San Jose

PWP-Pick-List Week 10 - weaving Expected Wins into my predictions this week... by Drew Olsen

A different approach this week just to see how things go.  Instead of leveraging my PWP Indices this week I'm going to leverage my Expected Wins analysis this week. Last week I was 5/9 so my running total on my PWP-Pick-List is 51%.

As background - most teams have had roughly an equal amount of home and away games - the Expected Wins #'s are the R2 values relative to playing either at home or on the road.  It's not 100% enough games but it'll do as a test of sorts...

The higher the number the more effective the team has been in overall Possession, Passing Accuracy, Penetration, Shots Taken, Shots on Goals and Goals Scored... the R2 below does not take into account the points earned (i.e. - those numbers do not reflect points won or lost in the league table)...

So in quick fashion (offering up only wins or losses - no draws) here's my picks for games beginning Wednesday and ending on Sunday:

Canadian Cup Vancouver visits Toronto:  Expected wins Toronto .9979 at home and Vancouver .9997 on the road.  Have most MLS teams twigged onto the 'mistake driven' attack by Toronto where possession really has no meaning?  I think so...  Nelson has, as I've intuited earlier this year, imported a European style of football to MLS. Chelsea has seen some success but has failed to take the EPL Championship.  Is this system good enough to get Toronto in to the Playoffs? I'm not sure  - for now I pick Vancouver winning. 

Houston at home to Columbus: Expected wins Houston .9993 at home and Columbus .9996 on the road - Columbus would normally be favored but with Will Trapp sitting on a Red Card I pick Houston winning.  Besides - it is still early days for Berhalter's system and Kinnear knows it well enough having just played Portland while also playing against Sporting the last few years...  I think the width of Houston is better...

Canadian Cup - Edmonton at home to Montreal:  Expected wins for Edmonton (no idea) and Montreal .9993 - Montreal wins given their budget and higher quality players... if they don't win - wow - they really aren't any good...

Seattle at home to FC Dallas:  Expected wins Seattle .9992 at home and FC Dallas .9990 on the road - Seattle wins; especially with Watson on a Red Card.

San Jose at home to Colorado:  Expected wins San Jose .9989 at home and Colorado .9996 on the road.  Colorado has done extremely well on the road this year averaging 1.25 goals per game - they have speed and the back-four for San Jose doesn't... why on earth Goodson continues to be a potential selection candidate for the World Cup I don't know...  maybe he proves me wrong this game.  For the USMNT sake I hope so...  for now Colorado wins...

Philadelphia at home to DC United:  Expected wins Philadelphia .9996 at home and DC United .9985 on the road; A rough patch for the Union of late and Hackworth is probably pretty hacked off by now - for no other reason than the Expected wins favors the Union I think Philadelphia wins...

Montreal at home to Sporting KC:  Expected wins Montreal .9979 at home and Sporting KC .9998 on the road - Montreal took advantage of a disjointed Union two weeks ago and they may consider have to play some stronger players to ensure a good result against Edmonton.  That and Sporting probably being very upset about dropping three points in New England sees Sporting KC  winning... besides, with Zusi and Besler being away with the USMNT later this year these early games really are pretty important for them.

New York Red Bulls at home to Chicago Fire:  Expected wins New York .9999 at home and Chicago .9996 on the road -The Red Bulls are almost at full strength - Cahill got minutes in their Red Card tainted win in Dallas and it's not likely they will be shut out against a Fire defense that's really watered down again this year - New York Red Bulls win...

Columbus at home to Vancouver:  Expected wins Columbus .9996 at home and Vancouver .9997 on the road - I'm convinced Columbus can play possession based football but can they do it consistently and can they take on a Vancouver team that is pretty powerful in attack?  I'm not sure they do that this next weekend.  So this might be an upset by many but I pick Vancouver to win...

San Jose at home to FC Dallas:  Expected wins San Jose  .9989 (subject to change given another home game earlier in the week) and FC Dallas (also with another away game earlier in the week) .9990 - I suppose San Jose has to put together a run of wins sooner or later - my guess is that it doesn't happen here - the attack, if Diaz is healthy is just too strong and the back-four, as noted before, is simply too slow - even with Watson having to sit with a Red Card against New York...  (edit - Watson sits against Seattle) FC Dallas wins...  that doesn't mean San Jose can't score in this game - Dallas remain weak at the back and that might be the telling downfall for Dallas again this year when push comes to shove...

Portland at home to LA Galaxy:  Expected wins Portland .9953 at home and LA .9999 on the road; LA has higher Expected Wins but Portland are improving and LA just lost on the road to Colorado - tough game here and if I had to pick a draw this week it would be here.  For now, unfortunately my Expected Wins indicates LA with a win but I will go with Portland to win.

Colorado at home to Chivas USA:  Expected wins Colorado .9983 at home and Chivas .9997 on the road.  Another one going against the grain based upon Expected wins - I just don't see Chivas winning this game no matter how well their attacking data points relate to each other...  besides speed kills and Colorado has speed up top with Brown... Colorado wins

New England at home to Seattle:  Expected wins New England .9990 at home and Seattle .9997 on the road.  A true test for New England in matching their solid defense against one of the most potent attacks in MLS - an early statement game, in my opinion for the Revolution.  They took it to Sporting KC against the odds at home not too long ago and this one will be a test as well.  For now I have more confidence in the attack of Seattle creating and scoring more goals than the defense giving away more goals to New England... Seattle wins...

Houston at home to Real Salt Lake:  Expected wins Houston .9993 at home and Real Salt Lake .9997 on the road.  Jaoa Plata has shown his value this season and his pairing with Saborio is simply dangerous - that coupled with the strong Diamond midfield makes RSL very hard to beat anywhere.  And with Houston having a game earlier this week I see RSL taking three points...

Best, Chris

Possession with Purpose: My MLS thoughts and the Indices through Week 5 by Drew Olsen

An editorial comment before starting: In case you missed it, there is no flash and dash to my headlines for Possession with Purpose. My intent here is not to create a misconception about what the Indices and corresponding statistics show. Statistics, when effective, are not based upon emotion; they have value because they lack emotion. The trick has always been, from a management standpoint, to balance the value of metrics with the value of knowledge in how the game of soccer is played.

With that said there are a few changes (as expected after just five weeks) to these Indices - I'll dig into those, but first as always, here's a link to my original article on American Soccer Analysis in case you aren't familiar with my methodology.

PWP COMPOSITE INDEX CUMULATIVE THROUGH WEEK 5 2014

Observations:

It's still early so teams may move around quite a bit. Consider how last year took shape: it wasn't until the 15-17 week time-frame where teams settled in, and even then we saw FC Dallas take a marked nose-dive in PWP.

Put another way; by Week 17, last year, eight of the ten teams to make the MLS Playoffs were in the top ten and pretty much stayed there the rest of the way. By 2013 season's end this Index had correctly identified nine of the top ten teams with only Houston as the outlier at 12th.

The grist between Week 4 and Week 5...

  • The Capt. Obvious here is FC Dallas have moved up top while Columbus, who lost 2-nil to Toronto have slid back to 2nd.
  • As for the bottom dwellers (somebody has gotta be there)... San Jose, Chivas and New England - more to follow there when digging into the Attacking and Defending PWP Indices.
  • Houston was off to a good start this season (4th in PWP last week) but they've dropped to 10th best this week. Much of that had to do with a red card to center-back David Horst and the three goals scored by Dallas less than 15 minutes after his exit.
  • This drop is one of those early season moves that might be expected with such a low sample size - by Week 12 or so a one-off game like this for a team might not create such a large impact in the Index rating.
  • Real Salt Lake completely hammered Toronto two weeks ago - yet this week, a big surprise for me, Toronto turned around and beat Columbus, in Columbus. That great result for Toronto saw them move up from 17th to 12th.
  • Other movers include Ben Olsen's squad. DC United was dead last after four weeks and are now tucked in at 12th, behind Portland.
  • Another big mover this week was New England, albeit the wrong way, who moved from 12th best to 17th. More to follow on the Revolution a bit further down...

What to Look for Next Weekend...

As the year progresses I will begin to offer up a few snippets for your consideration on the upcoming games while leveraging the PWP Indices.

I'm not sure if you want to call these prognostications or not - that's up to you - but in looking at the Indices and understanding all the analysis behind how they are created here's my thoughts for this weekend.

I call it my (PWP-Pick-List): I have no idea how this will play out so we can all watch together...

  • Real Salt Lake at Philadelphia - Given the PWP pedigree of Salt Lake I'm not seeing Philadelphia win this game; as for the addition of Wenger and how he influences things - hard to say. In my view it is more likely Edu and/or Okugo lend more value than Wenger at this time. RSL wins...
  • Colorado at Toronto - Tough one here but I am going with a win to Colorado. It's early yet and the Rapids remain a strong attacking team, even on the road (4 points on the road already). That coupled with numerous injuries in Toronto I see the Rapids taking 3 points against the depleted Reds.
  • Chicago at Montreal - Truly an interesting game between Yallop's style and Klopas's style. I had originally considered this might end in a draw but after thinking a bit more about how weak the PWP Defense was in Chicago last year (under Klopas) and how weak the Montreal defense is looking this year (under Klopas) I think Chicago takes 3 points.
  • Houston at New England - That red card really hurt Houston and perhaps Brunner? gets the head nod to replace Horst. As for the Revolution - they have a solid defense but can they score? I think Houston can get at least one goal up north - I'm just not seeing the same for New England... Houston wins.
  • New York at DC United - A real early test for both teams. The defense for New York really hasn't been that good and DC are beginning to take shape. New York wins if Sekagya and Olave pair up as center backs with Eckersley returning to partner Miller as the fullbacks. If Kimura starts at right back I think DC United wins. Rumor has it Miller is injured - does that put Convey as the left fullback? If so don't forget the 4-1 loss to Vancouver with Convey playing left fullback...
  • Seattle at FC Dallas - Another tough road match for the Sounders coming off a lucky tie against Portland last week. In all fairness the Timbers dominated large parts of that game and they exposed the weak center of Seattle. But FC Dallas also have a weak center - this could be another 3-3 draw but the edge goes to Seattle with Traore returning as center-back in place of a very weak defending Anibaba.
  • Chivas at Portland - Can I really opine anything different than 3 points to Portland? I'll put it this way: if they don't get three points against a very disorganized defense like Chivas there may be major issues in Soccer City USA.
  • Vancouver at Los Angeles - I'm not sure anybody beats LA in LA this year. LA wins.
  • Columbus at San Jose - Challenging home game for San Jose and they need three points against a strong Eastern Conference team. For now, I don't see them doing that regardless of how many crosses they put into the box. Most likely a draw here...

I wouldn't bet the house on any of these offerings - I'd suggest they are no more or less valuable than what others following MLS soccer might consider.

For the record though - after Week 15 completes I will begin to keep official track of my prognostications leveraging the PWP Indices.

Moving on to my PWP Attacking Index...

PWP ATTACKING INDEX CUMULATIVE THROUGH WEEK 5 2014

Observations:

Here's where it gets interesting. Note that Philadelphia, New York and Chicago Fire are fairly high up in the rankings while Toronto and Sporting KC are a bit lower.

This is where you can get an idea on what teams tend to focus a wee bit more in attack and what teams might not.

So for example, when looking at New England, they have had just one home game so far this year. They've been shutout by Vancouver and in three of their four road matches they didn't score a goal.

The only team they have beaten this year is San Jose, a current bottom dweller for most of the first five weeks. It's that overall Index rating that helps me shape my pick that Houston will beat New England given their current performances.

As for New York, they have four draws so far this year after getting hammered at home by Vancouver. Their attack has gotten better with Peguy Luyindula and his efforts working with Steele and Sam were pretty good in Montreal. All that happened without Henry, Cahill or McCarty starting (albeit McCarty did come on as a sub later on). Don't forget Luyindula missed that PK as well...

Chicago... This team does not resemble the attack pattern of old Chicago that Yallop left behind and abandoned in San Jose. There is more grist on the ground this year and if the defense gets better they should be pretty good.

My PWP Defending Index...

PWP DEFENDING INDEX CUMULATIVE THROUGH WEEK 5 2014

Observations:

The LA Galaxy have moved into the top spot in place of Columbus while Houston took a huge nose dive with the red card to Horst.

Four goals against (one being an own goal) to FC Dallas will significantly influence this Index that early in the season... note Houston went from having the second most effective defense to the 12th most effective defense.

Creeping up further this week was Sporting KC. Last year they were tops for the 34 game regular season and this week they climbed from 5th up to 2nd with that game against Real Salt Lake. It's quite an achievement for Sporting to get a clean sheet against that wicked-good Diamond 4-4-2.

So how about New England? Two years ago their defense was solid and their attack was shaky; have they digressed? Hard to say, their back-end looks good (ooh err missus) but their front end leaves a wee bit to be desired...

Vancouver continues to stay in the top 10 for Defending PWP. Last year they were horrid in defense and every week they stay in the top ten is every reason to consider betting they will make the playoffs.

Last but not least Toronto are sitting in 7th place in Defending PWP. Defense will win you championships. The rebuild, though looking more geared to improve the attack, has had a strong influence on the defensive side of the pitch.

As noted earlier it appears they have a number of injuries --- to long to list --- so here's a link in case you are interested.

In closing...

Clint Dempsey had a great 20+ minutes for Seattle this past weekend and it looks as if Schmid may have found the right area for him to operate in. That's bad news for the Western Conference as a whole and in particular for Vancouver and Portland as they also vie against the Sounders for the Cascadia Cup.

How Dempsey settles in will be interesting especially if Kenny Cooper returns to his goal scoring days while in New York. The system might be a wee bit different but Cooper does well when there are others around him who can score and create good space by their mere presence on the pitch; Dempsey does that like Henry does that for New York.

All else considered the only teams I really haven't talked about that much about are Montreal and Chivas.

I have no idea how Chivas will do this year. Their match this weekend in Portland is an early statement match for both teams. If Chivas takes it on the chin it is likely they retain the doormat award in the West again this year.

As for Montreal, I'm not a fan of Klopas (not because I don't like him, I don't know him) but I think the poor defense in Chicago will translate to Montreal. It's hard to say though now that they have McInerney as well as Di Viao...

Five games in, Montreal are 5th worst in Defending PWP and 6th worst in Attacking PWP. Bottom line here is they aren't good on either side of the ball, yet.

If I had an early season prognostication it would be Montreal will be the doormats of the Eastern Conference unless Jack McInerney brings some magic with him.

All the best, Chris You can follow me on twitter here @ChrisGluckPWP.