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Passing vs. Crosses: A Central Winger investigation

The LA Galaxy and Chivas USA are on the opposite ends of an advanced stat looking at expected pass volume given a team's cross rate. The Galaxy top this metric, showing a team that wants to go through a defense and not around or over it.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Today on mlssoccer.com, Devin Pleuler posted an advanced stat look at the playing style of the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. Specifically, those two teams are on the opposite ends of an advanced stat looking at expected pass volume given a team's cross rate. The Galaxy top this metric, showing a team that wants to go through a defense and not around or over it.

When the Galaxy don't play well, Bruce Arena's first criticism is always that they didn't pass well. That's not hopeful crosses or long balls from the back, that's short passes on the ground going up the field. It's been given a name now, tiki-taco, but like the team they share a style with (See what I did there?) it's defined by long buildup on the ground. Where once there was a school of thought that three passes in a row was too many, here's this MLS club with ten pass goal sequences on a semi-regular basis.

What the Central Winger article argues is that teams without ideas tend to cross more. Chivas USA are on the bottom of that list, meaning on way more possessions than should be expected, they decide to send the ball into the eighteen yard box and see what happens.

The correlation on that list is seven of the top teams are currently in playoff spots, including the Colorado Rapids who the Galaxy play tonight. The Galaxy's worst loss of the season came at the hands of the Columbus Crew, who just happen to be second on that list. Seattle Sounders? Real Salt Lake? You get the picture.

Good teams have good ground passing games. That's where creativity happens. The aerial game is an admission that the defense has stopped forward momentum so it's time to gamble and see what happens. Editorialising there, but I'll always be the first to criticise the Galaxy when they rely too heavily on crossing.