Los Nerdes Verdes: Expecting the Expected

xGs and Goals by the Minute

Recently, MLS Soccer put together a great piece outlining the statistical performances of every club broken down by half. Motivated by that article and by the belief that we could add a little bit more nerdiness, we took a look at just how dominant Austin’s been in each segment of the game.

To best demonstrate control, we’ve chosen Expected Goals. While there are many differing opinions on the predictability of the xG stat, it is a fairly good representation of chances created — particularly when comparing directly to the aggregate of a team’s opponents.

The long and the short of it, Austin creates the most chances in almost every section of the game. That’s fairly reflective of what MLS Soccer found as well, which noted that Austin is the most dominant first half and second most dominant second half team. 

Interestingly, the two areas where we see the steepest dropoff are in the middle of the first half and the final 10 minutes of the game. At a glance, ceding opportunities to your opponents at the end of the game may seem like a cause for concern. However, we see a lot of that as a function of two trends. The first being that Austin has already been a part of a number of blowouts this season. Naturally, it’s easy to take your foot off the gas and much of the motivation to actually attack is going to be from the opponent. 

The second is stemming from the closer games in which Austin was trying to maintain a lead (think Houston last week). In those games, we’ve seen an influx of opponent attempts on goal as the Verde & Black sit deeper, inevitably giving up additional chances. Whether that’s a calculated risk we’re willing to live with or a recipe for disaster is something only time will tell.

We also took a look at how Austin’s control has translated into actual goals.

It’s the nature of the game that you can always concede, regardless of how much a team feels in control, but it is interesting to see where ATXFC’s domination has translated and where it hasn’t. It’s also worth noting that there are no ten minute stretches this season in which the Verde & Black have been outscored. That’s particularly good news when looking at net negative xG in the last 10 minutes of the game. These are the discrepancies that jumped out to us:

21st-30th: -0.51 net xG → +2 net goals
41st-45th+: +0.98 net xG → 0 net goals
86th-90th+: -0.73 net xG → +2 net goals

Translating some of those xGs into actual Gs towards the end of the first half can start to put more teams away early. Pair that Austin’s ability to close out games, and we should see these winning ways continue.

The Matchup

By most measures, the clash with the Galaxy will be Austin’s toughest test of the season. Statistically, they’re one of the best defensive squads in the league. Goals, on the other hand, have been more difficult to come by.

Chicharito’s been the Galaxy’s only consistent source of finishing, with the Mexican national netting 5 of the team’s 10 total goals. How nervous the Austin faithful should be about their attack really depends on how you view Douglas Costa. There’s no doubt the Brazilian has been a world class soccer player — his time at Bayern and Juventus prove that. The question is, which Costa will the Galaxy get this season and which will show up for this game? Will it be the speedy winger that struck fear in the hearts of European defenders or the inconsistent and, at times, unmotivated forward who scored just 3 goals in 26 games in the Brazilian Série A last season.

On the other side of the ball, Austin will have to contend with a squad that’s dominated possession much in the same way as the Verde & Black. That unequal share of the ball has led the Galaxy to the second best GA/90. While we likely won’t see Austin cede as much possession as LA is used to, whether or not the Verde are able to capitalize on less time on the ball than they’re used to will make the difference.