and then, the hex

The 4 Phases of MLS Transfers

How does a player develop across seven teams and six countries in four years?

Erik Palmer-Brown plays for Austria Wien.  He’s the starting centerback for the 7th placed Austrian Bundesliga club, one on-par with with Brescia, Real Zaragoza, and Nottingham Forest.

Though he plays in Austria, Palmer-Brown is actually a Manchester City player.  After impressing at the 2017 U-20 World Cup, he transferred from Kansas City to Manchester City in January 2018.  The road to Vienna featured stops in Kortrijk and Breda.  While at Kansas City, Palmer-Brown also had loans with Swope Park and Porto.

Palmer-Brown signed with Kansas City as a Homegrown Player in 2013, but never played more than 650 minutes a season for them.  He’s yet to appear for Manchester City, though he’ll return their when his loan with Austria Wien ends this June.

One of Palmer-Brown’s teammates on that U-20 squad was Tyler Adams, the personification of idealistic youth development. Continue reading “The 4 Phases of MLS Transfers”

The Most Underrated MLS Goal-Scoring Seasons

The fluctuation in MLS goal-scoring surprised me, so I decided to re-evaluate the top goal scorers in league history.  I wanted to give a little extra credit to attackers who were scoring during the lean years, and temper those who scored during a higher-league average season.

I went through the top goal-scorers each year, and stripped out the PK goals.  Next, I created a Weighted Goals index, based on how much that season’s goals-per-game average deviated from the historic median of 2.86 goals per game.  I applied that to each player’s goal total, and then compared that rate per 90 to the total goals scored that season.

Analyzing goals alongside a season-adjusted goal-scoring rate reveals three underrated goal scoring performances. Continue reading “The Most Underrated MLS Goal-Scoring Seasons”

High-Scoring MLS: The New Normal?

It seemed as if goals fell from the sky last season, and 2018 MLS numbers back it up.  The 3.19 goals per game average?  The highest rate since 2001.  A median expected goals per game of 2.92?  The highest ever in American Soccer Analysis’ database that goes back to 2011.  Atlanta striker and league MVP Josef Martinez scored 31 goals, setting a new league record.

Was last season an aberration?  Or are we headed for a league that looks more like the Eredivisie than Ligue 1?

Continue reading “High-Scoring MLS: The New Normal?”

When US National Team Players Make Their Debut

Earnie Stewart officially becomes the first US Men’s National Team General Manager on August 1.  Despite ambiguity about the position, one definitive responsibility is hiring the manager of the US National Team.  It’s an important hire: the new manager enters a landscape where the program is coming off of a brutal, historic low of missing World Cup 2018, yet has the urgency of a strong performance when hosting World Cup 2026 in 8 years.  It’s up to the new manager to reset the trajectory of the entire program.

Of course, the manager also leads the player selection process.  After missing the World Cup, continuity matters less.  With this in mind, I focused on the trends of players making their first US National Team appearance.  I included players who made their debut from 1994 through today. This timespan covers multiple World Cup qualification cycles and six managers: Continue reading “When US National Team Players Make Their Debut”

Shortlist: Christian Pulisic, and the Path of the Top 100 Players

Each year, The Guardian releases its Top 100 players in the world.  I looked at the 2017 list to analyze just how players arrived on this stage.  The Guardian compiles this list across 169 judges from 63 countries, giving this list a global, broad-reaching scope.  The stories of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (once again #1 and #2 on the list) have dominated the global soccer narrative over the past decade, but analyzing the full list shows a variety of paths to earn this acclaim. Continue reading “Shortlist: Christian Pulisic, and the Path of the Top 100 Players”

Repeatability of Goals and Assists in MLS 2016-2017

Utilizing American Soccer Analysis’ excellent xG Interactive Tables, I looked at attacking stats for all players who played at least 700 minutes in MLS in 2016 and 2017.  The 700 minutes figure allows us to analyze players who joined in MLS’ summer transfer window, such as Nicolas Lodeiro and Alejandro Bedoya.  Restricting the analysis to those who spent two seasons in MLS also minimizes the effect of switching leagues (positively or negatively.)

I looked at the repeatability of four year-over-year stats:

  • Actual goals and assists
  • Actual goals and assists per 90 minutes
  • Expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) per 90 minutes
  • The delta in goals and assists compared to xG and xA

Actual goals/assists and actual goals/assists per 90 displayed similar trends, so I’ve included the per 90 stats here.  An full interactive version of all of the charts is available here.  Let’s start with the goal-scorers.  Continue reading “Repeatability of Goals and Assists in MLS 2016-2017”

When the US Solved a Spanish Puzzle

The US script at international tournaments often includes moments of triumph and tragedy, luck and misfortune.  World Cups generally regarded as successful required an 88th minute South Korean post in 2002 and a Landon Donovan miracle goal in 2010 just to escape group play.  A poor tournament, like 2006, still featured a point off of eventual winners Italy.  2014 illustrated how quickly a narrative could shift with the right results: the US were a last-minute Portugal goal from six points in the group stage, and nearly stole the Belgium game against the run of play.

No tournament exemplified this capacity better than the 2009 Confederations Cup.  It’s the US’ South African road trip film: hijinks, half-baked plans, serendipity, a triumphant turning point, and despite the odds, arriving at the destination. Continue reading “When the US Solved a Spanish Puzzle”

Getting Sharp, Fast: Early-Season MLS and World Cup Qualifiers

It’s rare that tension rises this high, this early for the US in a World Cup Qualifying cycle.  Zero points in the first two games, though, led to the heightened importance of this Friday’s home qualifier against Honduras.  The US hired Bruce Arena in the interest of short-term stability, and a review of previous campaigns show that this low-risk approach made sense.  Here are the points by matchday for each US World Cup Hex, from 1998 through today: Continue reading “Getting Sharp, Fast: Early-Season MLS and World Cup Qualifiers”

Global Leaders in Key Passes and Shots

After the in-depth look at MLS Key Passes, let’s look at those findings in a global context.  I analyzed the top 10 players in key passes for the Big 5 Euro leagues, MLS, and added the top-flight from Argentina and Brazil.  All eligible players played at least 500 minutes, and all stats are from the current season or most recent season (2016 for Brasileirão and MLS): Continue reading “Global Leaders in Key Passes and Shots”

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