Steve Clark

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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Six Goalkeeping Narratives You're Dying to See Unfold by Bill Reno

Who Will Emerge in New England? - The biggest question mark within any team’s goalkeeper situation is easily New England. They appear to be leaning towards to Cody Cropper in preseason, which makes sense as Bobby Shuttleworth didn't exactly inspire confidence last season. It’s odd to think that New England was just in an MLS final a little over two years ago but they’re now trying to forget last season completely. Whoever they decide to start with, don’t be surprised if they give the second stringer a chance to win the job midseason. Cropper has looked good this preseason but a twenty-three year old goalkeeper has to be really outstanding to make it in this league.

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Columbus Crew SC 2017 Season Preview by Kevin Minkus

By most accounts, the 2015 MLS Cup runners-up had a pretty poor 2016. A team that was generally expected to contend for a Supporters’ Shield and a championship finished the season 9th in the East on 36 points. During a stretch to start the year that saw them win just two games in 11, they jettisoned their Best XI forward, Kei Kamara, for feuding with their best chance creator, Federico Higuain. Higuain then sat out 14 games throughout the rest of the season with injury issues stemming from a sports hernia.

In spite of this turmoil on offense, the team’s real problems were on the other end of the field. The Crew gave up three or more goals 11 times, and their 58 total goals allowed was second worst in the league, though they were only fifth worst in expected goals allowed. The fact that Columbus is a possession oriented team means that they generally surrender few shots- in 2016, they allowed only about 12 shots per game. But the shots they did give up tended to be higher quality chances.

Ola-tta more after the jump.

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Is Steve Clark a Good Fit for Columbus? by Bill Reno

Over the course of a year, the Columbus Crew have gone from runner-ups in the 2015 MLS Cup to bottom dwellers, finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference in 2016. After losing a number of games off conceding late goals and tying over a third of their games, Crew fans are right to be polarized when evaluating their team, especially the defense. In 2015 the Crew conceded 53 goals and another 58 in 2016, both getting close to most in the league. Currently all eyes are on Steve Clark, with debate on both sides on if he is the right goalkeeper for Columbus.

Every team needs a goalkeeper that fits their style of play. For example, if a defense is bleeding crosses, they may want a strong goalkeeper to handle the dangerous lobs into the box. When looking at Columbus, it’s easy to look at the number of goals they’re giving up and think they need a better shot stopper, when in reality, Clark is above average on saving shots in both expected goals and save percentage. The Crew don’t need a spectacular shot stopper. Instead, there are two main things they require from their goalkeeper.

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Why MLS Goalkeeping in 2016 Has Been So Dang Bad by Bill Reno

The slow start for MLS goalkeepers has now dragged into its third month. Some goalkeepers can’t stay healthy and others are being bench simply for not playing well. Some are even resorting to saving shots with their face. “Saves of the Week” highlights are more of a sigh of a relief that the ball didn't trickle in on each shot. It’s getting so bad, field players are being put into goal. Essentially it’s a goalkeeper apocalypse now and it’s safe to say that in three years the landscape is going to look much different. A minority of teams are - or should be - confident in their goalkeeping situation. Most MLS teams are caught in the bind of having a goalkeeper that isn't sinking the ship but they aren't exactly thrilled with, yet have a goalkeeper that they’re reluctant to completely turn the position over to.

Already we've seen eight teams use two goalkeepers this year, only a few of them out of choice instead of having their hand forced. Despite having an incredibly small and quiet fan base, Portland has switched from one international to another, going from Adam Kwarasey to Jake Gleeson. The decision may seem obvious to the dozens of fans but Kwarasey was brought on, in part, to be a big force in the box. Portland is one of the most crossed on teams in MLS and Kwarasey was supposed to be a large answer to that. Admittedly he is strong in the air and while I wouldn't say he’s the best in the league with crosses, it makes sense why Portland liked him. However, when your goalkeeper can only duck under a free kick and mistakes start to pile up, the backup is in a tough spot. While he’s 6’4”, Jake Gleeson doesn't bring the physical presence in the air that Kwarasey does. So now the coaches are weighing two sides of the scale. One on end, Gleeson isn't as good as Kwarasey at certain levels while the other side’s argument is pretty much summed up as “He couldn't do any worse.” When the backup is better than the starter, clearly it’s an easy decision to make. But when you’re dealing with a much different goalkeeper - one that wasn't really in the plans at this time - whose highest level of consistent play is USL, it’s tough to rewrite the game plan.

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The State of MLS Goalkeeping So Far in 2016: "Meh" by Bill Reno

Well looks like my hot takes from last month are already starting to crumble. Let’s take a quick run through before we go into MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Power Rankings.

1. Luis Robles and David Ousted will duke it out for Goalkeeper of the Year again - Off to a rough start to say the least. I wouldn’t count them out completely, but the first month was definitely not kind to them. Expect them to turn it around, but it will take a strong push to get them in the conversation for a second year. However, play across the board has been thin by the majority of goalkeepers so maybe just maybe.

2. Dykstra will make people momentarily forget about Bill Hamid - Well the injury definitely was not kind but there could be some time for Dykstra to start before Hamid gets back to 100%. The jury is still out on this although they are all heavily leaning “no” at the moment.

3. Tim Howard will have a forgettable year - The 2-0 loss to Guatemala isn’t helping his case, let me just say that.

4. Sean Johnson starts seeing his way out in Chicago - The strongest prediction as of right now. There’s been rumors of wrist injuries but it seems he’s been on the bench mostly due to a coach’s decision. Even if Johnson does top Matt Lampson in the depth chart, don’t count out Patrick McLain. At this point, I’d expect McLain to get a game over Johnson.

5. Philadelphia and Los Angeles’ goalkeeping woes continue - Andre Blake is red hot right now but knowing Philadelphia juju, it seems a strong possibility that they will sign four more goalkeepers and Blake willl pick up a knock sooner than later. Rowe is sitting even keel between boom and bust right now but to be honest, all of this doesn’t matter until playoffs come. That will be the make or break for these teams.

More after the jump.

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2015 in MLS Goalkeepers, and looking ahead to 2016 by Bill Reno

2015 was an up and down year for MLS goalkeeping. We had some surprise seasons from Stefan Frei, Tyler Deric, and David Ousted, all of which had question marks going into 2015 but clearly did work during the offseason to prepare themselves for the year. Now moving forward, each club’s fan base is excited for their goalkeeper and is probably calling them “one of the best in the league”. Jesse Gonzalez matched the young blood theme in Dallas and gave a great performance against Seattle that went into penalties. David Bingham earned praise for finally taking over the starting role in San Jose and Old Man Saunders led the league in saves with New York City. Even Brek Shea notched himself a great save for the season.

Tim Melia returned from the abyss to start for Sporting Kansas City and won perhaps the most ambiguous MLS award: Comeback Player of the Year. But most notably, Luis Robles won Goalkeeper of the Year after winning the Supporters’ Shield with New York Red Bulls. He was rewarded with a USMNT call up and hopes to add on to his single cap with the upcoming friendlies.

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MLS Cup Goalkeepers Review and Yearly Awards by Bill Reno

Well it wasn’t Steve Clark’s best game. The first minute disaster will be the lasting memory for all Crew fans. Even when Columbus scored to make it 2-1 early in the game, it still felt like Columbus was trying to recover from an insurmountable debt. The gaffe was replayed at least twenty times over the duration of the broadcast. However Clark was far from the worst problem on the field. Anyone that wants to put the loss on Clark’s shoulders is ignoring the other 89 minutes of the game.

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Measuring Goalkeepers: The Limitations of Goals - xGoals by Bill Reno

Last month we took a look at how bad the Goals Against Average (GAA) stat is for evaluating goalkeepers and how the save percentage (S%) is slightly better. To show the inefficiencies of the GAA and S%, I compared them to ASA’s own unique stat of Goals Minus Expected Goals (GmxG). The GmxG looks at where shots are taken, calculating the likelihood of a shot going in from that distance and angle to goal, which ends up telling us if a goalkeeper is giving up too many goals given the circumstances. This is great for a couple of reasons, the main one being that we have a more accurate reading on shots on goal than the ol’ shot percentage. If one goalkeeper consistently sees shots from distance while another is routinely left out to dry by his defense, the GmxG will let us know how many goals each goalkeeper should be conceding even if their SOG and goals are similar. However there are some shortcomings with any stat and the GmxG isn’t any different.

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MLS Week 3: Expected Goals and Attacking Passes by Drew Olsen

In the coming days, Matthias will be releasing our Expected Goals 2.0 statistics for 2014. You can find the 2013 version already uploaded here. I would imagine that basically everything I've been tweeting out from our @AnalysisEvolved twitter handle about expected goals up to this point will be certainly less cool, but he informs me it won't be entirely obsolete. He'll explain when he presents it, but the concept behind the new metrics are familiar, and there is a reason why I use xGF to describe how teams performed in their attempt to win a game. It's important to understand that there is a difference between actual results and expected goals, as one yields the game points and the other indicates possible future performances. However, this post isn't about expected goal differential anyway--it's about expected goals for. Offense. This obviously omits what the team did defensively (and that's why xGD is so ideal in quantifying a team performance), but I'm not all about the team right now. These posts are about clubs' ability to create goals through the quality of their shots. It's a different method of measurement than that of PWP, and really it's a measuring something completely different.

Take for instance the game which featured Columbus beating Philadelphia on a couple of goals from Bernardo Anor, who aside from those goals turned in a great game overall and was named Chris Gluck's attacking player of the week. That said, know that the goals that Anor scored are not goals that can be consistently counted upon in the future. That's not to diminish the quality or the fact that they happened. It took talent to make both happen. They're events---a wide open header off a corner and a screamer from over 25 yards out---that I wouldn't expect him to replicate week in and week out.

Obviously Columbus got some shots and in good locations which they capitalized on, but looking at the xGF metric tells us that while they scored two goals and won the match, the average shot taker would have produced just a little more than one expected goal. Their opponents took a cumulative eleven shots inside the 18 yard box, which we consider to be a dangerous location. Those shots, plus the six from long range, add up to nearly two goals worth of xGF. What this can tell us is two pretty basic things 1) Columbus scored a lucky goal somewhere (maybe the 25 yard screamer?) and then 2) They allowed a lot of shots in inopportune locations and were probably lucky to come out with the full 3 points.

Again, if you are a Columbus Crew fan and you think I'm criticizing your team's play, I'm not doing that. I'm merely looking at how many shots they produced versus how many goals they scored and telling you what would probably happen the majority of the time with those specific rates.

 

 Team shot1 shot2 shot3 shot4 shot5 shot6 Shot-total xGF
Chicago 1 3 3 3 3 0 13 1.283
Chivas 0 3 2 2 3 0 10 0.848
Colorado 1 4 4 2 1 1 13 1.467
Columbus 0 5 1 2 1 0 9 1.085
DC 0 0 1 1 4 0 6 0.216
FC Dallas 0 6 2 0 1 1 10 1.368
LAG 0 0 4 2 3 0 9 0.459
Montreal 2 4 5 8 7 0 26 2.27
New England 1 2 1 8 5 0 17 1.275
New York 2 4 2 0 2 0 10 1.518
Philadelphia 2 5 6 2 4 0 19 2.131
Portland 0 0 2 2 2 1 7 0.329
RSL 0 4 3 0 3 0 10 0.99
San Jose 0 2 0 0 3 0 5 0.423
Seattle 1 4 0 2 2 0 9 1.171
Sporting 2 6 2 2 3 2 17 2.071
Toronto 0 6 4 2 2 0 14 1.498
Vancouver 0 1 1 3 3 0 8 0.476
 Team shot1 shot2 shot3 shot4 shot5 shot6 Shot-total xGF

Now we've talked about this before, and one thing that xGF, or xGD for that matter, doesn't take into account is Game States---when the shot was taken and what the score was. This is something that we want to adjust for in future versions, as that sort of thing has a huge impact on the team strategy and the value of each shot taken and allowed. Looking around at other instances of games like that of Columbus, Seattle scored an early goal in their match against Montreal, and as mentioned, it changed their tactics. Yet despite that, and the fact that the Sounders only had 52 total touches in the attacking third, they were still able to average a shot per every 5.8 touches in the attacking third over the course of the match.

It could imply a few different things. Such as it tells me that Seattle took advantage of their opportunities in taking shots and even with allowing of so many shots they turned those into opportunities for themselves. They probably weren't as over matched it might seem just because the advantage that Montreal had in shots (26) and final third touches (114). Going back to Columbus, it seems Philadelphia was similar to Montreal in the fact that both clubs had a good amount of touches, but it seems like the real difference in the matches is that Seattle responded with a good ratio of touches to shots (5.77), and Columbus did not (9.33).

These numbers don't contradict PWP. Columbus did a lot of things right, looked extremely good, and dare I say they make me look rather brilliant for picking them at the start of the season as a possible playoff contender. That said their shot numbers are underwhelming and if they want to score more goals they are going to need to grow a set and take some shots.

 Team att passes C att passes I att passes Total Shot perAT Att% KP
Chicago 26 17 43 3.308 60.47% 7
Chivas 32 29 61 6.100 52.46% 2
Colorado 58 27 85 6.538 68.24% 7
Columbus 53 31 84 9.333 63.10% 5
DC 61 45 106 17.667 57.55% 3
FC Dallas 34 26 60 6.000 56.67% 2
LAG 43 23 66 7.333 65.15% 6
Montreal 63 51 114 4.385 55.26% 11
New England 41 29 70 4.118 58.57% 7
New York 57 41 98 9.800 58.16% 6
Philadelphia 56 29 85 4.474 65.88% 10
Portland 10 9 19 2.714 52.63% 3
RSL 54 32 86 8.600 62.79% 3
San Jose 37 20 57 11.400 64.91% 3
Seattle 33 19 52 5.778 63.46% 5
Sporting 47 29 76 4.471 61.84% 7
Toronto 30 24 54 3.857 55.56% 6
Vancouver 21 20 41 5.125 51.22% 2
 Team att passes C att passes I att passes Total ShotpT Att% KP

There is a lot more to comment on than just Columbus/Philadelphia and Montreal/Seattle (Hi Portland and your 19 touches in the final third!). But these are the games that stood out to me as being analytically awkward when it comes to the numbers that we produce with xGF, and I thought they were good examples of how we're trying to better quantify the the game. It's not that we do it perfect---and the metric is far from perfect---instead it's about trying to get better and move forward with this type of analysis, opposed to just using some dried up cliché to describe a defense, like "that defense is made of warriors with steel plated testicles" or some other garbage.

This is NUUUUUuuuuummmmmbbbbbbeeerrrs. Numbers!