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A Brief Look at Sporting KC’s Expected Goals through Five Games

With the help of @GameFlowxPG and their beautiful graphs.

MLS: Austin FC at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Advanced statistics haven’t made their way into soccer in the same way that they have in other major sports like Major League Baseball and the National Football League. But the folks over at American Soccer Analysis are doing their part to help bring stats to Major League Soccer. In addition to the expected goals (xG) stat charts they’ve been making charts for the USL Championship and NWSL games as well.

Today, let’s focus on the first five games from Sporting Kansas City.

Game 1 @ New York Red Bulls

Sporting KC won the game 2-1. They also won the xG battle. SKC 1.84 to 0.76 for RBNY.

The highest chance of the week was definitely the PK that Gadi Kinda converted but outside of that, it was kind of an ugly game with numerous half-chances. I’m surprised how low the xG for Salloi’s game winning goal was. Maybe because players don’t often make that run... (bring the hate commenters).

Game 2 vs. Orlando City SC

This game ended in a draw, but the xG heavily favored the road team. SKC 0.47 to 1.37 for Orlando.

Sporting KC actually scored on a relatively low percentage chance compared to the big chance they had early. While Orlando had numerous, high percentage chances that they failed to convert.

Game 3 @ Real Salt Lake

Of course, this was a horrific looking 3-1 loss but the xG was actually pretty low. SKC had just 0.33 to RSL’s 1.13.

Frankly I’m stunned the xG on the Alan Pulido goal isn’t higher as it felt like a sure thing (though I suppose chances like that get blocked all the time) and I’m too many weeks removed to remember what the 0.42 chance is that RSL failed to convert.

Game 4 vs. Austin FC

Of course Sporting won this one in dramatic fashion by a scoreline of 2-1 and the subsequently won the xG battle as well. SKC 2.66 to 0.82 for Austin.

It’s easy to say the red card was the difference as many tiny chances occur as well as some of the bigger ones of the game, but the chart clearly shows Sporting were firmly in control outside of two big chances for Austin. What’s interesting is to see how often the low percentage chances go in versus the higher percentage ones.

Game 5 @ Houston Dynamo

Sporting lost the most recent game 1-0, but here is the first time xG is really flipped on it’s head. Sporting were firmly in control winning xG 2.14 to 0.67 for Houston.

There are lots of really big chances that Sporting KC just doesn’t convert. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. That’s the narrative of the last decade for SKC. They can create chances but they can’t finish. On the whole, they actually convert at a rate better than a good portion of MLS in past season but just a little more finishing would go a long way.

Takeaways

Honestly, xG is just a stat. It seems fairly accurate in predicting outcomes, but the ball bounces funny in soccer sometimes. A momentary lapse can be all it takes to lose a game or lose a lead.

On the season, SKC’s cumulative xG is 7.44 and they’ve scored six goals, so they are only a little off the pace. Defensively, the have allowed 4.75 xG but have given up seven goals. That’s a bigger problem. Finishing is one thing but defense has to come first and it often seems Sporting sacrifice defensive stability to push more players forward.

As the season wears on, it’ll be interesting to see if this disparity continues to grow or flips the other way around.


Going forward, I’m going to make a conscience effort to post these charts in the Fanshots section which is at the top of the page or if you are viewing this on a desktop computer, they are down a bit on the right if you scroll down on the homepage. Not just for SKC, but SKC II and KC NWSL have Game Flow charts now too.