top of page

Is Sporting Kansas City Outperforming Their Talent?




First off, I want to be very clear that overall I am happy with the way Sporting Kansas City has started their season.  Especially in contrast to last year, 6 points in 4 games, against very tough competition is nothing to scoff at.  With just a few things going differently (I’m looking at you referees in the home opener vs Philadelphia), Sporting Kansas City could have 8 points and be firmly in second place in the Western Conference.  The 6th place that is reality is a-ok for this early in the season.


That said, there are some underlying issues with the team that need to be addressed if we want to be real competitors by the end of the season.  I noticed that through multiple games we were outperforming our expected goals (xG).  xG, isn’t a perfect metric, but it can be a useful tool when looking at teams over long periods of time.  In fact, last year, many sporting Kansas City pundits were quick to point out that Saint Louis City FC was outperforming their xG and maybe were not as strong as their record indicated.    


Despite having the highest number of shots on target, Sporting Kansas City has the lowest xG (2.6) to begin the 2024 season.  Houston, LAFC, and Philadelphia are all decent defensive teams, which may account for some of that number, but there are other indicators pointing towards real issues within our team’s offense.  Last year, our average shot distance was 18.7 yards from goal, a number that put us third from worse in the MLS. Through the first four games of 2024 our average shot is 21 yards from goal.  No team had an average shot distance of over 20 yards in MLS’s 2023 season. While Sporting sometimes looks decent in controlling possession, we have struggled to get the ball into dangerous areas, and while we get looks at goal, the looks are rarely dangerous because of the shot distance.


Four games of data input are not enough to make strong conclusions.  Since the team is largely unchanged from the second half of last year, I looked at the last 20 games to get a better picture of what the reality of Sporting Kansas City’s shot quality is.  Within this stretch, the actual record of the team is 10-5-5.  If you took the expected goals vs the expected goals against, Sporting Kansas City’s record would be 8-12.  If all of those games were a part of a season, that would be an 11 point drop from 35 to 24. During this period of games, Sporting Kansas City is over performing their expected goals by .47 goals per game.  Comparatively let’s look at the 2023 MLS season.


SQUAD

G

xG

G-xG

Per Game

St Louis

59

42.6

16.4

0.48

Atlanta Utd

64

48.7

15.3

0.45

New England

55

42.5

12.5

0.368

Orlando City

54

42.1

11.9

0.35

Dynamo FC

51

44.9

6.1

0.179

Charlotte FC

43

37

6

0.176

Sporting KC

47

41.1

5.9

0.174

Austin

48

42.5

5.5

0.162

Columbus Crew

63

57.7

5.3

0.156

RSL

48

43.3

4.7

0.138

Philadelphia

54

49.4

4.6

0.135

Portland Timbers

45

41.2

3.8

0.112

FC Dallas

41

37.8

3.2

0.094

Inter Miami

41

38.2

2.8

0.082

FC Cincinnati

56

56.3

-0.3

-0.009

LA Galaxy

50

51.2

-1.2

-0.035

DC United

44

45.8

-1.8

-0.053

Chicago Fire

36

38.2

-2.2

-0.065

LAFC

53

55.6

-2.6

-0.076

Vancouver

51

54.6

-3.6

-0.106

Nashville

38

41.8

-3.8

-0.112

CF Montreal

33

37.8

-4.8

-0.141

Toronto FC

26

31.3

-5.3

-0.156

San Jose

38

44.3

-6.3

-0.185

NYCFC

34

42

-8

-0.235

Seattle

38

48.1

-10.1

-0.297

Minnesota Utd

43

53.4

-10.4

-0.306

NYRB

35

46.3

-11.3

-0.332

Colorado Rapids

26

37.9

-13.9

-0.409

Sporting Kansas City over the last 20 games would have had the second highest over-performance when compared to every team last season.  The only team who had a higher amount of goals compared to xG was the aforementioned Saint Louis City FC.  Our looks at goal need to improve if we want to have continued success. Additionally, our aging team often looks slow, and our defense looked vulnerable against the high press when facing the Houston Dynamo. 


Fortunately, there is plenty of room for improvement. Sporting Kansas City's second string of attackers look like they may really cause issues late in games for opposing defenses.  Alenis Vargas, Willy Agada and Stephen Afrifa all have the speed and physicality to bring a new level of verticality to SKC that we have not seen in years. Additionally, the team has room to sign major players in the next transfer window.  At the same time, week by week the team has looked better, we’re coming up on a home stretch and both goals against San Jose came from within the box. The sky isn't falling, but improvement is necessary.


I used fbref to compile this article's statistics.

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page