2017 MLS Teams: Who Is Most Efficient?

MLS analytics

The MLS Season is more than halfway over…well, 64.7058% over, if you want to get “Analytical”. And with DMV-area MLS side DC United in dead last place in the league-wide MLS standings with only .81 point per game, many are wondering how Head Coach Ben Olsen and the DC United front office plan to turn things around before next season, when the black and red will have a new state-of-the-art home in Audi Field.

This past weekend’s 4-0 defeat to fellow bottom-dwellers and first-year team Minnesota United, who were coming off of a 5-game stretch without a win, has many loyal black and red fans searching for answers. Recent reports that ownership is trying to sell the franchise to a small list of potential suitors which includes Redskins owner Dan Snyder, believed by many DMV faithful to be one of the worst owners in sports, doesn’t exactly make loyal DCU fans feel more confident about the team’s direction.

And with fans begging for DC United’s front office to finally pursue a big-name designated player, which they haven’t really had since Dwayne De Rosario in 2011-2013, fans’ frustration CONTINUES to mount when reading reports that the team is seriously considering signing Nigel De Jong, who has broken more legs than he has scored goals. De Jong was in MLS in 2016 with the LA Galaxy, where he played in 18 games, scored 0 goals, had 0 assists, earned 3 yellow cards (one of these yellows, his horror tackle on Darlington Nagbe, should have been a straight red and a suspension) and 1 red card. Bruce Arena and the LA Galaxy terminated his contract in 2016. De Jong moved to Turkey, where he played only 18 games for Galatasaray since 2016.

So from a fan’s perspective, it’s easy to feel frustrated when the DMV’s ONLY MLS team hasn’t had a bonafide big-name player serving as the face of the franchise in recent memory, we finally have a new stadium being built which should have been done years ago, and we’re expected to be excited about being the only team in the world thinking about signing a 32-year-old CDM who brings zero to the table offensively, will likely be suspended for multiple games, and ended the career of arguably the best young USMNT prospect, Stuart Holden, who was up for EPL player of the year when he was at Bolton in 2011?

In every sport, teams are forced to work with the resources that they have in place, from a financial aspect. Brad Pitt’s Moneyball, a true story about Oakland Athletics GM Billy Bean building a team on a shoestring budget after being forced to sell the team’s best 4 players in the offseason, highlighted Bill James’ Analytics-first approach to signing new players, which was later adopted by John Henry and the Boston Red Sox.

In the NBA, analytics has become such a big part of the game that former NBA great and current TNT announcer Charles Barkley spoke out against focusing on stats and numbers, over factors such as leadership, eye test, etc.

But in soccer, how can efficiency be measured when it comes to a team’s budget and overall performance?

As it relates to DC United, if the team can’t afford to compete from a financial aspect with big spenders like Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, are they at least getting the most out of the budget that they do have?

We compiled a spreadsheet which looks at every team’s current standing in the league, along with each team’s 2017 player salaries and total player compensation being paid out. We then ranked each team on the following four metrics, based on how they are trending to finish the 34-game season:

  • Average cost per game (what it costs each MLS franchise per game, based on total player compensation for the season)
  • Average cost per point earned
  • Average cost per goal
  • Number of goals allowed

We took those four metric for each team, and calculated the average rating for each team among those 4 categories (we will cal this ‘x’). We then took each team’s average standing in their conference (from 1-11, with the top 6 being playoff teams, ‘y’), added the total average from x and y together, and came up with efficiency ratings for each team.

You can view the spreadsheet by clicking here. Teams are sorted by overall efficiency, we explain more about how we came up with these numbers below.

Team in bold are currently in top 6 in their conference, aka current playoff teams.

 

Does any of this make sense? Probably not, but here’s what we came up with in terms of top performers in each category, as well as total overall efficiency.

Cost Per Game

Below are the top 12 teams when it comes to cost per game efficiency. This was calculated by taking total compensation, divided by 34. Any teams in bold (top 6 in standings) are current playoff teams.

Rank (standings) Club Base Salary Compensation Cost/Game (34 game season) Rank Cost/Game
3 Houston $4,837,899.98 $5,025,066.65 $147,796.08 1
10 Montreal $4,995,921.08 $5,215,855.89 $153,407.53 2
11 DC United $4,812,135.44 $5,272,447.94 $155,072.00 3
10 Minnesota United FC $4,926,046.04 $5,322,864.55 $156,554.84 4
8 New England $5,406,993.25 $5,800,118.33 $170,591.72 5
2 FC Dallas $5,690,579.28 $6,510,760.94 $191,492.97 6
1 Kansas City $6,365,856.00 $6,730,358.78 $197,951.73 7
6 Columbus FC $6,345,232.48 $6,747,544.99 $198,457.21 8
3 New York Red Bulls $6,313,982.00 $6,895,186.17 $202,799.59 9
7 San Jose $6,429,566.00 $6,959,287.11 $204,684.92 10
9 Philadelphia $6,516,876.00 $7,117,010.10 $209,323.83 11
8 Real Salt Lake $7,156,440.44 $7,734,355.44 $227,481.04 12

Cost Per Point

Below are the top 12 MLS teams based on what they pay per point earned. This was calculated by taking the current points per game average (through 20-22 games played), multiplied by 34 to come up with total number of points based on current PPG trends. We then took the total cost per game, divided it by total points for each team.

Rank (standings) Club PPG # of Points (34 game season) Cost/Point (34 game season) Rank Cost/Point
3 Houston 1.5 51 $2897.96 1
2 FC Dallas 1.7 57.8 $3313.02 2
1 Kansas City 1.64 55.76 $3550.067 3
3 New York Red Bulls 1.68 57.12 $3550.41 4
10 Montreal 1.2 40.8 $3759.99 5
8 New England 1.24 42.16 $4046.29 6
6 Columbus FC 1.39 47.26 $4199.26 7
7 San Jose 1.32 44.88 $4560.72 8
10 Minnesota United FC 1 34 $4604.55 9
6 Vancouver 1.5 51 $4659.38 10
5 Atlanta FC 1.62 55.08 $4768.87 11
9 Philadelphia 1.18 40.12 $5217.44 12

Cost Per Goal

Below are the top 12 teams based on cost per goal. This was calculated by taking each team’s goals for, dividing it by the number of games played, and multiplying that number by 34 to come up with total goals scored per game average based on a 34-game season, We then took the cost-per-game average for each team, and divided it by goals-per-game, to come up with the average cost per goal scored for each club. Clubs in bold are current playoff teams based on standings.

Rank (standings) Club GP GF Goals/Game # of Goals (34 games) Cost Per Goal Rank
3 Houston 22 39 1.77 60 $2,452.12 1
8 New England 21 36 1.71 58 $2,926.82 2
10 Montreal 20 30 1.5 51 $3,007.99 3
3 New York Red Bulls 22 40 1.82 62 $3,280.58 4
10 Minnesota United FC 22 29 1.32 45 $3,493.11 5
2 FC Dallas 20 32 1.6 54 $3,520.09 6
5 Atlanta FC 21 41 1.95 66 $3,956.99 7
6 Columbus FC 23 33 1.43 49 $4,068.19 8
1 Kansas City 22 28 1.27 43 $4,574.51 9
6 Vancouver 20 30 1.5 51 $4,659.38 10
9 Philadelphia 22 29 1.32 45 $4,670.51 11
8 Real Salt Lake 23 30 1.30 44 $5,129.47 12

Goals Against

We took the total goals against for each club, divided it by the number of games played to come up with goals against average. We then multiplied that number by 34. Top 12 clubs in terms of goals against average, starting with least number of goals allowed:

Rank (standings) Club Games Played GA Average GA Based on 34 games Rank
1 Kansas City 22 17 0.77 26 1
1 Toronto 22 22 1 34 2
2 Chicago 21 24 1.14 39 3
2 FC Dallas 20 23 1.15 39.1 4
9 Philadelphia 22 27 1.23 41 5
4 NYC FC 21 26 1.24 42 6
5 Atlanta FC 21 28 1.33 45 7
3 New York Red Bulls 22 31 1.41 48 8
5 Seattle 22 31 1.41 48 8
7 Orlando 22 31 1.41 48 8
6 Vancouver 20 29 1.45 49 9
11 Colorado 20 29 1.45 49 9

Total Club Efficiency

After calculating a rank for every MLS team based on each of the following measurable:

  • Cost per game
  • Cost per point
  • Cost per goal
  • Goals against

We took each club’s combined ranking for all 4 categories, divided that total number by 4 to come up with an average ranking for each team. So, for example, Houston has the following rankings for each category:

  • Cost per game rank: 1
  • Cost per point rank: 1
  • Cost per goal rank: 1
  • Goals against rank: 10

That’s a combined rank of 13, divided by 4 which equals an average rank of 3.25.

We then took the total average rank for each team, added the current number based on standing.

So Houston is number 3 in the Western Conference standings.

3.25 + 3=6.25.

We then took divided those numbers by 2, to calculate a total efficiency rating for each club (with the lowest rating being most efficient based on all combined measurables):

Club Average Rank Rank (Standings) Efficiency Rating (Average Rank + Rank in Standings) / 2 Rank
Kansas City 5 1 3 1
Houston 3.25 3 3.125 2
FC Dallas 4.5 2 3.25 3
New York Red Bulls 6.25 3 4.625 4
New England 6.5 8 7.25 5
Columbus FC 8.75 6 7.375 6
Atlanta FC 10 5 7.5 7
Chicago 13.25 2 7.625 8
Montreal 6.5 10 8.25 9
Vancouver 10.75 6 8.375 10
San Jose 10.5 7 8.75 11
Toronto 16.75 1 8.875 12
Philadelphia 9.75 9 9.375 13
Minnesota United FC 9.25 10 9.625 14
Seattle 14.25 5 9.625 15
Portland 15.5 4 9.75 16
NYC FC 16.75 4 10.375 17
Real Salt Lake 14 8 11 18
DC United 12 11 11.5 19
Orlando 17.25 7 12.125 20
Colorado 14.5 11 12.75 21
Los Angeles 18.25 9 13.625 22

Not every team will have huge budgets like Toronto, New York, or Los Angeles. But based on the amount that each club is spending, are they getting the most “bang for their buck” based on some of these calculations?

Take Kansas City, for an example. Only 6 other teams spend less than Sporting KC from a cost/game standpoint, yet they are top 10 in the other 3 categories, and as a result are not only the top team in the Western Conference, but are (according to these calculations) also the most efficient team in the league.

Take another team like Toronto, who spends more on player compensation than any other team in the league. They are on top of the Eastern Conference but are closer to the bottom in terms of overall efficiency.

And LA Galaxy, who are the least efficient team in MLS based on these calculations, can afford to sign a number of big-name players season after season, with 2017 being one where they likely miss out on a Western Conference Playoff spot.

What Does All of this Mean For DC United?

Let’s assume a new ownership group comes in, and takes the LA Galaxy approach to signing big-name players for the next 3 seasons. Will one or two big-name players guarantee success? Obviously not. But for teams like Kansas City, Houston, and other teams who are able to produce results on an Oakland A’s type of budget, what are they doing right that can possibly be duplicated here in the DMV?

DMV Alumni Take On The MLS SuperDraft

5 DMV Alumni Took On This Years’ Edition Of The MLS Combine & SuperDraft 

2017 MLS DRAFT

DMV locals Mike DeGraffenreidt (Loyola Blakefield/Baltimore Bays), Chris Odoi-Atsem (DeMatha Catholic/AC Bethesda), Jacori Hayes (DeMatha Catholic/Baltimore Bays), Suli Dainkeh (South Lakes HS/DC United Academy), and Jeremy Ebobisse (Walter Johnson HS/Bethesda-Olney) were 5 of 68 players invited to this past week’s MLS Combine which took place in Manhattan Beach, California.

With the impending MLS SuperDraft, all 5 players spent the week trying to improve their draft stock in hopes of being picked in the first 2 rounds that would take place on Friday, with a further 2 rounds of the draft to come the following Tuesday.

Here we take a closer look at how each of our 5 local representatives faired against some of the best competition in the country.

Michael DeGraffenreidt

michael DeGraffenreidt

A product of Baltimore Bays Chelsea academy and Loyola Blakefield, Mike started off at Louisville exactly how he finished off his youth career: as a starter. The 52nd ranked recruit on the ESPN 150 and Maryland Soccer Player of the Year was a 4-year starter at the ACC school. He played 77 games in his time there, starting 76 of them.

Combine Recap

Mike had a solid MLS Draft combine, playing a half in each of the 3 games and looking fairly comfortable despite not being tested often. After recording his stats in game 1 and 2, he went a combined 48/51 on passes completed (94%), 6/7 on aerial challenges, completed 5 tackles and while on the field Team Chaos only let in 2 of their 6 total goals conceded, with nothing Mike could do about either one.

I thought DeGraffenreidt showed off an excellent range of passing, but really wasn’t tested too much throughout his 3 games at the Stubhub Center, but an excellent college career and a pretty good combine should help Mike get picked up next Tuesday during the 3rd and 4th rounds of the draft.

Chris Odoi-Atsem

Chris Odoi-Atsem

The former WCAC and All-County player of the year left DeMatha Catholic with a glittering list of accolades, including several WCAC titles and a 2011 National Championship to boot. After a very impressive youth career at AC Bethesda and powerhouse DeMatha, Chris joined the Maryland Terrapins with high expectations, and delivered from Day 1. He played 88 games in his career, starting 83 of them, delivering 3 goals, 8 assists and contributing towards 33 shutouts as well.

Combine Recap

Day 1 of the combine was Chris’s day for sure, as he was 1 of only 2 players to place in the top 5 of all 3 athletic tests performed. Chris finished 4th in the 30 meter dash with a time of 3.89 seconds, 3rd in the 5-10-5 shuttle with a time of 4.22 seconds and 1st in the Vertical jump test with a leap of 36.5 inches.

Chris only went on to impress coaches more as the combine went on, completing 47/54 passes (87%), making 11 tackles and a number of great attacking runs as well. Coaches definitely noticed his strong athletic upside, and knew his technical skills would need some fine tuning, but DC United took their first pick and used it wisely on a local guy. Ironically enough, the former Terp grew up so close to their own academy that they could’ve saved the first round pick had they scouted him several years earlier and claimed him as a homegrown player. Either way, it shows how much faith the club have in his abilities, and DC has picked up a very strong outside back option in Chris as he will look to head into preseason learning as much as he can from the likes of Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin and the other veteran defenders in their squad.

Jacori Hayes

Jacori Hayes

One of the most talented players in the country, Hayes had an exceptional year at Wake Forest that took them all the way to the College Cup, only to lose out in PK’s to the now back-to-back national champions, Stanford.

Jacori had a standout youth career, captaining his Baltimore Bays academy side, being a part of the U18 USYNT, and being named a high school All-American as a part of the DeMatha national championship side in 2011.

Pre-combine, he was a lock to go top 10 after a college career in which he played in 81 games, starting 74 and collecting 15 goals and assists a piece while doing so. Not only did he have a great record at Wake but he won award after award being named to the All ACC teams 3/4 years, NSCAA All American team, TDS Men’s Best XI and many more. Jacori had an up and down draft showing off his skills and excellent soccer mind but failing to have much end product resulting in many critics saying his stock dropped over the course of the week going into the draft.

Combine Recap

Across the 3 games, Jacori mixed his time between CDM and CAM, as scouts questioned where he would play in MLS. He maintained an 83% pass completion rate (82/99) while making 13 tackles. However, Jacori wasn’t able to show off his best attributes at the combine. Regardless, his standout college and youth resume saw him drafted 18th overall to an FC Dallas side not afraid to play their youth. We fully expect Jacori to go into preseason ready to prove all those people wrong who didn’t take him in the picks prior.

Suli Dainkeh

Suli Dainkeh

Suli headed into the University of Maryland as a member of the U18 USYNT. The 2012 Gatorade State Player of the Year (VA) was also a member of the DC United Academy. Dainkeh was a heralded prospect out of Reston, Virginia and was ranked #16 midfielder in the country by Top Drawer Soccer.

Suli completed one of the most accomplished 4 years of any player in the combine, as his UMD side went 4 years in a row winning the conference tournament, with he himself picking up a Second team All-Big Ten selection. Dainkeh finished his Maryland career with 33 shutouts, while playing in 71 games, starting 60 of those and also throwing in a goal and 2 assists.

Combine Recap

The VA native had a tough time at the combine through games 1 and 2 as he gave away a PK and received a yellow card. On game day 2 he also had a hard time as he faced off against a strong pair in Chris Nanco and Colton Storm with not much help in front of him. Stat-wise through the first 2 games, Dainkeh showed well as he maintained a 90% pass completion rate (65/72), made several key clearances, completed 13 tackles and won 5/6 aerial duels with opposition players. Dainkeh had a very good day 3 though as he showed the side of him that earned so much praise at UMD and he was much better which definitely will help him get picked up somewhere soon in these next 2 rounds of the draft and we fully expect Dainkeh to earn a contract come preseason as he looks to kick off his professional career in the MLS.

Jeremy Ebobisse

Jeremy Ebobisse

Last and certainly not least, Jeremy Ebobisse, who looked to be the #1 Draft pick in nearly every single mock draft I looked through over the past few weeks.

Jeremy has been one of the DMV’s top talents since a young age, as he starred on the locally infamous OBGC Rangers and Bethesda-Olney sides that were oozing with technically sound and exciting players, including Arsenal’s Gedion Zelalem. Jeremy and others can thank head coach Matt Pilkington for their success, as he was able to train and develop some of the best players to ever come out of the DMV up until NYCFC was able to prize him away from the area.

Jeremy’s OBGC sides won multiple state and regional titles, but never won that elusive national title that they missed out on after several trips to National Championships, including that final agonizing one to PDA in the USSDA Championship.

His final youth soccer season was his junior year of high school, as he was able to graduate in 3 years and head to Duke a year early, but not before shattering the USSDA goal scoring record with a mind-boggling 38 goals in 24 games, with 9 of those coming in the team’s 3 playoff games (despite the fact he was playing with guys 1-2 years older than him his entire youth career). Jeremy had a tough freshman season at Duke, he played well but wasn’t able to replicate his youth career goal scoring numbers with only 2 goals and 3 assists.

His Sophomore campaign was a complete different story, as he headed into the season as a team captain and put away 7 goals as well as 4 assists. Jeremy had a stellar 2nd college season and had attracted the US U20’s attention, as he was called up to his first official YNT camp since the introductory camp in the U14 age group and took his chance with aplomb scoring 9 goals in his 11 games to date. Jeremy started to attract offers from Europe and decided it was in his best interest to forgo his final 2 years of eligibility and test the waters over in Europe.

After a couple of trials Ebobisse decided it was best for his own development to sign with the MLS, which he did as the college season rolled around in August. Since he has signed with the MLS, he has split time with the US U20’s, the Charleston Battery (1 Goal/5 Appearances), and had several training stints with MLS Clubs looking to get a closer peek at Ebobisse pre-draft.

Combine Recap

Jeremy missed Game Day 1 of the combine, as he was still in camp with the US U20’s, and then missed Day 2 as well before making his only combine appearance in Game 3. He showed well, taking on several players successfully, playing a couple of good through balls, missing a sitter and then eventually putting one away to end the combine with a beauty of a left footed strike.

Come draft day, there was much anticipation as Jeremy was expected to go early, and in came the Portland Timbers who traded the Houston Dynamo $100K TAM (Total Allocation Money), 1 International Spot AND their #10 pick in the draft to acquire Ebobisse’s services at the 4th pick.

Jeremy will head to Portland with much buzz and excitement around his arrival with an amazing fanbase out there and high expectations from us, everyone else and definitely himself heading into the 2017 MLS Season.

 

Congratulations to all of these DMV alumni players on a successful 2017 MLS Draft, we sincerely look forward to watching your careers over the next few years and wish you all the best!