Crossing the ball is just one of those standard things that most teams use to create goal scoring opportunities. But is it standard, who’s better, worse and does it impact the Bottom line – winning games?
My data source is the MLS Chalkboard and the data covers almost every game through Week 9.
In working last to first here’s what I’ve been able to find out about the tactic of Crossing so far this year – perhaps the outcomes may surprise you?
To kick off this effort here’s a couple of Tables on Crossing averages for every MLS team, both home and then away.
Is the pattern of Crossing ‘standard’ for teams playing at home? No, teams in MLS average as low as ~10% and as high as ~30% when leveraging Crosses as a Passing attempt in the Final Third.
The three teams with the highest ratio of Crosses attempted to overall Passes attempted in the Final Third are San Jose, Chicago, and Montreal – those three teams also happen to be 3 of the 4 worst teams in MLS at this time.
What is even more striking about this comparison for teams crossing the ball at home is that the Correlation of Crossing to taking Points at home is -.7016.
That means teams who cross the ball at home, more frequently, are far less likely to take points at home – a -71% chance less likely all other things being equal.
As a side note this may impact my Expected Wins calculations and will check into that as the season continues.
So here’s how things look for when teams play Away from home:
Is Crossing standard across MLS when teams play away from home? No; percentages vary from a low of ~12% to a high of ~ 28%.
This time the top 4 teams in offering up Crosses away from home also happen to be the 4 worst teams in MLS this year.
Odd is that the fifth team to offer up the most Crosses away from home is Sporting KC – Why is that?
I think it speaks to the specific quality of the player who offers up the majority of their Crosses; Graham Zusi.
In checking out both Tables here’s some additional notes of interest:
Colorado offer up ~21% of their Passes as Crosses at home but only ~12% on the road – it would appear Mastroeni has a distinctly different attacking pattern at home versus on the road.
Is that why they have been so successful on the road this year?
Conversly Vancouver offer up just ~12% of their Passes as Crosses at home versus ~22% while on the road.
Again, a team that operates in attack, differently, when at home versus on the road.
The Correlation for teams taking points on the road when Crossing is not as strong at home; the Correlation is -.3659.
Granted it is usually harder to win an away game than a home game. So with that information offered it’s actually even harder to win an away game when offering up more Crosses.
In closing; this isn’t the answer on crossing – there are defensive activities that teams take to mitigate how effective crossing is. Part of the success in crossing has much to do with the failure or success of the opponent in stopping a cross.
When all said and done it would appear that Colorado has done well in their approach – minimize crossing on the road while taking advantage of its benefits at home. However viewed recycling a ball back out and up top shows patience in waiting for a better opportunity to use a cross – perhaps the more compelling analysis here is that the teams who offer fewer crosses are just more patient in using it as a method for creating a goal scoring opportunity.
More to follow later this year on Crosses…