My time has been stretched a bit thinner so far this season, which hasn’t allowed me to write as often as I’d like.  I did want to talk about something that’s been confusing me this week, but I hope you’ll excuse that it’s less “in-depth” than usual.

The question I keep coming back to this year is: Are the Revs actually all that bad?  Or have things simply not broken their way?

Injuries, schedule congestion, red cards, and questionable refereeing have all played a factor in the Revs 0-4-1 start to MLS play, no doubt.  But I also have to concede that it would take a monumental amount of bad luck to end up with 1 point from a possible 15.

It’s early in the year, so most season-long stats aren’t particularly helpful, but xG and xGA are often equated to how lucky/unlucky you are.  I’ve written elsewhere that I don’t think there’s a perfect correlation there, but nevertheless, let’s take a look at some expected stats and see where the Revs fall.

Expected Goals For

To start, I don’t think we have enough information to determine whether or not any over/under-performance of expected metrics are related to luck – as opposed to skill.  But I know that statistically, an average team should eventually see their actual goals trend toward their expected goals.

I’m going to let the charts do most of the talking here:

If luck is involved with under/over-performing your expected goals, you’d have to say the Revs are getting unlucky with their shots.

In a strong Eastern Conference, the Revs are about middle-of-the-pack in terms of chance creation and are about on par with FC Cincinnati.

They aren’t converting the chances they create, though.  Only Orlando has converted xG into actual goals at a lower rate.  There’s less worry for Orlando since they’re creating more chances.  New England on the other hand, needs their chances to find the back of the net more often — or they need to create more opportunities.

One more stat of note: while Carles Gil is 2nd (yet again) in critical passes, he’s dropped from 8th best to 31st best in terms of xAG (expected assisted goals).

A “key pass” is a pass leading to a shot attempt, while “xAG” is a measure of the quality of the shooting opportunity created by that pass.  It’s unclear whether the dip in xAG is due to the new system, Gil not making the same kinds of incisive passes, or his teammates not making the required runs.

It’s early still and these stats don’t mean much yet.  But it’s something to keep an eye on.


Expected Goals Against

This is where things start to look bad for the Revs.  While they’re fairly average at preventing xGA from turning into actual goals against, they’re abysmal at preventing xGA to begin with.  The Revs are the worst in the East on an xGA basis, allowing 10.3 expected goals in their 5 matches.

That said, if luck has anything to do with New England’s performance on either side of the ball, I think you’ll have a much easier time arguing they’ve been unlucky defensively.

Of those 10.3 xGA, a full 1.5 came from penalties, both against Atlanta. While you can’t (no, wait, yes, you can) argue against the penalty calls, PKxG isn’t really a great indicator of chance creation. You could be forgiven for wanting to discount their xG when assessing the team’s defensive acumen.

Furthermore, a whopping 4.47 of those 10.3 xGA came against DC United after Vrioni picked up a pair of first-half yellows, forcing his teammates to play at a disadvantage for 65 minutes.

IF (and it’s a big if) you’re willing to overlook penalties and red card time, that leaves you with a respectable 1.08 xGA/90 conceded by the Revs. That gap between actual and “extenuating circumstances” xGA would seem to indicate a bit of poor luck for New England.

Another tick in the “luck” column could be the fact that the Revolution have conceded 0.41PSxG per shot on target. That’s the second-highest in the league. PSxG measures the likelihood of a goal, factoring in the quality of the shot.

Perhaps the Revs have simply run afoul of an atypical number of well-taken shots.

It could be lucky shots. It could…

But pushing back against that is the fact that xG/SOT actually goes up (to 0.49) when you ignore shot quality. That indicates a high value contributed by shooting position conceded.  For the record, that value includes chances while on a red card but doesn’t include penalties.

All told, if you’re looking for reasons to feel ok about New England’s 0.2 points per game, disproportionately bad luck is a potential explanation. But it’s one that fades every week that New England fails to pick up a win. Luck balances out. Eventually regresses to the mean.

Poor coaching/tactics, bad shot selection, poor shot quality, defensive disorganization, and baffling decision-making don’t.

Let’s hope it’s the former.

Photo: New England Revolution 

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