Miguel Almiron

With Or Without You (WOWY): a plus-minus alternative for soccer by Cheuk Hei Ho

Plus-minus measures the impact of a player on their team’s performance. Originally invented by hockey general managers, every player on the ice is awarded a plus when their team scores a goal while every opponent player on ice gets a minus. The higher the plus-minus rating, higher the net positive of goals scored for a player’s team. In terms of plus-minus, the beste player has the highest plus-minus score, and the worst player has the lowest. Plus-minus has also been modified for use in basketball, first by 82games, and now more famously by ESPN

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Atlanta United 2019 Season Preview by Tiotal Football

Join me for a moment in a Lovecraftian horror in which time is an illusion and the events of life as we know it, or the meaningful events at least, (soccer matches) progress not sequentially by the steady consumption of the present as measured in minutes and seconds but by the experience of passes being attempted from open play. In this nightmare, as the fates dictate the average MLS team experiences 900 such passes attempted during a match (the total of both teams over 90+ minutes), and using passes experienced as the unit of account, the average 2018 MLS team spent 46% of its matches with a level score line (27% leading and 27% trailing).

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Postseason Preview: Atlanta United FC by Harrison Crow

We joke about it. Atlanta has become the Marcia Brady of Major League Soccer and while that’s annoying to most all of us, it’s also not undeserved. This talented team has not only assembled a rare grouping of talent but they’ve been able to build upon their first season and grow to become a giant in this league.

While the narratives are often what they are this is a good opportunity to put into context what Atlanta has truly accomplished and what they are at their bones. A really really good team that has few flaws and has managed to minimize their opponents ability to expose those flaws.

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Reinventing the passing wheel: What determines a good passer? by Eliot McKinley

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.

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Little Things From Week 25: Tata Tactics, and the two sides of McBean and Steres by Harrison Hamm

Gregg Berhalter and Tata Martino provided another installment of their budding coaching rivalry on Sunday, a rivalry that will grow to the level of Jesse Marsch vs. Patrick Vieira when they inevitably meet in the conference semifinals this year.

Atlanta United and the Columbus Crew have a way of providing open, action-packed tactical chess matches. They did it again at the Benz, a 3-1 Atlanta win. The Five Stripes’ talent quotient was too much for a Crew team that pales in comparison.

Tata approached the game knowing that Berhalter would have Columbus trying to pass out of pressure and play from the back. The Crew are one of the few teams to go to Atlanta and make a concerted effort to control the game. For the most part, they did an effective job of it, taking the ball off the feet of Miguel Almiron and opening chances in the other direction.

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Why is Atlanta's Attack so Dangerous? Ruthless Consistency. by Andrew Smith

As part of the US Soccer hackathon in Chicago last month, our team of Benjamin Harrison, Kevin Minkus, Eliot McKinley, Andrew Crago, and I developed a player decision model to evaluate final third decision making (Editor's note: Andrew is being humble and left out one important point: THEY WON THE HACKATHON. Here's a link to the project). The model uses Gaussian process classification to estimate the decision a player would make—either to pass, shoot, or attempt to take on a defender—at a specific point in the final third. Combining the players on the same team, we can extend this model to estimate the decisions the team as a whole makes in the attacking third. Then, to further understand team decision making in different game situations, the data is stratified into three categories to look at the adjustments in play when behind, tied, or ahead.

There’s not a whole lot that jumps out in an initial glance at the plots—there are no clear similarities between teams at the top or bottom of the league. There is, however, one specific team that stands out. Atlanta is extremely consistent—their attacking strategy is virtually identical regardless of the score. In the often volatile arena of professional sports consistency usually correlates with success, and Atlanta’s 2018 campaign is no exception. But ultimately it’s hard to say whether this consistency is a source or byproduct of their successes this year. Winning tends to alleviate a lot of the pressure on a team, which presumably would lead to more consistent performances, or it’s entirely possible that Atlanta is simply executing well.

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Lowered Expectations: Week 23 by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 23 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.

I know it’s been a few weeks but we have five missed opportunities and one very surprising success! Let’s get to it.

#5 - Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders, 3rd minute, 0.375 expected goals
Assisted by: Nicolas Lodeiro
Keeper:  Bobby Shuttleworth
Passes in sequence:  1

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Lowered Expectations: Week 21 by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, week 21 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 - Christian Ramirez, Minnesota United, 71st minute, 0.457 expected goals
Assisted by: Darwin Quintero
Keeper: Matt Turner
Passes in sequence:  3

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Expected Narratives: Atlanta Doth PRO-test Too Much by Ian L.

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.

Officiating controversy? Naturally. Following Atlanta’s 3-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls, Atlanta players and coaches had nothing but pointed criticisms at Mark Geiger’s officiating. Geiger, who oversaw their 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, was the video review official for Atlanta’s latest “bad feelings” match on Sunday. Were there incidents? Oh indeed there were incidents. To wit: Josef Martinez had a goal disallowed against Sporting Kansas City due to being waived offside (he was offside according to the letter of the law, which is a confusing law, but that’s a different subject entirely) and then had a goal disallowed after video review again on Sunday after he was judged to have fouled Tim Parker in the buildup (it sure looked like he did, but again there’s no way to be sure unless we let the official do something crazy like look at a video of the incident). I digress, but here we are again and although I don’t want this column to turn in to me becoming Simon Borg (THAT’S AN EASY RED CARD FOR ME FOLKS!) I’ve seen more than a few dozen (WHY ARE THE REFS AGAINST ATLANTA?) takes so let’s address the dumbest narrative we’ve done yet.

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Lowered Expectations: Week 8 by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, the week seven edition! Each week, we go about posting chalkboards and GIFs of the weekend’s best open-play shot attempts that did not quite live up to expectations. We look at each one and not only evaluate the results, but also the process that led to them.

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