Los Nerdes Verdes: Final Stretch State of Play

New Strategy: Score More Goals Than We Let In

We are firmly in the final stretch of the season with a majority of the teams (including Austin) have seven games left to secure their place ahead of the playoffs. At this point, the data does a fairly good job capturing what teams are doing well, and where they’re falling short.

Austin sit just on the above-average side on the offensive side of the ball, but their poor defensive play has them far away from the league’s most well-rounded teams. There have been ups and downs throughout the season, but this is a change since our first check-in back in May when the Verde & Black were squarely in the worst quadrant.

If we’re looking at the advanced stats, Austin FC’s offensive position is the same with their xG of 1.31 placing them 10th in the league. On the defensive end, the situation looks a little brighter under the hood. Their xGA of 1.37 is 0.22 better than their actual and ranks 20th in the league (rather than 29th). Austin FC still has one of the highest SoTA at 5.15, good for 4th most in the league and they’ve faced the 2nd most crosses per game behind Portland. Speaking of Portland…

The Matchup

Austin and Portland are two of the worst defenses in the league, giving up the 2nd-most (1.59) and 4th-most (1.57) goals per game. It’s also been particularly bad of late. Over their last six league games, Austin have given up fourteen goals (2.33/g) while Portland has given up twelve (2/g).

Austin fans won’t forget allowing six against St. Louis any time soon, but the Timbers are no strangers to defensive collapses either. The 2021 MLS finalists have given up five goals twice this season (one against the Dynamo less than a month ago). Pair that with two additional 4-goal blunders and the Portland defense is ripe for the taking.

One thing to watch out for is possession. Portland has the second lowest percentage per game in the league, just in front of St. Louis (with vastly different results). They have the 4th lowest pass completion in the league, and their CB, Zac “just boot it” McGraw, leads the league in clearances. While we’re on the subject of clearances, Portland’s goalkeepers have the highest percentage of launches per game than any other team in the league. Don’t expect to see either Ivacic or Bingham (whoever starts) to start the attack too often.

In addition to their defensive issues, Portland has the 2nd lowest xG per game. They’re overperforming on that front, with a positive 6.1 np:G-xG which is explained in part by having the 5th fewest shot creating actions per game.