NWSL Advanced Stats 5-23-14:

Believe it or not, we have concluded about a third of the 2nd NWSL season. Because of the odd number of teams we have an inconsistent number of games played. Kansas City leads the league with 10 games played, while Boston brings up the rear having played only 6. That being said, the point of this post isn’t to complain about scheduling, that is for another day, but to look at some of the underlying statistics and analytics of the teams so far.

Just like I’ve done in my previous piece I’m going to focus on the respective team’s PDO and TSR. For those of you that need a refresher or want to learn what or why these statistics are important, here is a great primer by Richard Whittall. For an even quicker primer, PDO measures a team’s luck and TSR measures how well a team controls the game through shots rather than mere possession. Each stat gives different insight into not only how the team has been playing, but also gives a glimpse into what may happen for teams as well. I’ll go through the table and try to explain what each number means. Without further ado: the numbers.

Analytical Stats Table

PDO as of 5-23-14TSR as of 5-23-14

Seattle Reign:

The Seattle Reign have dominated the league so far. Their tie against Kansas City represents their first dropped points through 8 games. They’ve scored 17 goals and only given up 5 goals. Even scarier is that a few of those goals are from penalties meaning that scoring on them from open play is a tough task. Their underlying statistics give the rest of the league some good and bad news. First with the bad news, they dominate the games as much as we thought if not more. If you don’t know why you should be worried, Dan Lauletta wrote a piece for the Equalizer which you can read here. Looking at their TSR, they lead the league with a TSR or .63, meaning that they are outshooting their opponent 2-1. What this means is that they aren’t just outscoring their opponents but also outshooting the game and controlling the game with their shots as well.

The good news for the rest of the league is their PDO is quite high. They lead the the league with a PDO of 1187. Their shooting percentage is high, what is really boosting their PDO is their save percentage. While they have allowed the least amount of shots on goal all season (30) they’ve also saved all but 4 of those (some of you might wonder how they gave up 5 goals? One of the stadiums does not count which penalties as a shot on goal or a save). That being said, their PDO will have to regress, meaning that either they will start giving up more goals (more likely) or stop converting shots on target to goals at as high a rate (their conversion rate is high but not out of league norms). That being said if they continue dominating the games and keep their TSR they might just keep winning games but simply ship more goals.


Portland Thorns:

Staying in Cascadia, 2nd in the points total is Portland Thorns. Outside of the stats this is bad because the team is still awaiting the return of Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath. Portland is third in TSR behind Seattle and Kansas City. That said their PDO is currently at 1014. What this means is that their luck has gone both ways, meaning that they should be able to maintain their form as is since they aren’t saving a crazy amount of shots on goal, or converting shots on target to goals at a crazy rate either. In fact they are actually converting shots at a league low .176%. Meaning that their team is creating chances and just not converting. While you expect their save percentage may drop, with the return of Morgan and Heath, you can only expect them to start converting more shots on target to goals. Expect them to mount a challenge on the Seattle Reign.


Chicago Red Stars:

The Chicago Red Stars are surprising people who are looking at the table right now. Last year the team finished 6th and their underlying statistics didn’t suggest anything different was going to happen this year. Their PDO is the third highest in the league right now, but that being said at 1089 it is not out of this world, but it means that some of their luck should regress slightly. Their TSR of .53 is good enough for 4th in the league and makes them above average. That being said looking at the team’s schedule, they have played the hapless bottom of the league Boston Breakers twice, the only games where they scored multiple goals. Look for the Chicago Red Stars to regress slightly but stay in the play-off hunt for the rest of the year.


FC Kansas City:

Kansas City is in an interesting position, looking that the table they have played 2 to 4 more games than the rest of the competition. However that being said, looking at their TSR and PDO they should be doing better. Kansas City is 2nd in the league in TSR, with a rating of .60. Which is only slightly behind that of the Seattle. Picking up from last year it seems that they are still dominating the game like they did last year. You can see this as they had the exciting 2-3 loss to Seattle and are the only team to take points from Seattle this year (even though it was a 1-1 tie). Anyone who saw those two games saw that they have the quality to stand with the best in the league.

The main difference being that so far this year they have been substantially unluckier. They have a PDO of 878 which is absurdly low. That means that Kansas City will almost undoubtedly move up the table. Breaking down the PDO further, they are in the bottom half in shot percentage. The problem for them is really their save percentage where they are tied for last in the league. Meaning right now Nicole Barnhardt is only saving .653% of shots on target. That is something that you expect to turn around sometime this season. Look for Kansas City to start turning some results their way, stop conceding so many goals and move their way out of the play-off hunt.


Western New York Flash:

Sitting in 5th Western New York are the current holders of the inaugural Championship. Looking at their stats though, their chances of repeating are unlikely. Right now they have not only 2nd highest PDO at 1091 but they are also getting outshot by opponents right now with their TSR resting at .49 which places them around 5th. This means that the team has been pretty lucky in their games so far, they have not been in control of their games being outshot by their opponents. Their save percentage isn’t extremely high but they are 2nd in the league in shooting percentage, which will most likely regress.

The good news for them is that the stats don’t tell their whole story. Western New York lost Abby Wambach for 2 games due to her broken ocular bone, and missed Carli Lloyd for 2 games due to suspension. For their sake you hope with players of those caliber returning to the line up for a more extended run their underlying statistics will improve, and perhaps even their teams fortune. But unless their underlying statistics begin to improve they will most likely begin the slide down the table.


Washington Spirit:

Sitting at 6th in the league, last year’s bottom feeders seem like they were able to turn their team around with the notable additions of Yael Averbuch and Crystal Dunn. Their TSR at .43 shows that they are nothing to really be scared of, but represents a marked improvement from last year where they were last in the league rocking around a .35. The main difference being their PDO. While their 1076 is nothing to be extremely alarmed about, their shot percentage at .389 is something to be alarmed at. It means that the Spirit are converting about .4 of their shots on target into goals. Not only is this rate unsustainable, but when combined with the fact that their being outshot for most of these games, look for the team to either to stay in 6th or regress slightly.


Sky Blue FC:

Last year, Sky Blue finished 4th in the league and lead the league in TSR. This year they have hung around the bottom, unable to score goals. Despite a near even TSR of .51 Sky Blue is currently sitting in 7th right now. The main culprit being the league’s 2nd lowest PDO at 923. The bad news is though much like the Chicago Red Stars they have played the bottom feeder Boston Breakers twice. And while dominating those games helped their underlying statistics, they were unable to convert that into points. Speaking of conversion, their .200% shooting percentage is also 2nd lowest in the league. You can expect that if they can start converting these shots on target into goals, they can start getting more points. The problem being that the team itself doesn’t have an elite finisher. While on one hand you expect their luck to turn on converting shots to goals, maybe their low conversion rate is more about the quality of their strikers than the luck.


Houston Dash:

The new kid on the block, the team has the had bad luck. Losing their number 1 expansion draft pick to an ACL injury, they are also rocking the league’s third lowest PDO, 929, which hopefully means that their luck will turn. They have the league’s 2nd lowest conversion rate at .179.

On the flip side of that coin is their TSR. A paltry .31 their TSR is a league worse. So not only are they not very efficient at converting shots on target to goals, they aren’t taking nearly enough shots and are being grossly outshot as well. The underlying statistics point to that a few more breaks should go their way this year, they aren’t creating enough opportunities for breaks to go their way.


Boston Breakers:

Last year Boston hovered right outside the play-off spot, this year after the trade of Sydney LeRoux, the team sits at the bottom of the table. With one win to their name, their underlying statistics are only slightly better than that of Houston. Their PDO is 957 and their TSR is .35. What is really hurting Boston is their tied for league lowest save percentage. Which you would expect to rise to meet their slightly above average shooting percentage. While Houston is having a problem converting shots to goals, Boston is having a problem making saves.

Seemingly they should overtake Houston eventually, but these numbers are indicators of trends not rock solid signs of the future. That being said the return of Kristie Mewis to the line up full time should help the team. Much like their Houston, their PDO gives slight hope to improvement and indicate that a few more breaks should go their way, their TSR dampens that optimism.


Looking at the statistics, everything on the table is seemingly as it should be. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas City caught hot and were able to pull of a few wins in a row, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle maintained their current goal scoring form, but we started seeing more cracks in their defense. On the other side of the table, the underlying stats show how much the bottom two teams have been dominated so far. Like I’ve said before, these numbers are not merely indicators of things that are likely to happen, are not written in stone. I look forward to seeing how statistics and the predications hold up for the season. If you like what you read, leave a comment or send us an email. Thanks for reading.


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