xG Matchup Rankings GW 2 2018

With unlimited transfers, match ups are more important than ever. So how do you evaluate match ups? Especially if you’re only an aspiring Armchair Analyst and not yet the real thing. The answer? The expected goal (xG) rankings!

What are expected goals (xG)

The idea behind xG is simple. Every shot has probability of scoring based on the position on the field and the game situation, based on giant databases of shots from years and years of data. Then at the end of the game all the xGs from the individual shots are added up to generate the team’s xG for that game. This metric is a useful measure of the teams overall attacking or defending play, more so than just looking at how many goals a team has scored or allowed. If you’d like to learn more, there’s a nice video by MLS to explain further:


How to use these rankings

The rankings below use the xG metric to rank the match ups each week to help you determine which teams you should try to choose your attackers or defenders from. Each teams score is an average of their xG/g and their opponent’s xG/g separated out into offense/defense and home/away match ups. For example, if Atlanta plays NYCFC at home. Atlanta has an average home xG/g is 1.62 and NYCFC’s has an average away xG/g allowed is 0.96 for an offensive xG score of 1.29 xG. The reverse can be done to calculate their defensive score for this week. The game by game xG numbers are taken American Soccer Analysis.


Review of Week 1:

What we got right:

  1. The HOU – ATL game, HOU was our top ranked offense and defense and rewarded those who followed the rankings with 4 goals and a clean sheet! Sadly, not even I was brave enough to start a HOU defender…
  2. Teams in the Top 5 of last week’s offense rankings scored an average of 2.06 xG, better than the league average of 1.59 xG.
  3. Teams in the Top 5 of last week’s defense rankings gave up an average of 1.43 xG, better than the league average of 1.59 xG.
  4. The rankings weren’t high on TOR going into last week for either offense or defense. Hopefully you used the rankings to completely avoid TOR.

What we got wrong:

  1. Only one clean sheet from the top five team in our rankings.

Week 2 Offense xG Match Up Rankings

*Rankings are based off of 2017 xG data. As games happen in 2018, the season offense will be updated and form rankings will return!

Week 2 Defense xG Match Up Rankings

*Rankings are based off of 2017 xG data. As games happen in 2018, the season offense will be updated and form rankings will return!

Author’s Corner

  1. In Week 1 the Home-Away xG split was 0.82 xG (2.00 – 1.18), larger than last season’s average.
  2. The top xG offenses in Week 1 were PHI, LAG, SEA, DCU, and HOU.
  3. The top xG defenses in Week 1 were SEA, VAN, FCD, PHI, and SJE.
  4. The RSL – LAFC game didn’t get ranking due to lack of LAFC data, but I’m looking at RSL as a top 5 offense and defense. LAFC gave up 2.52 xG to SEA and only scored 0.48 xG. Avoid LAFC.
  5. NER are missing their top two CBs on red cards, but they’re playing COL. I’m considering taking a flyer on a cheap NER defender as a differential.
  6. DCU had 2 wins and 1 draw last year against Atlanta. I’m still planning on trotting out some Atlanta player, but my confidence isn’t as high as the rankings would suggest.
  7. This space always recommends Attacking Midfielders from these teams with good xG numbers.
  8. I’m higher on CLB than these rankings would suggest, unfortunately it’s still a few weeks until I have enough data to include the 2018 numbers.
  9. I highly recommend taking a look my colleague Ryan’s expected points article. Why? Because he and I both captained VAKO in week 1 based on our rankings!
  10. Don’t quit FMLS after a rough Week 1, stay strong and fight for what you love!

About Kyle Mcelhinny

Scientist by day, soccer fan by night. Nerd always. Using stats to overcome my lack of knowledge about the beautiful game.

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  1. Where is RSL on the Defensive Score?

    • I can’t compute RSL’s score since LAFC is a new team this year. This will be an issue for a couple more weeks. On twitter, someone asked me to use Minnesota’s numbers in place of LAFC. If I do that, RSL’s Offense score would be 1.95 and Defense score would be 1.15 if I used MN’s numbers for LAFC. #1 offense on the week and #9 defense.

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