FanPost

Did Luck Desert the Sounders?


Did Luck Desert the Sounders?

The seven game run at the end of the 2013 MLS season saw the Sounders squander their chance of winning the Supporters Shield and the Cascadia Cup. After reading up on the use of data to analyze soccer matches at www.statsbomb.com, I collected the the Sounders' shots data from the 2013 regular season to examine if the they were noticeably worse at creating and allowing chances in their last seven games.

The table below compares the Sounders' shots and shots-on-target ratios for the whole season and the last seven games. This stat is the Sounders' shots or shots on target divided by the total of their shots and their opponents' shots. Good teams in the English Premier League will average around 60% of the shots share in their games. Based on the analysis done by shuddertothink from Bitter & Blue, I have divided the ratios into the categories of overall, when the score is tied, and when the score is close (tied or a difference of one goal).


Full Season

7 Games


Overall

Tied

Close

Overall

Tied

Close

Shots

48.93%

52.07%

49.19%

53.98%

56.16%

52.24%

Shots on Target

49.19%

52.87%

51.26%

44.64%

50.00%

45.95%

The Sounders did not create a lesser share of the shots during their downward spiral; they actually created shots at a better relative clip than over the whole season. But their shots on target numbers definitely suffered. This may be due to the fact that the Sounders were behind frequently during this streak; they chased leads of multiple goals in three of the seven games. This would in theory allow the opposing team to form a defensive shell and restrict the Sounders to less quality shots. To check whether that as the case, we can divide the goal area into three zones:

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New Field (via johnfrasene)


Inside of the blue lines is zone 1, inside of the yellow lines is zone 2, and everything else is zone 3. These are based off of Colin Trainor's divisions that appear on StatsBomb, though they are a best-try replication. But using these zones, we can see where the Sounders were creating and conceding shots and if that changed at the end of the season.

Sounders Shots

Zone 1

Zone 2

Zone 3

Opponents Shots

Zone 1

Zone 2

Zone 3

Full Season

48.77%

42.40%

8.82%

Full Season

45.56%

44.16%

10.28%

Last Seven

49.47%

38.95%

11.58%

Last Seven

39.51%

45.68%

14.81%

The table shows that the Sounders did not take less shots in the primary zone over the last seven games, but they did fall off in the secondary zone and ended up taking more shots from further out in Zone 3. It is interesting, though, that they restricted their opponents to poorer shots as well, and visibly cut down the number of chances allowed in the primary zone during their end of season tailspin.

The shift to more Zone 3 shots suggests the Sounders may have launched more long-distance shots than usual as they chased games at the end of the season. But their shots conceded locations do not suggest they were being sliced open at the back more frequently than during the rest of the season. So it may be worth examining if the Sounders were just unlucky that more of their opponents' shots sailed in while their own shots were rebuffed. A stat known as PDO tracks the percentage of shots on target a team converts added to the percentage of shots on target conceded that they save. The output is multiplied by 100, and it indicates how fortunate a team is when it comes to scoring and allowing goals. The Sounders whole season PDO was 97.8, a combination of a 29.5% scoring ratio and a 68.3% save ratio. I don't have numbers on the MLS, but that would put the Sounders at solidly mid-table in the English Premier League, where the best teams this season are currently closer to 110 and the worst team, Crystal Palace, is near 86 (per shuddertothink's sortable tables http://bitterandblue.sbnation.com/2014/2/5/5379322/stats-useless-boring-spreadsheet-warriors-watch-the-game-snake-oil-eyes-more-important-zzzzzzzz). But during the last seven games of the season, the Sounders' PDO fell to 67.6. They only scored on 16.0% of their shots on target, and they only saved 51.6% of the shots on targets they conceded. While the scoring drop-off looks more dramatic, consider that a 51.6 save percentage means that almost every other shot on the Sounders' goal went in. By comparison, the Sounders had a PDO of 111.4 during a seven game sequence from which they took 18 of 21 possible points; coincidentally over the seven games immediately before their end of season slump. The two streaks are compared below:

Game Dates

Goals For

Total Shots on Target

Goals Against

Total Shots on Target Against

Goal%

Save%

PDO

8/10/13-9/13/13

8

22

5

20

36.4

75.0

111.4

9/21/13-10/27/13

4

25

15

31

16.0

51.6

67.6

This isn't to say that the Sounders were just lucky during that stretch of games and totally unlucky during the end of the regular season. But most soccer statisticians who have discussed PDO have shown that it regresses towards a mean, and this would seem to be an example. The fact that two such divergent stretches occurred right next to each other shows that it can be a fickle friend at best, and even the top English teams will fall away from the sky-high levels of PDO that they are currently posting. The first set of shot and shot on target ratios are a better indicator of how a team plays. Here they are again for the 2013 Sounders:


Total

Tied

Close

Total Shots

48.93%

52.07%

49.19%

Shots on Target

48.33%

51.81%

50.26%

Over the season the Sounders hovered right around 50% on most of these ratios, which would suggest they performed as an average team. Their position in the tables indicates better-than-average: their point total of 52 was fourth of nine in the west and 6th of 19 in the league as a whole, and they made the play-offs. There are other measures of performance that could paint the Sounders in a better light, such as how their shot selection is often from good positions. And it would be interesting to get data on the rest of the league to see how other teams performed- I don't know if there are standouts with closer to 60% shot-on-target ratios like there are in the top European leagues. But based on these numbers, the end of the Sounders season was less a dip in form and more a return to earth, and they are still closer to an average team than they are to meeting their ambitions and the ambitions of their fan base.

FanPosts only represent the opinions of the poster, not of Sounder at Heart.

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