Dependence Days: MLS Teams Feeling The Gold Cup Shortage

"Dax, that's exactly how Kreis looked when he saw the RSL Gold Cup call-up list."

“Dax, that’s exactly how Kreis looked when he saw the RSL Gold Cup call-up list.”

TSG finally publishes Steve Fenn‘s piece after numerous threats and insults. Kidding Steve, good stuff.

This month, the United States and Canada will host 44 MLS fixtures as well as every Gold Cup match. It can only be guaranteed that just a single MLS match will be totally unaffected by the CONCACAF national team competition, though.

Montreal, Colorado and New England are the only domestic league clubs without Gold Cup representation and the only July meeting between two of those three is the Rapids visiting the Revs on the 17th.

For the other 15 clubs, varying degrees of the illness known as “shortbench” will be felt. How can the impact on a club be measured? Doing so with publicly available data is inexact, but directional and other factors can lead to a pretty good review of whose hit the hardest. At minimum, our probability of a getting right should exceed, oh, a certain club trading away their draft picks and allocation money in a whimsical manner.

To measure a player’s overall worth, two options are MLS player ratings from Castrol and Both of those ratings are based on a plethora of in-game data points, but the actual formulas and standards aren’t publicly laid out.

As an alternative, we can also evaluate each player based on the amount of time he has played for his club so far in 2013. To do this we simply divide each player’s minutes by the total minutes played by their team. Obviously, this has its own difficulties since factors other than quality can affect playing time, but it is a good proxy for clubs’ reliance on these players.

Because all three of these measures have their own issues and averaging them is hardly the right methodology, the best way to assign a single number to a player at this point may be to simply weigh each metric equally for one overall score. By normalizing and averaging Minutes Percentage, Castrol score, and WhoScored rating we’ll take a “slightly more than whimsical” approach to ascertaining a useful metric than the three individually, which we will call MCW.


(Click here for interactive version)

Liberties were taken here for Clarence Goodson, who will certainly have value when he returns for San Jose, but whose most recent MLS statistics from 2007 aren’t remotely useful. Instead he is presented as an average of three central defender proxies in George John, Jamison Olave, & Bobby Boswell. Also of note, Blas Perez will only miss two of FC Dallas’s four July matches, so his figure was halved above.

Of course, some teams are also likely to benefit from playing against weakened opponents. Below, all 44 MLS matches are mapped to clubs, assigning MCW differential to approximate the Gold Cup effect on each one.


(Click here for interactive version)

As you can see, New England, Montreal, and Chicago stand to benefit more from opponents’ Gold Cup absences more than others. The Revolution and Impact have no callups, while Chicago’s only absence will be keeper Sean Johnson. To be clear, these MCW rankings aren’t meant to be overall harbingers of match difficulty, just indicators of Gold Cup effects on some match difficulty index that TSG will force me to come up with later.

We can see that Real Salt Lake and San Jose’s options this month will be about as limiting as the New York Knicks’ salary cap situation. That’s hyperbole, as neither of these teams will be stuck long-term with a player like Andrea Bargnani. Also, in one light this has to be seen as a big opportunity for Jason Kreis and Mark Watson to witness which bench players are perhaps ready to contribute more frequently as the season crests that midpoint.

So in some sense, maybe this call-up also provides a chance to witness how a seasoned coach and a novice coach fair in the face of depleted squad depth.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by SamT on 2013/07/05 at 7:44 AM

    Nice analysis. Opportunity for New England and Chicago to move above the line in the East. We’ll see if they capitalize on it.

    As to the silver lining of Kreis (and Watson) having the opportunity to test their bench strength…? I suppose you could look at it that way. But my guess is that their mindset is more along the lines of, “I will test my bench strength when I am #@%! ready to test my bench strength.” That said, I’m sure Kreis in particular saw these callups coming from a mile away.


    • Posted by Steve Fenn @SoccerStatHunt on 2013/07/06 at 9:09 AM

      Fair point on the bench strength comment, but I put it in there somewhat to underscore a weakness that I couldn’t shore up in this analysis. Because I couldn’t be sure who would replace the Gold Cuppers, I couldn’t quantify how well their roles are likely to be filled.
      In particular, i’d say that Kreis has some likely useful options, even if he’d rather not play them all at once, while San Jose’s backline is entirely in tatters and their isn’t clear relief on that roster.


  2. I love that I was just thinking Wednesday night that the MLS matches might be a bit less “Fourth of July” like with the Gold Cup approaching and then, “voila”, here is this article. Great work by Steve, and as always, nice to see TSG one step ahead.


  3. Posted by CDKoenig on 2013/07/05 at 12:29 PM

    Wow. Crazy-good stuff. Thank you. Though it makes me concerned as an SKC fan to see the teams we’re competing with for playoff spots mostly getting off easiest.


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