The Riverhounds face Loudoun United this evening at Segra Field for the second time this season following their 3-2 away win from a month ago. That game was also a midweek matchup. To date, the Riverhounds stand 2nd in the USL Championship Atlantic Division with 17 points on a 5-2-3 (WDL) record, while Loudoun United are at the bottom of the table on a putrid 1-0-7 record. For those that are math challenged or new to soccer, one win equals three points. Loundoun has … three points.
Until last week’s loss to Charleston Battery all six losses for Loudoun and their one win were by one goal. That’s more than a little unfortunate – or at least, the fancypants advanced statistics like Expected Goals think so.
Expected Goals is a stat that calculates the statistical likelihood of each of a team’s shots scoring based on where they occurred on the pitch, and how often commensurate shots in that league tend to go in. Shot right in front of goal, inside the six yard box? Usually it has a higher-than 0.4 xG.* 40 yard screamer? Usually it will have a less-than 0.05 xG. According to American Soccer Analysis‘ numbers on Expected Goals (xG), Loudoun United have a Team xG For of 13.25, and a Team xG Against of 11.64, for an xGD (Expected Goal Differential) of +1.61.
Compare that against their reality: Loudoun have 7 Goals For and 13 Goals Against for a Goal Differential of -6. The difference between their predicted outcome and reality (called GD-xGD) is -7.61. Out of 31 teams in USL, only Red Bull II have a worse GD-xGD (theirs is -10.61).
You see there that the problem isn’t their opponents putting away lucky shots: Loudoun’s 11.64 xGA and 13 GA correlate closely. But their finishing has been God-awful: the advanced numbers think an average converting team would expect to score 13.25 goals, but Loudoun have just 7.
The main culprit is the team’s striker, Samson Sergi. The Xavier grad and second-year USL man has 1 goal against an xG of 3.80 (meaning: he should have almost 4 goals). He’s been missing a lot.
But he’s not the only one. Every single player on Loudoun’s roster, except for fullback Logan Panchot, has a zero or negative G-xG number. That means the entire roster has been bad at shooting, or unlucky, or both. Simply put, I don’t think Loudoun are this bad at finishing. These numbers have to come back to reality, right?
Pittsburgh are currently 2nd in the Atlantic Division, chasing top of the table Tampa. If they want to keep up, they’ll simply need to keep scoring as they have been till now, and perhaps hope that Loudoun continue to be snakebitten in front of goal.
Finally, important reminder of what a garage team Loudoun are from our friends in Steel Army:
The beloved are in Leesburg, Virigina to battle No Running Water FC.
7pm on ESPN+.#UNLEASH
— Steel Army (@SteelArmy) June 30, 2021
Tactics and Personnel
Just before last week’s match against Charleston, DC United loaned MLS rookie Kimarni Smith to Loudoun. Pitt Men’s Soccer fans will remember Kimarni from the many epic Clemson-Pitt battles of the past few years: he’s an explosive, technical, and dangerous striker who was the number four overall pick in the 2021 MLS Superdraft. He played all 90 minutes against Charleston at Right Wing but was kept off the score sheet. He’ll be a handful for the Hounds left-sided defenders Shane Wiedt and Dani Rovira.
(reprinted from my June 2, 2021 Loudoun preview)
Loudoun play three at the back in either a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3, depending on your perspective. With a formation like this and with their relative inexperience as a team and a squad, the questions are really about fullback usage and getting back in transition, and about if the central midfield, which might just have two players, will be overrun if the Hounds use three midfielders.
Based on last years play, Loudoun’s problem is typically that they are young and aggressive and physical, but sloppy and error prone. With a rotated squad, I expect a lot of that. If the Hounds can pounce on unsecured receptions in the midfield, they will win this match going away.
I really like 20 year-old forward Kailou Amoustapha – dude can flat out fly. A legitimate tactic for Loudoun might just be boring boring long diagonals over the top to him to outrun everyone. In fancy soccer parlance ‘his product in the final third is sometimes lacking’.
I wrote about 19 year old midfielder Ted Ku-DiPietro last year. He’s very good, but of course, at one of the hardest positions to break through at in professional soccer. If the DC United academy product really wants to progress to the next level, he will need to start blowing up in the minors, and become an automatic first-eleven selection for his manager, Ryan Martin.
The captain of this squad is 25 year-old elder statesman Timmy Mehl, a defender for the very talented Indiana University college team, where he went to two NCAA College Cup final fours.
Finally, bench defender Robby Dambrot graduated from Pitt in 2018.
Last Week’s Lineup vs Charleston Battery
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* You might think a shot inside the six, right in front of goal, would have like a 0.9 xG: but the metric doesn’t account for defenders or goalkeepers. It takes a regression of every shot in the USL from 2020 (something like 50 to 100,000 shots) and compares it against the one shot we want to look at. With enough shots in the database, you can know that that guy, standing in that spot usually scores, whether the keeper is standing right in front of him or not. It isn’t, of course, a perfect stat, but it is really useful at showing trends – like, for instance, that Loudoun are a terrible shooting team.
Image Credit: Loudoun United via twitter