Sean Davis

Lost in Transition by Cheuk Hei Ho

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.

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Chris Armas’ transformation of the New York Red Bulls by Cheuk Hei Ho

Coaching the New York Red Bulls must be a dream for most managers in North America's soccer circle, but Chris Armas also has had one of the toughest tasks in MLS. A mid-season takeover is never easy, let alone the takeover of a contender from the legendary Jesse Marsch. The Red Bulls organization may have boasted that they focus on the same pressing style starting from the academy, but everyone has their own unique ideas they want to implement. Armas is treading a fine line: he is introducing new elements while also keeping what was working for Marsch. The Red Bulls are still playing a similar style of soccer, so it appears Armas has been making quantitative, rather than qualitative, changes. Deciphering those changes will require some analytics techniques.

I first look at how New York has fared under the two managers using different variants of Expected Possession Goal (xPG). I recommend you read that full article, but in short it’s a score that measures the risks a team bears vs the rewards it creates. In short, Negative xPG measures the risks a team bears, while Mistake xPG measures the amount of turnovers a team commits from those risks.

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New York Red Bulls 2017 Season Preview by Coleman Larned

The 2016 season culminated in yet another MLS playoff exit for New York Red Bull. A furious pace was set in the regular season galloping towards playoffs and finishing second in the supporter's shield. But Jesse Marsch and RBNY came up short. The team identity was in place, the intended peak timing was set and the squad was healthy. But once again the cup rewarded opportunism over exacted intention.

The addition of Aurelian Collin and the internal promotion of Alex Muyl were the key additions to the squad that ended the season top of the Eastern Conference. Another season with the same core group allowed for Marsch's high, energetic press to steep and refine. After a miserable start to the campaign which saw them take three points from a possible 21, RBNY proceeded to lose only three more games all season.

The usual suspects were some of the league's best throughout the year. Bradley Wright-Phillips won golden boot on 62 fewer shots than the second place finisher, David Villa. Dax McCarty once again dictated one of the league's best offenses by averaging 68 passes per 90 minutes (fifth best in league for players who played at least half of the games in the regular season). The defense allowed the second fewest goals against in the Eastern Conference, allowing for the best goal differential in MLS. But it was the year of Sacha Kljestan in Harrison, NJ. While sporting a disconnected pirate goatee Kljestan connected phases of possession and controlled territory in the offensive third of the pitch better than anyone in MLS. He led the league in key passes (105), assists (16), and expected assists (9.97) while ranking second in total passes (1723) by an attacking midfielder.

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