How’s It Going? Part 3 – An Assessment of Louisville City’s 2021 Season-To-Date
Updated: Oct 4, 2021
With the regular season entering the home stretch, it’s time to step back and look at the bigger picture. How has Louisville City progressed since the check-ins done in June and August? With eight more matches left for the squad in the regular season, we can see how competitive, as a whole, the boys in purple have been as they prepare for the playoffs.
Since the last review, LouCity has retained their spot at the top of the Central Division with a six-point lead. Following Morados are the Legion and Tulsa. The battle for fourth is quite the toss-up and should be a thrilling viewing. FiveThirtyEight is confident with the order of the top three, so little change is to be expected there. Although first in the division essentially locked up, there is still a lot on the line for City. Winning the regular-season crown is beginning to feel unlikely. However, every point counts in securing as much home-field advantage as possible.
LouCity’s FiveThirtyEight odds have been fairly level, but their Eastern Conference rivals, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, have gained a lot of momentum and currently have the greatest likelihood of winning the final. With that said, Louisville, Phoenix, and El Paso are not too far behind.
Since How’s It Going? Part 2, Louisville City has had some ups and downs. With an away-heavy schedule, they went 4-2-2 averaging 1.75 goals and 1.70 xG a match. See below for breakdowns on each of the matches in this stretch.
Now, let’s dig into the numbers. For this, I have pulled data from American Soccer Analysis. If you like soccer and data, this is the website for you. It's not a deep assessment, but rather a quick review of some general team stats to see how they stack up against the competition. For those who are unfamiliar with “expected goals”, or xG, I recently posted a piece explaining this advanced metric using LouCity examples. I’d encourage you to check it out!
First up, goals for (GF), goals against (GA), and expected goals (xG). Although LouCity’s GF and xGF had dropped slightly below two (1.92 for both), they are still in a fantastic position compared to the rest of the field. Only Hadji Barry’s Colorado Springs Switchbacks and the Phoenix Rising are pacing better on GF. For xGF, Louisville is only bested by Phoenix. A sign that not only does Louisville create chances, but they finish them as well. From a GA perspective, City still holding strong a slightly above one for GA (1.13) and below one for xGA (0.80). Louisville is slightly above average for GA but for xGA, they have the best rate. Despite the reality exceeding the expectations, it is a testament to their ability to limit chances while on defense this season (even if it’s not always resulting in prevented goals). Their xGA value is beginning to look like an outlier with the rest of the data set, which is a great thing to see.
Louisville City’s xGF above implies that this team is great at creating opportunities. While shots do not show “good” or “bad” opportunities have been created, they are in the upper end of the spectrum regarding shots for (ShtF) per match, averaging 14.42. That value, coupled with their GF, has them sitting above the average line, indicating an above-average conversion rate on the season.
Goals are great, but earning points is even better. LOU has dropped from 2.1 points a game (Pts/G) to 1.96 Pts/G, but they still boast the fourth-highest rate in the league. Looking at expected points (xPts/G) can be a little painful for the LouCity faithful. City leads that category. Their GF and xGF keep pace with one another, but it is hard not to look at the GA and xGA gap and attribute that to the discrepancy in Pts and xPts. A few stopped goals along the way could have notably changed the landscape for Louisville. The past is the past, unfortunately.
It’s difficult to justify if a team has been “lucky” or “unlucky” without injecting a little bias, but the following charts do a pretty decent job of trying to assign an objective calculation to the concept. It was a method I found done by Eliot McKinley that I have attempted to replicate (and shared a few times previously on Twitter). By comparing xPts/G to Pts-xPts, we can see who is earning more points than expected (“lucky”) compared to how many they are expected in the first place (“good”). The “good” and “lucky” phrasing may not be the most appropriate descriptors, but they are good enough for this.
As previously stated, LouCity has done well at creating chances and putting themselves in a position to win most of the time (as seen in xPts/G). The difference between the reality (Pts/G) and the expected (xPts/G) implies a level of “unluckiness” they have had this season. They are not poor Loudoun United with a difference of -0.693, but there is a small case there. Applying this logic to xGF and xGA, you can see the positive story it tells for scoring and the above-expected levels of conceding goals they have had.
To give you a sense of how this LouCity team stacks up against successful teams of years past, data for previous regular-season champions as well as LouCity’s previous seasons have been pulled in along with 2021’s PHX, ELP, and TBR. It’s a competitive landscape, but 2021 Louisville is reasonably close to the rest of the pack. Their GF are average compared while GA is on the upper end. Pts/G is lacking, but it is looking like one of LouCity’s better seasons.
So, what’s the takeaway here? Louisville City is good, but not without its flaws. On paper, they stack up to almost all other teams in the league and look like they have a reasonable shot of continuing City’s historic trend of success in the playoffs. With that said, the regular season is not over and there is still work to be done. Playing away from home has been hard on the team and the back end of the schedule is full of road trips. If they concentrate and stay healthy, there is no reason that the above trends won’t continue to hold true.
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