This weekend's most watchable MLS games / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

If you haven’t read The Watchability ranking overview... please go do that now and then come back here and read this. Okay? Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you.

(taps foot)


Okay you done? Don’t lie to me, did you read it? Okay, good.

Now, this might seem obvious but the scores of each team are combined and then divided by two, giving us the total game score. The higher the score the higher probability the match will be enjoyable to watch. Likewise the lower the score the high probability it’ll be... well, probably less fun to watch.

This might seem rather intuitive but I want to make sure we make it clear. But please feel free to reach out to us on twitter with any questions. But with all of that out of the way let’s take a moment to look at what the rankings look like on a game-by-game basis and how that might look to us when trying to select a neutral game to watch this weekend.


Columbus v. Houston - 75

Columbus is a lot of things but certainly not creative. They’ve got really low cross-to-through ball ratio, one of the lowest in dribbles attempted and they don’t do a lot of pressing but have a couple of player's with both the propensity to foul and be fouled. All of those contribute to a low score. This score may be somewhat artificially low  as they’re one of two teams I really feel this metric is sleeping on.

The other team I feel this metric may undervalue is Houston. Their dribbles and PxG score is above average but everything else is below average which, much like Columbus, drags down the total score. This might be the one sub 90 match worth keeping an eye on.

New England v. Philadelphia - 86

The Revolution score well and are currently tied for fourth place in watchability score. They’re an exciting team that is go go go through the entire match, have shown moderate success and still have plenty to play for in this season.

Philadelphia drags down this game score because well--they’re supremely below average in every category except for even game state shots. I’d like to think there may be some element to their possession oriented attack which will be a fun confliction with New England’s press but the score suggests that it might not be that exciting.

Chicago v. New York - 76

The Fire are not in a good spot right now and are in dead last for our Watchability Score. There isn’t much redeeming value right now and this is compounded by their head scratching senior team roster moves this week as well as the off-the-field supporter issues.

The other side of the coin is that the Red Bulls are tied with the Revolution for the fourth spot in these rankings. They’re a highly entertaining side on most occasions but against Chicago this week, it might not be as fun of a match for a neutral. But there should be some redeeming value.

Colorado v. San Jose - 66

Speaking of redeemable things. This entire game is probably not one of them. Unless you’re either Bobby Warshaw or a lover of diamonds. On a serious note, go read Bobby’s break down of Colorado’s tactical maneuvering. It’ll be interesting to see if their position on this ranking system moves up in the coming weeks.

Despite being last in MLS on points per game San Jose is still an average watch. They don’t foul a lot, they create plenty of opportunities for scoring and they have some attackers who’ve stepped up to create some high leverage opportunities. But despite this, I’m not sure outside of the fan base there is anyone who would commit to watching this game.

Salt Lake v. Montreal - 78

Salt Lake is above average viewing but lacks in one very specific area, they don’t have one dynamic regular attacker. Joao Plata would probably fit the bill but unfortunately he’s not a regular. That’s not to say that they don’t have decent attackers, but their game state shots are pretty average and they’re not overly creative which brings down their score.

Montreal in terms of execution is below average in everything but they have an odd mix of flair that just makes them mildly interesting. That said, between the match-up and the fact that they are steadily on the decline in the standings, this is probably not a great neutral viewing.

LAFC v. Kansas City - 108

The game of the week!!! And how! But while they’re amazing at most everything, they do have a couple of deficiencies that could turn the game. They aren’t great in even game shot volume and they have players who have a tendency to get fouled.

Oddly Kansas City isn’t wholly dissimilar from LAFC. They are a really strong top-10 team but have a couple of weaknesses themselves. They aren’t very creative, they’re prone to drag down the game through fouls and their collection of attackers isn’t always on their game. But despite that this game should be interesting.

LA Galaxy v. Minnesota United - 87

The Galaxy rankings, much like you might think, are all tied into their attack. They do a bit in pressing but aside from there isn’t much. But they’re playing Minnesota whose weaknesses pretty much play to all these strengths.

The Loons are a surprising, though maybe unsurprising to some, are ranked sixth in the rankings. Darwin Quintero does a lot to help boost those scores considerably. He’s enough of a one man wrecking machine for through balls, dribbles and consistent expected goals that when paired with Rasmus Schuller’s league leading DFA’s it makes for some entertaining games. LA and Minnesota weaknesses both play to each others strengths. The game score might actually be a little low on this game.

Portland v. Vancouver - 88

Portland despite their sometimes rough and tumble style of tactics also have some pretty awesome attackers which are conversely good at creative shot opportunities and are awesome with even game state shot volume as a bend don’t break defense.

Vancouver has some flair too. Obviously, Alphonso Davies is a huge pull. But there is also Kei Kamara, who people tend to forget is a really good striker in and of his own merit and Jordy Renya is also fun and exciting too. But one of the pain points of not having very good central defensive help also is one of the reasons they don’t get much of an opportunity to foul or create defensive events. Both teams have their own draw but Cascadia Cup matches tend to be a bit cagey and can stifle their respective creative attackers.

Toronto v. New York City - 96

Toronto, regardless of it’s their band of first team regulars or the second string. They have a bulk of creative attackers which is a good thing. But they’ve not been good with defensive events, they haven’t played a very open games and they’re still towards the bottom of the table. They have something to play for and their attacking game should rival what NYC has tried to do defensively.

NYC is still trying to adapt to the new man in charge. But there are similarities and the talent on the squad is enough to continue to be a difference maker. They have the second highest score in the Watchability metric and have no legitimately sub average attribute. Being paired with TFC should be a fun view.

DC United v. Orlando City - 70

Something to think about--these rankings are taken from the whole season. The additions of Wayne Rooney, Bill Hamid, the health of the squad and the many second half home games are things that will impact their upcoming score and are reasons to think the score 21 out of 23 team ranking might be a bit low.

Orlando City is a mess. But they’re still kind of entertaining. They still have El-Munir dribbling out on the wing, they do a bit of pressing and they play some clean soccer. That said they lost Justin Meram who was helping inflate their dribble score, their shot volume and their attackers have been underwhelming all year and Kljestan isn’t sending as many through balls as he once was for New York. I have a feeling we may see them start to drop on the rankings.

Seattle v. FC Dallas - 82

Sure, Seattle is moving closer to relevancy and may very well fight for that last playoff spot but they’re not moving the needle much in terms of underlying numbers. Minnesota last week was a step in the right direction but they’re still not there and sit solidly in the bottom half of the rankings.

The Hoops are above average and have a lot of good will but much of that is due to Mauro Diaz who had an amazing couple of months. They will need more from Michael Barrios, Roland Lamah and Santiago Mosquera than just dribbling to stay relevant on the rankings.