The pseudonymous Dummy Run over at Twitter wrote the NYCFC Playoff Preview for ASA. Dummy is no dummy, and the article is great. It is also long. It is dense. It has a lot of charts. I mean, even by his standards, it is chart heavy. You will learn a lot. Go read it. Maybe twice. There is a lot of good stuff there.
But I have one big problem. Really big. The first chart in the article is a Vieira/Torrent comparison, covering many regular and advanced stats, and it shows that NYCFC is better under Torrent on basically all the advanced stats while behind on the regular ones. This is known as bad luck. This point frames his entire discussion, which covers so much more, including how NYCFC responds o pressure when it plays from the back, how it transitions into attack, and identifying specific style differences in play under Vieira and Torrent, all illustrate with graphs, charts, and video. The opening and closing theme of the piece is that Dome had the team playing better and it was bad luck that the results did not follow.
But. This is a big but. And I’m disappointed Dummy didn’t notice this, or actively chose to ignore it, but the frame he imposes — comparing all of Vieira’s games to all of Torrent’s games, masks the extreme seesaw nature of Torrent’s time at NYCFC. As Dummy lays out in the chart I mentioned (it’s the ones with the photos of Vieira and Torrent) , Expected Goals For NYCFC went up from 1.57 to 1.73 when Dome took over, and Expected Goals Against went down from 1.32 to 1.17. So the team got better, right? Here’s a simpler table with just those stats (some of my numbers are just slightly different because of different rounding algorithms I think):
Yay better. All good. But let’s compare these 2 coaches:
Coach 1 has results better than Torrent. Coach 2 is worse that Vieira. And — big reveal — they are both Dome Torrent, split between his his first 9 games (through the Toronto Away game) and his last 10 when the team was much worse. According to Expected Goals, the longer Torrent was in charge, the worse NYCFC played. The results were not bad luck. They matched the run of play. The only reason Dome’s results look better than Vieira’s is that before he changed things up so much, and brought in his guys, the team had it’s best xG run of the season. So the ASA article basically masks the correlation between advanced stats and results by treating Dome’s 19 games as a consistent run of play, which they were not. There was no bad luck. The team had good results for Dome when xG says they played well, and poor results when they did not. In Torrent’s first 9 games with an Expected Goal Differential of +1.08 the team went 6-2-1 for 2.11 PPG. Then when the same differential dropped to +0.4 the team went 2-5-3 for 0.90 PPG.
The Home and Away splits show that the big difference was Away, though the team got worse at Home also.
First, Home. “Dome” is his record as a whole. “Dome1” represents his first 5 Home games, “Dome2” his last 5:
It is pretty consistent, but though the differences are small, the team actually performed better under Vieira, and the Expected Goals Against did increase by a meaningful amount in the final quarter of the season under Dome. In sum, Home defense got worse, according to Expected Goals.
Now Away. NYCFC played 9 games Away under Dome. The Dome1/2 split is First 4, last 5.
Holy crap on a stick. At first, NYCFC improved a lot on the road when Dome took over, and you may remember they won 2 Away games after a long dry spell. Arguably they should have done even better. The Expected Goal DIfferential for the 2 losses in this set of games was +0.88 (Chicago) and +0.99 (Seattle). But after that, Expected Goals For went down an entire goal per game from 1.89 to 0.90. That’s massive. At the same time, Expected Goals Against went up by 0.6 for a swing of 1.59 in Expected Goal Differential in the wrong direction between the first half of Torrent’s tenure and the second half playing Away.
What excuses are there for this? Schedule? Injuries? I cannot go with injuries because the first half of Torrent’s time coincides almost perfectly with Villa’s long absence, while the crap run overlaps with a missing Medina. That doesn’t really explain anything.
Finally, I understand that 5 and 4 game samples are really small (although that is just the H/A breakdown). Maybe Dome had an anomalously great short run to start, then a similar bad run. Maybe next year averages out all good. But the thesis that Dome simply improved the team and the poor results do not coincide with how he had the team playing does not hold up when you break it down. When you change the framing from (1) Vieira vs Torrent to (2)Torrent’s Good Start vs Torrent’s Bad Finish you see that Dome pretty much got the results he deserved. He won when the team played well, and lost when they deteriorated. That’s true whether you go by the eye test or xG, and bad luck doesn’t really play into it. Maybe the team deserved to win a little more over the last 10, as the xGD was barely on the positive side overall. But when play objectively worsens, I’m not very sympathetic to the complaint that results should not have been quite as bad as they were. Expected goals says NYCFC certainly did not deserve a strong record at the end of the season, and any analysis of Torrent has to consider why the team did so much worse the longer he was in charge.