Daily Archives

May 15, 2019

MLS Matchday 12 Odds: Can Philly Keep Their Lead?

Katya Gokhman May 15, 2019


MLS
Matchday 12 odds are released and with loads of quality games this week. Our two marquee match-ups for the week are: Philadelphia vs Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls vs Atlanta United

MLS Matchweek 12 Game Odds

As always, home team is listed first. If you need a refresher, visit how to bet MLS or how to bet soccer.

All listed odds from May 15 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.

Wednesday, May 15


Toronto FC -150Draw +310D.C. United +380
Houston Dynamo -150Draw +320Portland Timbers +350
Vancouver Whitecaps +220Draw +250Atlanta United +120
Seattle Sounders -220Draw +360Orlando City +550
Thursday, May 16Draw +260Southampton +195
Los Angeles FC -310
Draw +440FC Dallas +750
Saturday, May 18Liverpool -310
Montreal Impact -135Draw +280New England +350
Real Salt Lake +130Draw +270Toronto FC +185
San Jose Earthquakes +105Draw +280Chicago Fire +220
Philadelphia -120Draw +280Seattle Sounders +300
Minnesota United +115Draw +250Columbus +230
Houston Dynamo -130Draw +290D.C. United +320
Kansas City -250Draw +390Vancouver Whitecaps +600
Sunday, May 19
Orlando City -135Draw +280FC Cincinnati +370
New York Red Bulls +140Draw +250Atlanta United +185
FC Dallas +190Draw +260Los Angeles FC +130
LA Galaxy -270Draw +440Colorado +650

Visit FanDuel Sportsbook NJ as games near for updated odds and, for NJ residents, to place your wagers.

Odds and Ends

  • In our first marquee match of the week, Philadelphia Union (-120) take on Seattle Sounders (+300). Not only does Philadelphia have the advantage of playing at home, but they are also sitting 1st in the Eastern Conference and have a 5 game unbeaten streak. Seattle Sounders are not in a bad position either – sitting 3rd in the Western Conference. However, they have only won 1 out of 4 away games and have not beat Philly since 2016.
  • In our other marquee match up, New York Red Bulls (+140) take on Atlanta United (+185). Last week, we had high hopes for NYRB who seemed to be getting back in their groove with two back-to-back wins…until Montreal brought them back to reality beating them 2-1 in New York. They did, however, redeem themselves against Dallas this past Saturday. Meanwhile, Atlanta has been on a roll with four back to back wins. Atlanta does, however, have a difficult week ahead of them as they travel all the way to Vancouver on Wednesday after just playing this past Sunday and then heading to New York on Sunday. While Atlanta is doing that, Red Bulls get to recover and prepare the whole week for Sunday’s match up. Regardless, this will be a good indicator as to which team’s improved form is for real.

Best of the Premier League 2018-19: Starting XI and Reserves

Chops May 15, 2019

Welcome to the first High Press Soccer Premier League XI.

At the end of each season, we’ll take a look at major domestic leagues / cups and parse through the data, player voting, and weigh it against the general context of the year to determine the best XI and reserves. This year will only be the EPL and Champions League, but we’ll expand next year to cover La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A (we’ll just copy+paste PGS’s line-up for Ligue 1).

How the 2018-19 Premier League starting XI was determined

The XI (and reserves, 18 total) were determined based on:

  • Statistical output: Analytics and data matter.
  • Importance to team performance: Analytics and data don’t measure context. Did Lukasz Fabianski change West Ham’s season more than Alisson Becker did for Liverpool? Was their degree of difficulty the same?
  • PFA voting: While the pros definitely got a few spots wrong (mostly due to recency bias on a few streaking players), in general it’s easier to provide weight to their opinions since, you know, they actually play the game against these guys. That’s important.
  • Overall player value: A free market is a good indicator on something or someone’s overall value. It often doesn’t account for factors such as injuries, but it serves as a good measure for who is worth the most at their respective positions.

To those bullets, here are the points we mostly used as reference.

Transfermarkt Value: As stated above, a free market is usually a solid indicator of a player’s value, no? The one issue here is it doesn’t account for injuries that limited playing time (Harry Kane) or someone having a down year due to a new coach casting him in a ill-fitting role (N’Golo Kante).

Regardless, here’s transfermarkt’s top XI:

Mostly looks good, although it’s hard to argue that David de Gea would attract more interest today than Alisson Becker or Ederson.

Soccer Analytics: For this, we’re using WhoScored. Overall captures most of the key data points need to paint a full picture of a player’s season. As written above though, it doesn’t provide context. We’ll dive into the specifics of that point once we get to the selections.

PFA Voting: Again, players know. They always know. However, a few selections show recency bias from the time when voting took place. Raheem Sterling (who had an awesome year) and Paul Pogba were peaking at the time of the voting. Mo Salah was slumping. Over the course of a full season, and particularly at the close, was Sterling better than Salah? Was Pogba better than Hazard?

HPS Starting XI and Reserves

With all of that out of the way, here’s our first Premier League seasonal team. In the coming years, we’ll continue to refine the methodology and team selection.

To keep things simple, we use a 4-3-3 formation. Since the starting XI is made up entirely of Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea players, they get a blended red/blue kit.

Let’s start between the sticks.

Goalkeeper: Alisson. Won the Golden Glove award as he led the Premier League with 21 clean sheets. Statistically, West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski rated as the league’s best goalkeeper, but this is where context comes into play. Alisson was the final piece that turned Liverpool into a rollercoastery offensive juggernaut to one of the most well-balanced teams in the world. He faced and saved less shots than Fabianski, but he made huge saves all year when it mattered most. He did so without missing a minute of Premier League play and while shouldering the pressures of a Champions League Finals fun. It was close, but Alisson gets the edge.

Right-Back: Trent Alexander-Arnold. This came down to splitting hairs between the best defensive right-back (break-out Crystal Palace youngster Aaron Wan-Bissaka) and an offensive juggernaut in TAA. Wan-Bissaka
was second in the EPL in successful tackles and crosses blocked. TAA was third in the Premier League in assists (12) and first on his team. He also improved defensively as the year progressed. Again, context here. TAA and his left-wingback partner Andy Robertson were often the fulcrums of Liverpool’s attack. With a lack of attacking midfielders, they provided the spark that ignites the Reds’ frontline trio.

Center-Back: Virgil van Dijk. Easiest selection on the board. VVD was a monster all year and won the PFA vote as well. A constant stable presence that anchored the league’s best overall backline.

Center-Back: Aymeric Laporte. Anchored the league’s second best defense (only 1 goal conceded more than Liverpool). A fantastic passer (92.3% success rate) who chipped in three domestic goals and assists this year. At 24, still has room to improve. When VVD ages out in a few years, Laporte will be the league’s best center-back.

Left-Back: Andrew Robertson. Same dilemma as with right-back. Lucas Digne was sensational all year for Everton. Robertson though was a non-stop motor for Liverpool who, along with TAA, provided their potent attack from the back. Robbo had 11 assists for the year (Digne tallied 4 goals and 4 assists). He outpaced Digne in tackles, interceptions, and dribbles per game as well. The clincher, fairly or unfairly, was how Robertson compared directly to established “world’s greatest left-back” Jordi Alba in the Champions League semis. Robertson was more effective overall, particularly in Leg 2. Advantage, Robbo.

Right-Mid: Paul Pogba. Admittedly, this is the one we went back and forth with the most. Christian Eriksen and Bernardo Silva (and the always underrated Son Heung-min) got consideration for this spot, but advanced stats and player voting liked Pogba’s uneven season. He tallied 13 goals, 50 created chances and 21 xG-xA. United were at their best when Pogba was at his–and they would’ve likely fallen out of the top 6 if not for his mid-season resurgence. Bernardo Silva was just a tick less productive in fewer minutes (and games) played. This is Pogba, barely, in the hardest spot we had to fill.

Center-Mid: Fernandinho. Similarly to Pogba, City were at their best when
the 34 year-old Fernandinho was on the pitch. They only dropped 8 points in the 29 games he played. Players and analytics agreed he was among the best XI for the year on arguably the best assembled squad of all time.

Left-Mid: Eden Hazard. We’re not sure whether or not PFA voting was some sort of meta-game on Hazard (“if we don’t vote for him and he thinks we don’t respect him, maybe he’ll leave…”). What we know with certainty is, when fit, Hazard is unarguably one of the three best players in England. WhoScored ranked him #1 this year. He tallied the most combined goals and assist in the league with 31 (16 goals, 15 assists). His likely departure will set Chelsea back for some time. Players like Hazard don’t come around often.

Left-Forward: Mohamed Salah. Terrible year. Golden Boot winner. Second in the EPL in goals+assists. First in EPL in team points created from goals. Second highest seasonal player rating on WhoScored in EPL. Just a terrible, awful year. Orrrrrr…Salah finished fewer of his opportunities than his record-setting 2017-18 campaign, but was Liverpool’s most important offensive players and, along with Hazard, a massive glaring oversight in the PFA voting. Along with Harry Kane, Kevin de Bruyne, and Eden Hazard, he carries the highest transfermarkt price tag in the league. Salah is among the global elite.

Center-Forward: Sergio Aguero. Unless you’re a [bandwagon] City fan, nobody is as terrifying around the ball as Aguero in the Premier League. He’s always a threat, always finds the angle, and finishes at an elite goals/minute clip (best in the Premier League among regular starters). With Kane injured much of the year, there’s not much to debate on this one.

Right-Forward: Raheem Sterling. This was the second most difficult decision. Choosing Sterling means no Sadio Mane. It’s impossible to ignore what the co-Golden Boot winner Mane meant to the Liverpool attack (particularly when Salah was in poor form, Mane stepped up). However, Sterling’s advanced stats were better, he finished second in voting among his peers for the PFA award, and he tallied more goals+assists than Mane (27 to 23) on one of England’s all-time best offensive teams.

Reserves:

Lukasz Fabianski, Sadio Mane, Lucas Digne, Fabian Schar, Christian Eriksen, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bernardo Silva

Near misses: Son Heung-min and Leroy Sane were tough to overlook and will likely at least make the reserves by next year. Felipe Anderson also considered.

Just a few words on the reserves:

  • Lukasz Fabianski: Best analytically between the sticks.
  • Sadio Mane: A handful more assists he would’ve edged Sterling. Felt like he got stronger and faster as the year progressed.
  • Lucas Digne: A complete LB.
  • Fabian Schar: Crazy good value on this Newcastle player. Expect teams like Manchester United to be all over him next year.
  • Christian Eriksen: Almost immediately regretting putting Pogba in over him. Pogba’s numbers just better.
  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: Co-Golden Boot winner and really shined for Arsenal in Europa League.
  • Bernardo Silva: Will be in the XI next year.

Manchester City Players Mock Hillsborough Victims and Sean Cox After Winning Premier League Title?

High Press 10 May 15, 2019


After winning the Premier League title on the final matchday of the season, Manchester City players celebrated by…mocking Liverpool and its fans who suffered tragedies?

From Goal.com‘s Twitter feed:

The chant is a shot at Liverpool’s “Allez allez allez.” It’s a signature song for the Reds with increasing popularity the past few years (if you’ve never watched a Jamie Webster BOSS Night performance of it, do yourself a favor, stop reading this, check it out and comeback in five minutes).

City players change lyrics as shot at Reds and tragedy victims

The Liverpool Echo transcribed a portion of the lyrics:

‘All the way to Kiev, to end up in defeat, crying in the stands and battered on the streets, Kompany injured Salah, victims of it all, Sterling won the double, the Scousers won **** all….’

The Echo notes:

Many believe ‘battered on the streets’ is a sick reference to the attack on Sean Cox prior to the Champions League semi-final against Roma at Anfield last April.

As Bleacher Report uh, reported, the remainder of City’s “Evil Weird Al” alteration may also be a shot at a group of Liverpool fans who were attacked at a restaurant in Kiev before the UCL finals against Real Madrid. Or, more likely, about the Hillsborough 96.

A City spokesperson offered a somewhat feeble response to the mocking allegations:

How Liverpool responded to their Premier League defeat vs City’s reaction

Even if City is granted an unearned benefit-of-the-doubt and the chants weren’t about Cox and Hillsborough, it’s still not a good reflection on the organization. While unruly fans are expected and shouldn’t be held as a represenation of the organization as a whole–the players are another story. Further, if the players act like this, then it signals to the fans that it’s open season to say whatever they want.

There is a stark contrast to how Manchester City players reacted their win vs how Liverpool’s squad treated their success and failure last week. While City took a Khaleesi scorched earth approach, Anfield and the Reds went full-on “fahoo fores dahoo dores” last week in two touching displays of solidarity.

Consider the juxtaposition of City’s players post-victory vs Liverpool’s at Anfield:

That’s a real team with real shared history and attachment to their community–all of which of course was topped off by Mo Salah’s daughter scoring a goal:

While City’s players were chanting about assaults, Liverpool’s players were quoted saying:

“Congratulations to City, they deserved it by one point. City were just a tiny bit better than us.” 

– Virgil van Dijk after final matchday

And:

“We have just fallen short to a world-class team. To go 14 games without dropping a point is unbelievable. Fair play to City. The way they have gone about their business this season has been a joy to watch.”

– Andy Robertson after final matchday

Ok, maybe Robbo’s “fair play to City” was a jab. At least it was a creative one.

With City’s billion dollar roster and flexible views on financial fair play regulations (not to mention their misleading of UEFA officials about FFP violations), one Liverpool fan summed it up well:

Even in a best-case scenario where City’s “Allez allez allez” rendition has nothing to do with people who died or were assaulted, it’s still a bad look from a squad with every inherent financial advantage in global soccer.

Ultimately, City’s class on the pitch is only matched by it’s lack of class off of it.

The Philadelphia Union Look Like MLS’s Most Promising Emerging Elite

May 15, 2019

When Ernst Tanner took over as Philadelphia Union sporting director this winter, there was reasonable concern over new changes he might implement. The Union were coming off a season in which they showed real promise, with a squadron of young players and a playoff berth. Given the history of this franchise, taking any steps to change a move in the right direction comes with a certain apprehension.

But even the most optimistic of Union fans (a rare breed, mind you) could not have anticipated the success their team has enjoyed to start this season. Philly is verging on elite, winning four of its past five games and sitting atop of the Eastern Conference, ahead of D.C. United on goal differential. They play with confidence and skill.

Tanner’s original vision of a pressing, 4-4-2 diamond team hasn’t quite come to fruition. The Union want to play on the ball, first and foremost, an ideology that most effectively capitalizes on their personnel. Jim Curtain cultivated a willingness to play with possession last year, as Philly figured itself out and nurtured an identity.

Creating a model for success

They will continue to develop and coalesce. The process, so to speak, is still in the early stages. But seeing the Union successfully combine its own younger talent and newer transfer pieces is a beacon of hope for MLS teams that want to take this kind of approach. (Looking at you, RSL.) It is possible to win while processing in this league.

Philly have certainly been fun to watch. A willingness to play actual good soccer drives their success — they move with and without the ball, they play on the attack, and they pass and combine to create their chances. The diamond formation they play (that part of Tanner’s vision they stuck with) can be fairly complicated to use with a system like the Union’s, but Philly accomplish it without muddling things too much.

How Philly is doing it

Last weekend against Toronto FC is a perfect example. The Union won 2-1, a quality victory against a likely playoff team, and proved versatile enough to successfully implement a game-plan counter to Toronto’s strengths.

Philly watched Toronto’s midweek loss in Atlanta and took notes on the Five Stripes’ approach. Atlanta United had focused entirely on surrounding TFC’s midfield and cutting off central outlets, sacrificing space on the wings in order to restrict Toronto’s outlets in the middle.

TFC, hampered by a rested midweek lineup, struggled to respond on that Wednesday. They tried to play through wingback Ashtone Morgan in possession as a response to Atlanta’s central focus, but Morgan lacks the ability on the ball to play such an important role.

Seeing this, the Union implemented similar principles. Their diamond formation is perfect for what they intended to do — invert midfield shuttlers Alejandro Bedoya and Jamiro Monteiro even more than usual and restrict TFC’s overloaded midfield, forcing the Reds to hit difficult switches and play through the flanks more than they wished.

It was a risk, but a calculated one; the changes of direction and ball movement required to break down the Union are tough to accomplish. With Jozy Altidore starting on the bench, TFC couldn’t do it.

Figuring out how to complicate things for opposing teams is part of Philly’s evolution. Once they accomplish that, they’re able to play the way they want to play. They can pass with a purpose, swimming around the area occupied by the forwards (particularly Kacper Przybylko) and dribbling right at the spine of the defense. Watching for more dual-creator minutes, with both Marco Fabian and Hype Train American youngster Brenden Aaronson on the field, will be fascinating.

Everything was not seamless in the Toronto game — Alejandro Pozuelo was as active as ever, and perhaps the result would have been different had it not been for TFC’s defensive ineptitude — but nothing is designed to be seamless. The Union will continue to put themselves together at the back, where they play plenty of younger studs.

With quality moves in the transfer market — Przybylko, Fabian, Monteiro, left back Kai Wagner — and a willingness to develop their own talent, Philly have assembled a deep depth chart. They play with a real identity. It looks like we can safely say that the Union will be sticking around.

High Press Pod Ep 6: La Liga Recap, Man City FPP and 2019-20 Premier League Odds

Chops May 15, 2019

New High Press Pod is ready to stream or download.

  • La Liga Recap: Tyler Everett joins (0:20) to review the La Liga season and break down the race for 4th.
  • Manchester City FPP Violations: Then some general talk (12:00) regarding potential fallout from the reported UEFA Manchester City FPP ban.
  • Title and Top 4 Odds: Gluten-Free Charles joins (20:00) to first discuss more City FFP! Then (35:00)2019-20 Premier League title odds.
Listen to “High Press Pod Ep 6: La Liga Recap, Man City FPP and 2019-20 Premier League Odds” on Spreaker.

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