In the legal field, we often ask people to decide what is “reasonable.” Beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard required to prove that someone is guilty of a crime. Reasonable does all the heavy lifting in that sentence. Because I’m not a fortune teller, I won’t profess to know how many goals Willy Agada will score in 2023, but I wanted to take a deeper dive as his underlying numbers to see if it was reasonable to expect him to perform at a similar level. The cliff notes? Yes. Yes it is.
In 2022, Willy Agada played 918 minutes across 12 appearances with 10 starts. In those 918 minutes, he scored eight goals, all from the run of play, and added two assists. Those numbers add up to 0.98 G+A per 90 minutes. Absolutely elite production from a relatively unknown player prior to signing.
Perhaps the biggest question for Mr. Agada in 2023 is how much he’ll play with the return of designated player, Alan Pulido, to the lineup. Finding minutes for Agada will be critical for him to maintain the form that made him a quick fan favorite for Sporting Kansas City.
The next question is whether that production can be replicated. xG (or expected goals) is a statistical formula that calculates the probability that a shot will result in a goal based on the characteristics of that shot and the events leading up to it. Every statistics database calculates it slightly different, but generally speaking, they’ll look at the location of the shooter, type of pass, type of attack, and the body part used to strike the ball. These data models compare each shot to thousands of other shots with similar characteristics to come up with a number. An xG of 0 is a certain miss. An xG of 1 is a guaranteed goal and an xG of 0.5 means that if you took that shot 10 times, five would go in.
In the 918 minutes on the pitch for Willy Agada, he produced an xG of 7.3 and an xA of 0.5. He overperformed his assist statistics, but his goals scored to expected goals is exactly in line with where you would want to see. When a player scores far more goals than their xG, it typically indicates a bit of luck or a mistake on the part of the defense and goalkeeper. Conversely, when a player underperforms their xG, it can indicate that they’re getting into dangerous positions but are struggling to finish or are unlucky (see: Salloi, Daniel 2019).
Another statistic that weighs in Agada’s favor for replicating his form from 2022 was his ability to put shots on target. In 2022, Agada took 41 shots and put 21 on frame for a 51.2% SOT. Only Jesus Ferreira, Samuel Grandsir, Ola Kamara, Djordje Mihailovic, Daniel Gazdag, Dejan Joveljic, and Mikael Uhre took even a comparable number of shots and had a higher percentage that landed on target.
Finally, Agada’s average distance from goal on all shots he took was 11.9 yards. For context, Golden Boot winner, Hany Mukhtar’s, average distance was 18.1. Runner up, Sebastian Driussi, was 17.3. Obviously, the further from goal a shooter is, the harder it is to score. By taking more shots closer to the net, Agada increases the quality of the chance and the likelihood that the ball will go in. Take a look at the clip below to see how Agada makes a strong run into the box and is able to take a shot from about six yards out. Shots from that distance are going to find the back of the net more often than not.
Another one for Willy Agada! pic.twitter.com/eUjNv2DABz— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 18, 2022
Nobody can predict how an attacking player will perform going into a season. Daniel Salloi won the 2018 team golden boot before having a nightmare season to follow it up. However, Salloi’s underlying numbers in 2019 suggested that he was very unlucky and had a chance to rebound. A COVID shortened 2020 produced another dud, but Salloi rebounded in a big way in 2021 with 16 goals. As I said above, I’m not Miss Cleo and won’t tell you to count on Agada putting in 15 goals or challenging for Dom Dwyer’s club record. But I certainly wouldn’t count him out. At least that’s what the math tells me.
What are your thoughts? Any predictions?