MLS Cup 2015

MLS Cup 2015: Where the goals come from by Kareem Williams

The purpose of this post is to investigate the origin of regular season goals conceded and scored for both teams. I have aggregated the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew’s goal locations in order to shed some light on their defensive and offensive strengths. 

The Portland Timbers are one of the best defensive teams in the league with 39 goals conceded and five goals conceded in the playoffs. Conversely, the Columbus Crew are one of the best offensive teams in the league with fearsome firepower in the likes of Kei Kamara. They conceded 52 regular season goals and three more in the playoffs. 

When looking at the ratio of goals scored to goals conceded, Columbus Crew’s attacking strengths compensated for their propensity for leaking goals with a 1.096 ratio. The Portland Timbers finished with a regular season ratio of 1.051. 

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Model Projections: Crew Favored to Win MLS Cup 2015 by Drew Olsen

As you probably know, after each playoff game we've been projecting the remainder of the MLS Playoffs 50,000 times using our expected goals model. Yesterday we did it for the last time in 2015. The odds for both Portland and Columbus are listed to the right.

There are plenty of limitations to our model - it doesn't account for injuries, it doesn't care about formations (Nagbe in the single pivot, anyone?), and we still can't predict weather patterns - but on the whole it has been pretty accurate.

Given those limitations, to some 65% odds for Columbus may seem high, and they are certainly pretty favorable odds in a game pundits are calling a fairly even matchup. Consider that the Crew had the 4th highest expected goals against (xGA) this season,  which was worse than Chicago, Orlando, and Philadelphia, and you may be even more confused.

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