Perhaps the best novel by the late great author Philip Roth was American Pastoral. Roth introduced us to a character nicknamed “The Swede” who followed a legendary athletic career as a youth with equal success as an adult, and lived a life that anyone would admire. From this contented perch the reader then watches as idealism and bad luck bring his idyllic life to ruins. It’s an unforgettable story of how the American dream can swallow itself and quickly turn tragedy.
As I prepared to write this preview of Toronto FCs 2019 season this story kept resurfacing in my mind. Both are a riches to rags stories with no clear answers, and ones that grapples with the trade off of maintaining the status quo versus continuing to push. Not a year ago Toronto FC was on top of the soccer world in North America. They had just completed the greatest season in MLS history (yes, it still is) and were taking down Liga MX giants on their way to another height in winning the CONCACAF Champions League. They were achieving things like no MLS team before them. And then something happened…. Read More
Michael Bradley and Wil Trapp share several obvious qualities. They are both captains for club and country. They are both smooth passing defensive midfielders, and they both possess excellent heads of hair. Another similarity is that they rarely shoot or score goals, each collecting only one goal over the last three seasons. Coincidentally, both of those goals are what we could enthusiastically describe as "wonder-goals." Bradley's long-distance chip for the US national team in a World Cup qualifier against Mexico at the Azteca (a goal not remembered as fondly as it deserves due to the rest of qualifying) and Trapp for the Crew to win a match in stoppage time against Orlando City this past summer. However, one difference between these two players was how each responded to the confidence boost that came after scoring a once-in-a-career goal. Read More
Directional Passes Over Expected: Where do players exceed passing expectations?
During the National League Wildcard playoff game, American Soccer Analysis contributor and Lamar Hunt US Open Cup champion, Sean Steffen tweeted about the baseball stat Directional Outs Above Average. This metric tells you about the defensive range of an outfielder, with positive values indicating a direction where the player is better than average at creating an out and negative where the player is below average. Obviously, this exact type of metric cannot be used in soccer, but it did inspire me to figure out how something like it could be used. Thus, Directional Passes Over Expected (DPOE) was born. 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
It all started with Micheal Azira.
At the conclusion of the 2017 MLS season, I sifted through the wreckage of the Colorado Rapids awful season, player by player, to see what could be learned. Who, among these players was actually a high-quality soccer player? Who should the team retain for next year? Who should be jettisoned? Why? How can I know the difference? And, most importantly for readers of a data-obsessive website like American Soccer Analysis, can I find a credible way of answering those questions using advanced metrics? 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
After years of ineptness Toronto FC finally has become a competitive club in MLS. Never afraid of spending the money, the Canadian side's results on the field never reflected the club’s ambitions for making the playoffs. They finally made it for the first time in 2015 and followed that up in 2016 by hosting the MLS Cup Championship game, though they lost to the champions Seattle. Toronto FC's success relied and will continue to rely on their three DPs: Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. The three players have a combined salary of over $20,000,000 per season and Toronto FC will be dependent on them if they expect to repeat their success in 2017. Read More
Toronto FC had one goal in 2015, and that was just make the playoffs. Until that point, in their entire eight year existence TFC had never made it to the playoffs. And after an off season that included bringing in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore to the club, making the playoffs was a must. Thankfully, the entry into the post season was expanded from five to six teams in 2015, and TFC managed to squeak themselves in and remove that wretched blemish of having never seen the playoffs from their club record.
In 2014 and 2015, TFC loaded up heavily on offense, bringing in the likes of Altidore, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Defoe to the club. But those transactions cost the Reds some vital balance to the squad and left their defense woefully exposed. All that has changed heading into 2016 as Toronto reloaded their defense this off-season, picking up former Colorado Rapids captain Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour from Vancouver to shore up the backline, added solid MLS veteran Clint Irwin to man the pipes, and picked up former Portland captain Will Johnson to dictate the midfield with Bradley.
The lack of balance from the 2015 Toronto side on defense kept them from making waves in the playoffs or securing a better playoff position. But now with a more balanced roster and excellent leadership to solidify the backline, Toronto's prospects heading into 2016 look incredibly bright.
A look at the defense after the jump. Read More
In most sports after an All-Star game, the remaining portion of the schedule is called the “second half of the season.” But with the manner in which Major League Soccer administers it's schedule and the general accumulation of games that are played during that time period,. I look at it slightly different. I look at pre-All-Star game as the first act, the All-Star game is intermission, and post All-Star is the second act.
In other words, Soccer is straight drama. The great Bill Shakespeare once said: Read More
The United States still has not played close to their best soccer in the 2015 Gold Cup, but they still secured first place in Group A with a 1-0 win over Haiti in their second Group match. After Haiti’s 1-1 draw against Panama you got the suspicion this game would be tighter than expected, but it was even tighter than that. Haiti battled the entire match in impressive fashion and earned chances, but in the end the quality in their finishes abandoned them. The U.S. ultimately scored the winning goal in the 47th minute from their only shot taken inside the 18-yard box - a one-time strike from Clint Dempsey off a nice back pass from Gyasi Zardes. This is yet another case of take the win and move on, but Klinsmann has to be concerned that the team is unable to control opponents this early in the tournament. Read More