New England's roller coaster ride by Matthias Kullowatz

By Matthias Kullowatz (@MattyAnselmo)

This site purports to be one that covers all of American soccer--the United States part of America anyway--but outside of my obsession with Sporting Kansas City, Harrison's love for Federico Higuain, and Drew's commitment to DC United, we don't cover the Eastern Conference as much. So let's talk about New England.

Currently, our playoff projections have the Revs at 60-percent chances of making the MLS playoffs, and our Expected Goals data shows they are just about league average. Considering New England sits in fourth place in the East, and the teams chasing it for playoff spots are the Columbus Crew and the recently humiliated Chicago Fire, 60 percent makes a lot of sense. The New England Revolution is probably a playoff team despite its recent skid.

As fans, it's hard not to get caught up in streaks. After all, streaks affect our team's chances of making the playoffs, and our criticism tends to follow those streaks of the losing variety. Typically, unless a major injury or other personnel change occurs, the team is not getting any better or worse relative to the rest of the league. Shit just happens. New England has lost seven consecutive games. But before that, it completed a seven-game undefeated run, tying just one of those. Which team is New England? The data tells an interesting story.

Period Final 3rd Pass% Final 3rd Ratio GD xGD xGDzero
Hot Streak 0.610 1.14 1.86 0.11 0.26
Cold Streak 0.680 1.56 -2.00 -0.05 -1.53
Season 0.630 1.28 -0.37 -0.02 -0.14

New England has gotten hammered in even gamestates over the past seven games. Even gamestates are perhaps the fastest-stabilizing of the Expected Goals statistics, so though this is a small sample, it still suggests that the Revs are not simply getting unlucky. Luck is likely a factor, but not the only factor. And I think the only reason the overall xGD wasn't so different (0.11 versus -0.05) is that New England played so often from behind that its opponents were willing to give up more shots for longer periods of time. 

While New England actually completed a higher percentage of passes in the final third during its cold streak, and spent more time than its opponents in the attacking third, that could probably also be explained by opposing teams being ahead and willing to allow shots and possession.

New England didn't play nearly as well as it looked during its hot streak, and it probably didn't actually play as bad as it looked during its cold streak. But the recent cold streak still shows scary and somewhat-sustainable signs that the Revs aren't as good as our 60-percent playoff chances say they are.