Nine games into the season, sitting a single rung above last, the Seattle Sounders clearly have strong issues. They cannot remain healthy, which is compounded by a roster that is now down to guys who shouldn’t be getting starts at forward, even if they can play there as substitutes. It’s the Dire Days all over again, and yet, the maths like the team.
Whether you check 538, Sagarin, or American Soccer Analysis the result is the same — the Sounders should be in the middle of the table, not in competition for the Wooden Spoon.
Sagarin is the simplest of these measures. It merely uses the results of previous games. It does not care for expected Goals. It doesn’t care about anything except goals scored for & against, and the host site of the matches. The lesson from Sagarin is also simple — Seattle’s schedule has been pretty rough to this point (6th most difficult) and the team is the 6th best in the West. It also shows that home field advantage is fairly large this year and that the Sounders are massive favorites against Real Salt Lake this Saturday (2 p.m., JOEtv).
American Soccer Analysis does use expected Goals, it’s kind of what they are known for. By expected Goal Differential per game the Sounders are 7th in the West and 14th overall. As you expected, they are underperforming expected Goals. They are the 7th in the underperformance measure, which goes a long way to explain their crappy record. If you want a nightmare, note that Los Angeles FC is also underperforming the metric while dominating the league (as is Columbus).
538 has their own version of expected Goals and they use other data. They aren’t really transparent about how they build their system. It is the most predictive of the systems looked at here, and it is predicting that Seattle finishes with the 10th best record in the league (their worst MLS finish), making the playoffs as the six seed and then having the 9th best chance at winning MLS Cup. 538 adores the Sounders defense (3rd) and the offense is merely 14th. It also suggests that Seattle are favorites this weekend, more than any other team playing on the holiday weekend.
The cold, hard, unfeeling math likes the Seattle Sounders chances, even with injuries, even without a DP signing, even without another TAM signing, even without adding a forward to the back end of the roster.