Archive for April, 2013

Will Chivas USA & The Montreal Impact Continue to Be MLS Darlings? Extrapolating the MLS Season

"Minda telling me when you guys are going to cool off?"

“Minda telling me when you guys are going to cool off?”

Steve Fenn sets the MLS table.

The first month of 2013 MLS has just finished, but many are already trumpeting clubs’ achievements or bemoaning the lack thereof. Chivas USA and Montreal Impact gear is flying off the shelves apparently (that’s not true, but you get the drift.)

Yet, here is an important fact as sure as the stacks of yellow cards sitting in Oswaldo Minda’s locker stall.

Everyone in MLS has either 29 or 30 matches left in their season in which form will surely shift.

Is there a way to extrapolate from the four or five game observations seen to date?


First, let’s illustrate which clubs offensive & defensive achievements have to this point been so far outside the norm as to be unsustainable. The graph on the left is each club’s goals and shots on goal per game for each season from 2006 through 2013, sized based on number of games played. The graph on the right is the same format, but with the sum of goals allowed and shots faced by each club’s keepers. (Note: Goalkeeping stats don’t quite tie out to total defensive stats, but the assumption is they are close and as a note, were the only historical resource available. The defensive graph’s axes are reversed so that in both graphs clubs would be striving for the top right.)

1st graphs

Click [here] to see an interactive version where you can filter down by club or year.

The best fit lines illuminate the overall average strike rate for the league since 2006. Almost every one of the 2006-2012 club-seasons amass in the middle of the graph and around that line, displaying the general range one can expect almost every club to land in by the end of a season.

Thirteen clubs offensively and twelve defensively fall outside of that mass thus far in 2013, and a regression to the mean should be the expectation.

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Fool’s Gold: But What If Klinsmann & The USMNT Had Lost?

Still in the first....twelve....

Still in the first….twelve….

Steve Fenn, topical on the day.

Amidst the Straussing of Jurgen Klinsmann last week it seemed realistic that the German might be replaced as national team manager had the US team not earned positive results against Costa Rica and Mexico.

Sources have told me–not really, look at the calendar buddy–that US Soccer held precautionary discussions of who would replace Klinsi if necessary. What if the US come out of three Hex matches without a win, would USSF preserve it’s World Cup streak and place the USMNT reigns in a manager’s hands currently in charge of a pro club, likely in the USA.

So, looking at the full US Soccer Pyramid, who would be most qualified? Opta data can provide us with a clear answer. There are a few simple statistics which we can collate into a single metric measuring coaching ability–this an assumption merely for the sake of this piece.

The USMNT needs a coach who emphasizes the factor which pundits mention most often: possession (signified in our equation below as “m”). Next, Opta passing statistics easily show us passing percentage allowing us to quantify ability to foster team chemistry (“a” in the equation).

The next factor is distance covered, which illustrates coaches’ motivational abilities (“r” in the equation). We also need to account for defense, so blocked shots and saves are added up and signified by the single metric “o.”

Finally, to measure managers’ ability to inspire discipline, fouls suffered are signified by “d.”

Below we have a couple visualizations of the results. The word cloud in the top left and the bubble chart on the right are the primary views, with a bar chart and tree graph in the bottom left illustrating the top 3 managers and each league’s total pool of coaching talent, respectively.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

As you can see from the word cloud, Bruce Arena is clearly still the best manager in US Soccer.

Let’s just call him the Once & Future Boss. Colin Clarke and El Chelis are the only ones that come close.

Most of the best managers are in MLS, as you would expect, but there are a few men in charge of lower-division sides who are more skilled than their top-tier comparables.

In fact, every tier has some worse than those best in the tier just below, and some better than the dregs of the upper tiers. If MLS does start upgrading their worst managers soon, these superior lower-division managers, like Clarke, Finch, Lirpa, and San Seriffe, will upgrade their sides so much that the US Soccer cartel will no longer be able to avoid a structure of unlimited clubs in a promotion and relegation.


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