Possession, Passing, and Shooting in MLS in 2016

Given the emphasis that Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter places on possession and passing, it probably isn’t a surprise that I’ve started to focus on those statistical categories. Throughout the 2016 season, as troublesome results started to accumulate, I’ve tried to understand the Columbus approach to possession and passing within the context of other teams in MLS.

I’m hardly alone in this, of course – which is one of my motivations in writing this post.

Now that the 2016 MLS league season has concluded, I combed through the stats pages for each game and recorded a series of data points. The resulting dataset has been posted to GitHub.

Each observation is a single team’s performance in a single game – so with 20 teams each playing 34 games, there are 680 rows available. Fields include:

  • Team
  • Opponent
  • Possession %
  • Passes
  • Pass completion %
  • Passes in specific areas of the field (attacking half, final third, and crossses)
  • Pass completion % in those areas
  • Shots
  • Shots on target
  • Goals

Hopefully the work to assemble this data proves useful to someone. I’ve been using this data for many of the plots that I’ve shared on Twitter this season, and now that Columbus is done for the year I’ve been exploring it in more detail.

I hope to be able to share what I’ve found over the coming weeks, but for now I mostly just want to see whether anyone is interested in the data itself.

Get the data in CSV format over on GitHub.

Here are some sample plots that I’ve been working with that are generated by this data. More information will be shared in future posts.

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Exploring the passing tendencies of Columbus and Portland ahead of MLS Cup

When Columbus and Portland face off this evening in MLS Cup, it will be a clash between two of the better passing teams in the league. Both feature midfields heavy on ball control, with international-caliber players pulling the strings supported by a back line that likes to get forward.

In preparation for this game, I collected player-by-player passing summaries for each game the two teams played, starting from the last time they faced each other in late September. What I found indicates that fans of all stripes could be in for quite a treat.

Continue reading Exploring the passing tendencies of Columbus and Portland ahead of MLS Cup

On Wil Trapp and Increased Performance

Wil Trapp has been getting a lot of attention lately for his play with the Columbus Crew. He’s been written up by Tempo-Free Soccer, the official MLS website, the Columbus Dispatch, and TopDrawerSoccer this season. Going back to last season the list also includes Massive Report and US Soccer.

Looking at Trapp’s productivity this season, it is easy to see why. Here is a chart showing the number of passes he completed under each of the Crew’s various head coaches:

Wil Trapp Pass Totals Per Game

Continue reading On Wil Trapp and Increased Performance