Gareth Bale, 127:29. The final goal of an exhilarating MLS Cup final that was the season finale of the 2022 Major League Soccer campaign, as LAFC triumphed over Philadelphia Union in a match that will go down in history as one of – if not the – best MLS Cup finals ever.
StatsBomb data is the choice of MLS clubs. More than 75% of the league – including champions LAFC - elect to use our data and tools to empower their analysis and recruitment. As the dust settled on the dramatic season finale, we were preparing an exclusive report for our partner clubs, looking at the 2022 MLS season through the lens of our StatsBomb 360 data. Which we’re now going to share with you.
StatsBomb 360 is the next revolution in soccer event data. 360 data captures a freeze-frame showing the location of all players in the frame for every event we collect and allows us to uncover a host of new information about the game that was either difficult to see or completely hidden in standard event data.
Our customers have already increased their competitive edge with the extra depth this information provides, and we ourselves have been generating new ideas and insights, some of which we have shared recently; looking at line-breaking passes, players that find space to receive the ball, and analysing corners and set pieces.
You can find the full report at the bottom of this article, but some highlights and snapshots from the report can be found below. Starting with Line-Breaking Passes.
In attacking play, analysts tend to be interested in three types of player: those who can score goals, those who create goals, or those who progress the ball towards goal.
Line-breaking passes is a metric that serves the latter, and has long been a measure that video analysts would refer to when evaluating ball-progressing players, but without being able to quantify it reliably – until now.
We define line-breaking passes as: “A pass that advances the ball at least 10% closer to goal, and either intersects a pair of defenders in close proximity or ends behind a line of defenders.”
We first looked at the line-breaking passes of Riqui Puig, who, despite only joining in August, topped Major League Soccer for completed line-breaking passes per 90 minutes. The La Masia graduate also played his line-breaking passes with the highest accuracy of any player in the league, finding a teammate with his line-breaking passes 85% of the time.
Ball Receipts In Space
Ball Receipts in Space is another quality that analysts and scouts attribute to players without being able to quantify or measure it. Using 360 data, we can measure the distance to the nearest defender for Ball Receipt events, and use that to find which players are receiving in space most often.
For this report, we looked at zone 14 specifically – the central space in front of the opponent’s penalty box – and players that received the ball in at least 5 yards of space within that zone.
Puig again stood out in this metric, as a player that looks to drift into space in dangerous attacking areas and keep his team’s possession moving forwards. He received the ball in space in Zone 14 3.3 times per 90 in the 2022 season, far more than any other player in the league.
Combing the two metrics, we can identify players that are able to make line-breaking passes that find teammates when they’ve moved into space. We measured this by looking at passes in the opposition half, where space is usually more difficult to find, and found that Carles Gil was one of the most successful players at doing this. New England Revolution teammate Brandon Bye was the most frequent recipient of passes of this type from Gil, stretching the defence or making runs in behind the fullback to penetrate the backline:
There’s plenty more detail around each of these metrics and more in the report, including defensive shape, set pieces, and metric leaderboards.
We’re looking forward to another campaign of Major League Soccer in 2023, and supporting our partnered clubs within the league to success in the new season.
If you’re a team, media, or gambling organisation and want to hear more about how StatsBomb’s data and platforms can help you, get in touch today. If you’re an aspiring analyst or just curious to learn more about analytics, you can enrol in our Introduction To Football Analytics course here.