help to bring back some of the magic of 2014.

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The Weekend Kick-off: Orlando City Are Good, New England Is (Probably) Better by Harrison Crow

by Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)

I'm not sure that many of us knew what to make of Orlando City prior to this season. Sure, they spent some money and got some interesting talents but that doesn't always translate to something or even anything, ask Toronto.  But Kaka has turned out to be maybe the best player in Major League Soccer, Aurélien Collin is still a very good defender and it turns out that Kevin Molino (before ripping his ACL in half) was an above average MLS winger.

Right now, Orlando City looks like a potential playoff team. The big difference between them and, say, the LA Galaxy who are actually sitting in a playoff position is Orlando's horrible home record. Which is all kinds of crazy considering they're sitting second in home attendence with over 39,000.

You have to think that if they can unearth a striker--or maybe just borrow some of Phil Rawlings millions to buy one--who can take advantage of all the chances that Ricardo creates, Orlando may just be a formidable team come the end of this season. Also there is a chance that I might have "borrowed" bath salts from Rafael Ramos.

New England is picking right up where they left off last season. But this time they're doing it in a bit more sustainable fashion. Currently the Red, White and Blue are posting great expected goal numbers in both zero-gamestate situations and overall.

Lee Nguyen isn't overperforming his expected goal numbers astronomically like he did last season, but the Revs don't need him to do that this go-round. Kelyn Rowe is having a break out season, Chris Tierney stepping up to create goal scoring opportunities and Juan Agudelo (who is 3rd in expected goals) is everything they needed him to be last year to be when he went on his sabbatical to the Netherlands, driving a camper between Utrecht and various Scottish cities along the border of England with the hope some magic gate would open to... Stoke (I might have vomitted in my mouth a bit typing that).

New England has seen a once mighty generation come and go with little-to-nothing to show for it. This time around their window is open with the pieces needed to start to fill that trophy case that sits right next to the case of deflated balls that Tom Brady (the greatest of all time! I lost a bet. Don't ask.) has attempted to hide.

The real question is will they be able to keep their expected goals against so low? Don't misunderstand me; it's not as if we're really expecting regression with opposing clubs and their scoring rates. New England is still sitting in the middle of the pack, but considering how horrible they were last year (in the bottom third) and with losing perhaps their top defender... it's just a head-scratcher that they've improved in this manner. I'm going to chalk it up to Jay Heaps and his transition from the Just for Men to Just for Men Touch of Gray.

On a positive note, the team appears set to bring in local boy Will Packwood from Birmingham, England on a discovery claim (assuming they do have sole custody of his rights) which should help supplement a defense that at times has looked unsettled and needing some... well something better. Let's just see how this plays out, Cotton.

Prediction: I'm going with New England on the road with the win.

FANTASY PERSPECTIVE

ORLANDO CITY

Kaka (20.6% Selected, $11.4 Cost)

Ugh, the guy is the best player in the league. The best. Forget what he costs. Best. Player.

Rafael Ramos (12.2% Selected, $5.2 Cost)

So long as you're fine with the unmedicated outbursts that result in red cards from time to time burning your fantasy club to the ground, I'm sure you'll get along fine.

NEW ENGLAND

Bobby Shuttleworth (6.1% Selected, $5.6 Cost)
I think it's funny how much I get bent out of shape about the disparity between the cost of keepers and their points versus any other position. Most people look at Shuttleworth and think "5.6, WHOA, not made of money here" but really considering what any keeper provides versus their costs. There seems to be one right answer.

Lee Nguyen (4.7% Selected, $11.1 Cost)

He's still really good. Probably not $11 good. But good enough to where it might draw a few suckers.

THE WEEKEND MATCH-UPS

(expected goal differential in even game-states)

FRIDAY

New England Revolution (0.43) @ Orlando City SC (0.06)
Predictions: NE

San Jose Quakes (-0.05) @ Colorado Rapids (-0.30)
Predictions: Draw?

SATURDAY

Real Salt Lake (-0.35) @ Chicago Fire (-0.28)
Predictions: Draw??

Portland Timbers (0.12) @ Montreal Impact (-0.10)
Predictions: Draw???

Sporting KC (0.71) @ DC United (-0.46)
Predictions: SCREW YOU, DCU... I'm going with SKC

Philadelphia Union (-0.26) @ Vancouver Whitecaps FC (-0.06)
Predictions: VAN

Seattle Sounders FC (0.88) @ Columbus Crew SC (0.23)
Predictions: Draw

LA Galaxy (0.06) @ FC Dallas (0.14)
Predictions: FCD

SUNDAY

Houston Dynamo (-0.14) @ Toronto FC (0.13)
Predictions: TFC

New York City (-0.48) @ New York Red Bulls (0.11)
Predictions: NYRB

 

NERD IMAGERY

I've been saving this for weeks...it's all for you, Toronto.

 

2015 ASA Preview: New England Revolution by Drew Olsen

*xG = expected goals, xA = expected assists, xGD = expected goal differential. For more information see our xGoals by Team page.

By Drew Olsen (@drewjolsen)

It is not an overstatement to say that New England had the most up and down season in MLS last year. Just take a moment to look at the season progression chart above. Seriously, I’ll wait.

Here’s another way of looking at it, taken from the league results map:

Let’s put that in perspective. After week 12, the Revs had the 2nd best record in MLS. They were on a five game winning streak that included some of the best teams in MLS. In order, they won 2-0 over Kansas City, 2-1 over Toronto FC, 5-0 (!!) over eventual Supporters’ Shield winners Seattle, 3-5 over Philadelphia, and 2-1 over eventual Eastern Conference winners DC United. That is maximum points over one of the most difficult stretches of their schedule. So what did the team do? It responded by losing eight consecutive games, including losses to lowly Montreal and Chicago. Montreal finished the season with 28 points in 34 games. New England had 22 points in week 12. 

But New England also had 22 points after week 21. Matthias wrote about their roller coaster ride while it was happening, and came to the conclusion that giving the Revolution a 60% chance of making the playoffs was probably too high. Presumably, he would have also said the odds of another five game winning streak were even lower than 60%, so that’s what they did. Twice. If you include the playoffs, the Revs went 12-2-3 over their last 17 games, with one of those two losses being in MLS Cup.

So how good was this team? Was it the explosive and creative team that started and ended the season, or the smoldering tire fire that played during the summer? The answer is somewhere in the middle. While the summer addition of Jermaine Jones may have coincided with their second winning streak, he was not the only reason for it. Our expected goals model showed New England with a 0.01 xGD and a -0.11xGD when the score is tied and both teams are even on players. In other words, based on where they and their opponents were taking shots from, this was an about average team on the whole for the season. But some other numbers suggest it was no fluke. No team possessed the ball in their opponent’s final third more than the Revs last year, (despite them averaging only 46% possession for the season) and no team in the East averaged more shots on goal per game.

Finishing 2nd in the East and making it to MLS Cup is a great accomplishment, one that will be difficult to repeat in 2015. That said, nearly the same team returns, and improvements have been made. The goal for this season is simple: bring some silverware back to Foxboro.

Defense

It starts in back with Bobby Shuttleworth between the sticks. Our xG for last season show he allowed about four fewer goals than the typical keeper would have expected based on the shots he faced, which was good for 6th best among keepers with at least 20 games played. His backup Brad Knighton saw limited time last season, but was about average in 2013 and doesn't figure to challenge for the starting job.

While Shuttleworth proved capable last season, it is the defense upon which Coach Jay Heaps’ system was built. It all starts with former Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves, who finished 7th in MLS with 219 clearances last season, despite playing in only 27 games. With A.J. Soares, who led the team in appearances last season gone to Norway, 2013 number one overall pick Andrew Farrell will transition from outside back to pair with Goncalves in the center. Still only 22, Farrell is loaded with potential. And while he saw some limited time in the middle last season, Heaps is now making the move permanent, and the ability of his defense to prevent goals may depend on it.

On the left will be Revs institution Chris Tierney, who had a phenomenal 2014 season which culminated with his goal in MLS Cup. On the other side, it looks like a competition between Kevin Alston and Jeremy Hall, who comes over from Toronto. Hall mostly played in the midfield for the last three seasons, but based on the preseason Heaps has him pegged at right back. With only two appearances for Toronto last season, Hall will be relied on to find his form again quickly if he starts. Alston is the more likely candidate, despite only 11 appearances last year as he made his inspirational return from Leukemia.

If Farrell can manage his move to the center and the new right back fits in seamlessly, we can continue to expect a lot from this defensive unit. But the loss of Soares and the question marks hovering over Hall and Alston suggest we’re likely to see a dip in quality on the backline.

Midfield

The center of the field is mostly credited for getting New England to MLS Cup last season, and it is unchanged for 2015. Jermaine Jones, coming of his successful World Cup, provided an important defensive cover when he came to the team towards the end of the season. With fewer than 1000 minutes played it is difficult to judge his quality in MLS, but he will undoubtedly be an important defensive piece in front of Heaps’ newly reformed backline. That said, Jones is 34 and doesn't figure to get any younger. He also didn't appear in the preseason after having sports-hernia surgery last month.

Next to Jones in front of the defense will be homegrown player Scott Caldwell, who nailed down his starting spot in the 2nd half of the season. He was dribbled past more than any other player on the team last season (1.2 times per game), so will need to continue to learn to keep attackers in front of him. Still, he was solid if unspectacular last season, and at 23 will only continue to improve. 

While Jones was the big name signing that got the headlines, it was MVP finalist Lee Nguyen that provided the heart and soul of the Revs. He had 18 goals, nine more than our model suggested he should expect, which was the biggest difference in the league. Did he just get lucky or is he just a better finisher than everyone else? The quality of some of his goals imply the latter, but this season may tell us. Like Jones, he hasn't appeared in preseason, but hopes to play in the season opener. If New England are to make another through the playoffs, Nguyen will need to again be at his best.

Teal Bunbury is back, and will again be the third wheel in the midfield. He’ll streak up the right, and create space for Nguyen to operate in the center. Leaving Kansas City seems to have been a good move for Bunbury, and he’ll hope to continue to improve on last year. Kelyn Rowe, the Revs’ 3rd pick in 2012, will slot in on the left side but has shown to be versatile; he played in every midfield position at some point last year.

Daigo Kobayashi, whose 86% pass completion rate was best on the team last year, and the once-touted Diego Fagundez, are the favorites to be Heaps’ first subs off the bench. Both players have impressed in the preseason, and will see their share of time.

Forwards

While Charlie Davies returns, his three goals last year were a disappointment. Heaps knew he needed an upgrade, and in comes familiar face Juan Agudelo. Still only 22, Agudelo will bring a new threat, and hopes to return to his goalscoring ways after playing only 14 competitive games in the last year. His nine goals in 2013 were 3.4 more than his 5.6 xG, so he will look to convert at a similar clip.

Prognosis

The Revolution are the preseason pick by many to return to MLS cup from the East, and it’s not an unreasonable expectation. If the realigned defense works out and this is the same Agudelo that averaged a goal every other game in 2013, then New England will be a force to be reckoned with. Still, they seemed to over-perform their expected goals last season, and a regression to the mean seems likely. The loss of Soares is certain to be felt, and we still don’t know how Farrell will fit into the middle of defense. A playoff spot seems certain, but another top two seed will be difficult to come by.

Top 50 Total Shots Created: MLS Week 13 by Matthias Kullowatz

I've been terrible with trying to keep up with this quantitative metric, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to throw out an updated version in a vain attempt to try to play catch up with the status quo, being that the league is crawling towards the World Cup break. Really, the point of this exercise is to try and capture how often players are creating shots--not just for themselves, but for teammates. It's still pretty simplistic, and by no means the definitive answer to who the most valuable attackers are, but it's a start in moving away from basing value judgements on goal totals.

To be as clear as possible this is not a metric that measures quality or success of the shot. It's purely about opportunities to score. Either by way of putting mates* in position to score through passes that lead to shots--key passes--or to create a shot by himself--assisted or not--are the ways I count shots created.

*Editor loves word choice.

One thing I did do to include the best available and least luck-influenced player was to set a threshold of 700 minutes played. That limit was arbitrary and selected merely based upon the results of compiling the list. For that reason, and no other, you won't see individuals such as Michael Bradley, Gilberto, Brad Davis, Joao Plata, Marco Di Vaio and Kekuta Manneh on this list even though their shot creation rates merited a position in the top 50. I am very high on both Plata and Manneh, and I would love to see both surpass the 600-minute mark and really fly beyond 2,000 minutes this season so we can see what their stable versions look like.

50-33:  The Above Average

RankNameClubPositionMinutesKey PassesAssistsShotsShCShC/90

50Blas PerezDallasFWD8996224323.20

49Nick DeLeonDCMF102612223373.25

48Vincent NogueiraPhiladelphiaMF134817230493.27

47JuninhoLAMF9629323353.27

46Benny FeilhaberKCMF126026317463.29

45Erick TorresChivasFWD11868137463.49

44Jack McInerneryMontrealFWD84411121333.52

43Baggio HusidićLAMF76113116303.55

42Dillion PowersColoradoMF8252139333.60

41Lamar NeagleSeattleMF98710228403.65

40Teal BunburyNEFWD117015330483.69

39Felipe MartinsMontrealMF99615224413.70

38Jairo ArrietaColumbusFWD8189025343.74

37Max UrrutiPortlandFWD7445026313.75

36Justin MappMontrealMF94917419403.79

35Travis IshizakiLAMF73520110313.80

34Andrew WengerPhiladelphiaFWD101211131433.82

33Diego FagundezNEMF10868237473.90

I'll admit there is quite a bit of disparity between Diego Fagundez (#33) and Nick DeLeon (#49). This group does however hold a few names seems that, to my mind, seem to fit together. Blas Perez (#50), Erick Torres (#45), Jack McInerney (#44) and Andrew Wenger (#34) all are viewed a bit differently in terms of success, but, again, this isn't about results-based productivity so much as process-based productivity. We're merely looking at how much they're involved in creating goal scoring chances, regardless of the quality of those chances or where they are located. In that context it makes more sense.

The lone surprise for me in this tier is Justin Mapp. I would have assumed he'd be much higher on this list being that he's been on the few bright spots for Montreal a long with JackMac.

 

32-10:  The Good.

RankNameClubPositionMinutesKey PassesAssistsShotsShCShC/90

32Chris WondolowskiSan JoseFWD8106030364.00

31Obafemi MartinsSeattleFWD124619631564.04

30MichelDallasMF74014218344.14

29Lee NguyenNEMF103224024484.19

28B. Wright-PhillipsNYRBFWD10518041494.20

27Edson BuddleColoradoFWD70710122334.20

26Shea SalinasSan JoseMF9163247434.22

25Sabastian FernandezVancouverFWD65410021314.27

24Will BruinHoustonFWD122120137584.28

23Graham ZusiKCFWD79424311384.31

22Alvaro SaborioReal Salt LakeFWD8695235424.35

21Leonardo FernandezPhiladelphiaFWD70113120344.37

20Giles BarnesHoustonFWD133512251654.38

19Gaston FernandezPortlandFWD75719018374.40

18Mike MageeChicagoFWD7149224354.41

17Harry ShippChicagoFWD89423417444.43

16Marco PappaSeattleMF75112124374.43

15Mauro DiazDallasMF64616214324.46

14Bernando AnorColumbusMF71811025364.51

13Cristian MaidanaPhiladelphiaMF87123220454.65

12Quincy AmarikwaChicagoFWD88015428474.81

11Dom DwyerKCFWD10507050574.89

10Deshorn BrownColoradoFWD9026043494.89

Two other names that are notable here. Edson Buddle (#27)--whom everyone thought was done two years ago when he was traded to Colorado--and Marco Pappa (#16), who was kind of a last minute signing before the start of the season, and who was a serious question mark considering his lack of playing time in the Netherlands.  Now both of these individuals that were stamped as likely non-essentials are two of most involved in the creation of their clubs attack. Lee Nguyen (29) coming in higher than Obafemi Martins (31) makes me laugh, simply because Martins is second in the league in assists and most people still hold that to being the truest or, perhaps, the most obvious sign of team goal contributions. Yet Nguyen has been a catalyst for New England and is simply their most valuable player when it comes to finding the ability to create chances. This is the meat and potatoes of the list.

9-4: The Elite.

RankNameClubPositionMinutesKey PassesAssistsShotsShCShC/90

9Javier MoralesReal Salt LakeMF115441521675.23

8Fabian EspindolaDCFWD108630430645.30

7Diego ValeriPortlandMF111728537705.64

6Landon DonovanLAMF80224225515.72

5Thierry HenryNYRBFWD117023449765.85

4Federico HiguainColumbusFWD108039527715.92

So there that is. There shouldn't be any argument here with any of these names. Fabian Espindola (#8) is the sole reason DC even has a shot at the playoffs. He is going to get every opportunity to be 'the man' in black and red. Landon Donovan (#6) despite his uncanny snubbery from the US National Team is still clearly a major factor for the Galaxy and their attack. Sticking with the theme of decline in skills, Thierry Henry (#5) is still one of the greatest to ever play in MLS.

Oh, and I'm just biding my time for Higuian to get past this "slump" and jet into the MVP Candidate category... because that's simply where he belongs. More on that down the road.

3-1:  The MVP Candidates.

RankNameClubPositionMinutesKey PassesAssistsShotsShCShC/90

3Robbie KeaneLAFWD99019245666.00

2Clint DempseySeattleMF75114243597.07

1Pedro MoralesWhitecapsMF82131438738.00

Clint Dempsey (#2) has had the kind of year that is simply bananas. It's been so crazy that it's somehow eclipsed the Pedro Morales (#1) show that is going on just a few short hours north of him. Sure, these guys take penalty kicks, but that's only a small fraction of their shots generated. If these two take this same show into the later stages of the season I can't think there would be much reason to consider anyone else for MVP.

Oh, I guess you could probably throw Robbie Keane's (#3) name in that list, too. People forget about ol' faithful, but even without his P.I.C. (read: 'Partner in Crime' for those that aren't as hip as I am) for a game or two here and there, he's still been incredible. Currently he ranks third in individual expected goals, proving that he also finds dangerous places to take his shots and doesn't hesitate to pull the trigger. Oh, and despite the angry looks and words AND finger wags, he gets his teammates those same opportunities.

And here's the Excel File for the top 50.