At times this season the New York Red Bulls have looked like a very good soccer team, sometimes even harkening back to the 2018 Red Bull team that set (what was then) an MLS record for points in a season. Case in point, nine of New York’s 14 wins this year have come against playoff teams. That included wins over FC Dallas, Atlanta, and Real Salt Lake during a five match unbeaten stretch early in the season and back to back wins over Portland and Philadelphia during a late season run to put them into the playoffs.
There have also been times when the Red Bulls have looked exceptionally mediocre. They’ve looked like a team that not only lost its most important player in Tyler Adams, but also lost a whole lot more of something else as well, despite mostly returning their entire squad from 2018. The flip side of nine wins against playoff teams was picking up only one point from four games against Montreal and Columbus. Read More
Chris Armas is fighting a losing battle; in 2018, Jesse Marsch’s Red Bulls were one of the best teams in MLS. Their expected goal differential (xGD) was the fourth best since 2016, only behind Toronto (2016), Atlanta United (2018), and Los Angeles FC (2019). They were so good that many are sure that had Marsch stayed, they would have won the MLS Cup last year. Anything less than that was seen as a failure, which made a peaceful transition to a new era almost impossible in the critics’ eyes. Read More
Despite winning the Supporters’ Shield, 2018 was a bit of a letdown for the Red Bulls. Still, more trophies are on the table in 2019 if they’re able to take the next step. Read More
There's something great about knockout tournaments, especially involving teams that are completely unfamiliar with each other. NCAA March Madness and the World Cup are perfect examples; seeing your favorite team play against a relative unknown like Murray St. or Ghana carries a little extra intrigue than your average game against a conference opponent. For MLS fans, CONCACAF Champions League embodies this opportunity.
Increasingly, CCL has been painted as an MLS vs. Liga MX referendum, one in which MLS teams steadily gain but never overtake Mexico's dominant position in the region. But lost in that narrative is that CCL includes teams from a handful of other countries, too. These MLS-Liga MX matchups will get the majority of publicity (starting with Sporting KC-Toluca in the first knockout round), but seven other MLS/Liga MX teams have to knock off Central American or Caribbean opponents before those glamour matchups are set in stone. If you think these first round matchups are just a formality, just ask an FC Dallas fan how their campaign went last year (spoiler alert: they lost to Panamanian side Tauro before they even got to face a Mexican team). Read More
We all know that some teams play a certain style, Red Bulls play with high pressure and direct attacks, Vancouver crosses the ball, Columbus possesses the ball from the back. Although we know these things intuitively, we can use analytical methods to group teams as well. Doing so seems unnecessary when we have all these descriptors like press-resistance, overload, trequartista-shadow striker hybrid, gegenthrowins, mobile regista, releasing, Colorado Countercounter gambits...etc (we actually don’t know what some of these terms mean and may have made some up, but the real ones are popular so just google them yourself). Those terms are nice, but no qualitative descriptor can tell us how the styles of New York City and Columbus differ from each other. We need to measure, compare, and model two teams’ playing styles and efficiencies. If we are able to do these things we may be in a position to answer what style really is. Read More
The MLS playoff drama is peaking with all but a half dozen teams dreaming of postseason glory. All the teams have played their tactical cards by now and the chess matches from here on out should be very entertaining. It’s therefore high time to look at a model whose goal is to examine the very chess moves that teams are making and look for insights. The Proactivity Score (Pscore), an attempt to numerically represent a teams basic tactical approach, has been updated through August 27th and there are some interesting new trends. Here’s a chart of where teams stand: Read More
Using xPG variants to assess risk-and-reward of the game
We introduced Expected Possession Goals (xPG) in two recent articles. xPG groups and rates the outcome of a possession and began from an idea that every action in the possession connects to create a shot. Here, we’re introducing new xPG variants, extensions to the original xPG definition to assess the risks and rewards inherent in a soccer possession.
xPG rates a group of uninterrupted events - or when an interruption lasts fewer than two seconds - based on where the ball travels. It assumes the purpose of the possession is to move the ball within shooting distance. Read More
How do you analytically measure a high defensive line and defensive pressing (see StatsBomb pressing index and Jamon's piece from a couple weeks ago)? Do we have enough data and information to analyze this behavior? If we do, how do these tactics impact the performance of a team? Read More
I’m a die-hard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Please don’t leave yet. In case you aren’t paying attention to MLS much this year, the Quakes have been…underperforming, even by their less-than-lofty standards. I was preparing data for an article about the Quakes troubles with defending the opposition Zone 14 (or are you #TeamZone5?) discussing why they have given up a league-high 6 goals there so far this season, when – you may be aware – Matt Doyle (@MattDoyle76) and Bobby Warshaw (@bwarshaw14) publicly blasted the Quakes for the very same issue back on May 27. Read More
Jesse Marsch’s New York Red Bulls play a style unlike any other team in Major League Soccer. They employ a frenzied, but organized high press that is a staple of Red Bull teams all over the soccer world. RBNY usually set up in a somewhat fluid 4-2-3-1. Bradley Wright-Phillips leads the line, often occupying the space between opposing center backs and shrinking the field. Right behind BWP sits Argentinian playmaker Kaku. Flanking Kaku is usually a combination of Florian Valot, Daniel Royer, and Derrick Etienne Jr.; these wingers are tasked with pressuring the ball in wide areas and occasionally dropping to help the pair of deeper midfielders. Who are those deeper mids? USMNT starlet Tyler Adams and fellow American Sean Davis are instructed to patrol the entire center of the field, acting as a pair of disrupters, intercepting passes, marking opposing playmakers, and shutting down attacks. Read More