Welcome to The Graphical, wherein – as long as I remember how to do it – I mine the data for insights about Nashville SC’s most recent contest. First up, a disappointing draw against FC Cincinnati.
Underachieving the expected
The major talking about coming out of Saturday’s game can be summed up pretty simply: FC Cincinnati had just 1.9 expected goals, and scored twice. Nashville SC had over 3.5 expected goals… and also scored twice. It’s right there on the xG raceplot:
That certainly feels like a bad beat, even when it’s not a loss. Given what expected goals approximate – add ’em up and it’s the number of goals you’d be… expected… to score in a game – that’s a fair assessment. I’m too far removed from a stats class to remember an elegant way of figuring out the likelihood of scoring two goals given the above, but we can look at the real-world data from last year. There were only 12 instances of home teams recording 3.0 or greater expected goals (in 308 contests!), and only four with more than 3.5 xG (that’s right – this would have been the fifth-best home offensive output by xG in the league last year).
No home team with more than 3.25 xG scored fewer than three goals. Only five times did a squad with 3.0 or more fail to hit the three-goal mark. Whether you consider finishing a skill or largely random (in the long run, data will show it’s the latter aside from some guys who are statistically anomalous), the fact remains that Nashville SC had a poor finishing night unlike any seen since at least 2019.
OK, give the guy between the sticks some credit
…and Nashville’s poor finishing night can, at least in part, be credited to FCC keeper Przemsław Tyton. He was a below-average MLS shot-stopper last year, but by the numbers, his 11 saves included an overachievement of xG by 2.03 goals (do not ask me how NSC had more xG on-target than they did total in the game – it’s too late to ping the ASA guys at this point UPDATE thanks to Eliot McKinley for dropping me a line: post-shot xG models for keepers run higher because the expected value of a shot that’s on-frame is higher than one – as in a shooter model – where that factor is not known).
That’s a pretty good night! Given that he wasn’t a particularly good keeper last year, it may once again inspire some skepticism about the quality of NSC’s finishing. I think anecdotally, we have reason to believe he’s either improved or just had that kind of night where he played out of his mind:
…and so on.
Wes and I talked about this on the podcast, but by the passing network Opta published (and unfortunately, the chalkboards on MLSSoccer.com don’t seem to be coming back, as the league works through some of the more-significant (and many) growing pains of its new format), Jhond Cádiz… had difficulty being involved with many of his teammates:
There are a few things going on here – obviously the number of passes between Randall Leal (8) and Cádiz (99) cannot be zero since Leal assisted Cádiz on a goal, for example. The primary thing many have taken away from it is how conservatively-positioned Alex Muyl seemed to be.
I want to first point out that “average position” can be misleading: for example, if wingers flip sides during the course of the game, you probably shouldn’t look at the chart and think they were standing on top of each other in the middle of the field for 90 minutes. Nonetheless, that’s conservative positioning indeed for Muyl.
A big part of why that happened is due to the offensive prowess of Cincinnati LB Ronald Matarrita. The former NYCFC man kept Muyl fairly pinned back, and most of Nashville’s counters were built down the left side, so he didn’t get the in-behind plays to bump it back up. Perhaps one could argue that sending him on a run behind an overly-aggressive LB might have been a good way to punish FCC on the counter. That’s fair, but also NSC had one of the most productive offensive days in recent MLS history, so it’s hard to say they missed that opportunity to generate offense. Another factor to keep in mind is that Alistair Johnston completed only 65.7% of his passes, so NSC didn’t have the chance to push forward in possession on that side of the field, and there was plenty of tracking back that may not have been Matarrita-specific.
Much more to come on the FC Cincinnati game in the coming days. But I promised myself I’d get this post up by the end of today so we’ll cut it reasonably short.