Monthly archives: September, 2019

These Kings Are Better Than Gretzkys Kings

For NHL fans of a certain age,1Full disclosure: I am of this demographic, albeit one of the younger members. the definitive Los Angeles Kings team is Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings team. The franchise existed for 21 seasons before Gretzky arrived in Los Angeles in 1988, but the banality that he single-handedly made hockey relevant in LA is largely true. Kings attendance soared with No. 99 in the fold,2Increasing 27 percent in Gretzky’s first season with LA and another 11 percent in his second, per Rodney Fort’s data. the team’s value increased sharply during his tenure there,3The Kings ranked as the NHL’s third-most valuable team in 1994, according to contemporary estimates by Financial World magazine. In 1995, the team sold for a price ($113 million) nearly three times its value in 1988, when Bruce McNall bought 51 percent of the team for $20 million. and Gretzky instantly transformed the on-ice product into a legitimate contender by powering one of the best offenses in the game. Behind a 40-point postseason by Gretzky, the Kings reached their apex in 1993 — losing in five games but earning what was, at the time, the franchise’s lone Stanley Cup Final berth. For years, the Gretzky era easily represented the high-water mark of hockey’s four-decade experiment in Southern California.Not anymore. The Kings now are back in the finals for the second time in three years, and are looking for another Stanley Cup victory to follow the one they won in 2012. But this team isn’t Gretzky’s. It’s constructed differently and it plays a different game. And it might be better for it.If you’re looking for an NHL “Moneyball,” the modern Kings may be as close as any team to embodying the ethos of hockey’s sabermetric revolution. As FiveThirtyEight contributor Eric Tulsky has noted before, the current Kings pursue a strategy of constant control of the puck. With a host of possession superstars, the Kings have led the NHL in close-score4To filter out the influence of score effects. Fenwick percentage — a proxy for time of possession that measures a team’s share of all unblocked shots directed at either net during its games — for two years running, and the year before that they dominated the metric down the stretch after swapping defenseman Jack Johnson5A particularly poor Fenwick player, it should be noted. for center Jeff Carter at the trade deadline.No opposing team can score (or even shoot) when it doesn’t have the puck. During the regular season, LA allowed the league’s third-lowest rate of unblocked shots per minute of 5-on-5 play, and its second-lowest rate of total shots allowed per game. Along with decent goaltending from Jonathan Quick, that’s how the Kings helped clinch the William Jennings Trophy, given to the goaltenders on the team that allows the fewest goals all season. Maximizing possession is a hockey hack that helps at both ends of the rink.But all that possession hasn’t guaranteed the modern-day Kings a bushel of goals. The Kings spent most of the 2013-14 regular season struggling to light the lamp, despite firing the league’s second-highest rate of unblocked shots at the opposing net.6Per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play. Their 5-on-5 shooting percentage with the score close, which had been average in 2012-13, slumped to third worst in the NHL this season. Still, LA kept emphasizing possession and putting the puck on net, seeming to trust that shooting percentages tend to regress heavily to the mean.And the Kings rediscovered their scoring touch at just the right time. During the playoffs, they’ve scored on a substantially higher proportion of shots than they did during the regular season. It doesn’t hurt that they also acquired right wing Marian Gaborik — whose career shooting percentage ranks among the best of any active player’s — at the trade deadline. But the biggest reason for the Kings’ offensive resurgence is that they rode out their poor shooting luck and continued to focus on dominating the puck, the way statheads have been calling for teams to do for years.The Kings squad that Gretzky tearfully joined on Aug. 9, 1988, played a very different kind of hockey.We don’t know for sure because play-by-play records from that era are not available, but it’s unlikely that Gretzky’s Kings dominated possession of the puck. According to estimates of close-score Fenwick percentage for older seasons, Los Angeles ranked among the top half of teams in possession rate just once (1990-91) in the eight seasons the Great One wore silver and black. Most of the time, they were actually somewhat bad at keeping control of the puck, ranking 18th out of 26 teams in estimated close-score Fenwick percentage during Gretzky’s tenure.Instead, they lived off a suspiciously high shooting percentage that modern analysts might decry as luck. During Gretzky’s first three seasons as a King, LA finished no worse than second in goals per shot. But Gretzky’s playmaking wizardry was probably a very real effect. Over that span, he paced the league in assists by a wide margin,7He notched 107 more helpers than No. 2 Adam Oates. You could have finished 70th in assists over the same period with the leftovers Gretzky didn’t need to pass Oates. and his teammates shot 9.1 percent better in those seasons than they would over the rest of their careers.The defense couldn’t measure up to the offense, though. Those Kings allowed the league’s second-highest number of shots8Only the miserable San Jose Sharks, in their second year of existence, played softer D. and its fourth-highest number of goals.Gretzky’s squad didn’t have a deep roster, either. According to Tom Awad’s catch-all summary stat Goals Versus Threshold (like Value Over Replacement Player for hockey), the 1992-93 Kings were a notably top-heavy team. They were led by stars such as Luc Robitaille and Jari Kurri. (Not to mention Gretzky, who recovered from an injury in time to post 65 points in 45 games.) But they also lost 17.8 goals because sub-replacement-level talent was on the ice, one of the largest totals in recent memory by a team that won more than half its games.The current iteration of the Kings has superior depth, and nary a Gretzky type to be found. Since LA’s top scorer Anže Kopitar debuted with the club in 2006-07, his best offensive season was 86 adjusted points. Gretzky’s worst full-season mark as a King by far was 83 adjusted points9Adjusted points are, well, adjusted — meaning they remove the influence of scoring environment — so Gretzky doesn’t get an unfair advantage for playing in a more high-flying era. in 1994-95 — and he cracked the century mark in five of his six full seasons in Los Angeles. Today’s Kings rely less on a single superstar to carry the bulk of the offensive workload.Superior depth and puck possession don’t automatically equal a better hockey team, though they often do. The proof is in the results for the current Kings, who over the last three seasons are already twice as close to a quantifiable dynasty as the franchise was during Gretzky’s entire stay in Southern California.10200.0 dynasty points compared to 97.6. If advancing deep into the postseason is the standard for success, today’s Kings beat No. 99’s in a landslide.Gretzky himself has said that the present-day Kings are impressive. Of the Cup-winning 2012 team, the Great One said, “They’re a much better team than we were in ’93.”He’s right. Gretzky’s team was an exciting offensive squad, and one of the last successful relics of the high-octane playing style that had ruled the game in the 1980s. But today’s Los Angeles Kings are exemplars of the modern game. They know that if you always have the puck on your stick, you can’t lose. read more

Bengals ReSign Marvin Lewis Through 2014

Marvin Lewis has as many lives as, well, a Bengal. A Cincinnati Bengal, that is.The coach that has endured a stingy ownership, myriad player arrests, questionable player development and losing. . . . not only remains standing, but has received a two-year contract extension through 2014.This is testament to the value of not giving up on a coach too soon. Lewis looked to be a goner more than once as players showed up on police blotters (not that it was his fault) fairly consistently and the team struggled to find a rhythm in winning. Instead of running him, the Bengals were patient, and Cincinnati emerged as a strong playoff team last year.The last time Lewis’ contract was running,  both sides seemed content to separate. They did not, and the rewards have been grand for the Bengals.Lewis is the franchise’s most successful coach since Sam Wyche, and has led the team to two AFC North titles in the past three years.As CBSSports.com reported that Lewis said negotiating the extension is “a complicated thing” and that he and owner Mike Brown are “comfortable together.”“Coming off a playoff finish last year, with a solid coaching staff and good young players, continuity at the top gives us our best chance to do well,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said in a statement. “We are excited about the team’s prospects and happy to have completed this process with Marvin before the 2012 preseason schedule begins.”Lewis is in his 10th season in Cincinnati, the third-longest current tenure with one team behind Andy Reid in Philadelphia and Bill Belichick in New England.According to CBSSports.com, in 2010, Lewis was up front that he was possibly going to explore other options, and it took something of a sales job to keep him. With the growth and development of the team since then, all the young pieces and the playoff appearance last year, the backdrop was much different now. The team has also beefed up its scouting staff and infrastructure since 2010, which were keys for the head coach. read more

Struggling Terrell Owens Drops the Ball in Seattle Debut

The Terrell Owens era in Seattle got off to a dubious start this weekend as the veteran wide receiver struggled in his first NFL action in nearly two years.Owens, who is trying to prove that he is fully recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him for all of the 2011 season, failed to catch any of the five passes thrown his way in a 30-10 win at Denver on Saturday evening. His most egregious mistake was a drop of a perfectly thrown 46-yard ball by quarterback Matt Flynn just at the goal line that would have resulted in a touchdown. Two previous attempts to get him the ball fell short due to poor throws from Flynn, while two others were broken up by the Broncos defense.Now playing his 16th NFL season, Owens, 38, had raced by Broncos cornerback Chris Harris on a deep post and appeared poised for the easy score, only to see the ball slip out of his fingers.The contest marked his first game action since playing with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 of the 2010 season.Seattle coach Pete Carroll said following the game that he remained confident in Owens’ ability to stretch defenses and help his team win.Owens ranks as among the most productive receivers in league history with his 1,078 receptions for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns, but has repeatedly worn out his welcome in previous stops in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati with his boorish antics.So far, so good in the Pacific Northwest as Owens and continues to say and do the right things while off the field.All that’s left now is his performance on the field.Seattle resumes preseason play this Friday evening when it travels to Kansas City. The Seahawks will open the regular season at Arizona on Sept. 9. read more

Serena Williams Has Been Tested More Than Other Top

(Photo by Mike Frey/Getty Images)Serena Williams is reportedly being singled out. While drug testing is a standard part of the tennis pro’s life, it’s become too regular for the star.A source familiar with a recent testing situation disclosed to Deadspin that a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officer showed up to Williams’ Florida home June 14 at 8:30 a.m. unannounced. An assistant let the 23-time Grand Slam winner into the residence and informed the official Williams was not home. The agent apparently refused to leave until the mother of one got tested.After a standoff, Williams still didn’t get tested. She made a call to Women’s Tennis Association CEO Steve Simon about the test and what she described as unfair targeting. Simon told USADA CEO Travis Tygart to get in touch with Williams, acknowledging to the sports news blog he got a text from her and “called her back and left a message.”“She shared with me some concerns and questions she had about an out-of-competition drug test,” he said.The USADA database reveals Williams has been tested a total of five times in 2018. As a result, the athlete has been tested more than other top American women’s tennis players, including Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, who were tested once, and sister Venus Williams was tested twice. The top 5 male players in tennis were also tested less than Williams.A spokesperson for Williams deemed the testing “invasive and targeted.”“Over her 23-year career in tennis, Serena Williams has never tested positive for any illegal substance despite being tested significantly more than other professional tennis players, both male and female — in fact, four times more frequently than her peers. She has vocally supported, respected and complied with USADA testing throughout her entire career. While she willingly continues to submit to testing, there is absolutely no reason for this kind of invasive and targeted treatment.”This isn’t the first time Williams has made headlines for her excessive dope testing either. In May she tweeted about her exhaustion with the practice, which USADA communications director Brad Horn said Wiliams had passed every time she’s taken one this year.“And…… just like that anti-doping is here ….again… second time this week,” she tweeted at the time. “Proud to participate to keep the sport clean. Even if they do test me at my current ranking of 454 in the world. Two times every week #BeingSerena.”And…… just like that anti doping is here ….again… second time this week. proud to participate to keep the sport clean. Even if they do test me at my current ranking of 454 in the world. Two times every week #BeingSerena— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) May 21, 2018 read more

What Tom Brady And Case Keenum Do Better Than Anyone Else

Pressure on the quarterback is often a determining factor in which team wins the Super Bowl. However, pressure does not only mean sacks. Just forcing a quarterback to release a ball sooner than he wants or hitting him as he’s releasing it can sometimes be even more advantageous than a sack.In Super Bowl XLVIII, two quick pressures by Seattle on Peyton Manning led to two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown after Manning’s arm was hit as he threw. That led to a 22-0 lead and the rout was on. Two years later in Super Bowl 50, Manning had the great defense on his side, and Von Miller forced two strip-sacks of Cam Newton that ultimately decided that game for Denver. In New England’s comeback win over Atlanta in Super Bowl LI, the turning point was when Dont’a Hightower strip-sacked Matt Ryan on a 3rd-and-1 with the Falcons up 28-12. That set up the offense on a short field and the comeback was on.It’s not so much about the volume of pressure put on a quarterback, but it’s how he handles it in the big moments on third down, in the red zone, and with the game on the line. Fortunately, that type of context is what an advanced metric such as ESPN’s QBR is able to adjust for.In 2017, Minnesota’s Case Keenum (58.5) and New England’s Tom Brady (54.0) led all quarterbacks in QBR under pressure with marks that rank among the top 10 in all seasons tracked since 2009. Brady’s placement may not come as a big surprise, but Keenum’s breakout season in Minnesota continues to be one of the wildest success stories since Kurt Warner went from bagging groceries to Super Bowl MVP in 1999. Brady has improved with ageTom Brady’s year-by-year numbers while under pressure, 2009-2017 201232.143233.85402713.810 Peyton Manning2009IND59.047.754562.9 Case Keenum2017MIN53.336.616358.5 201539.238426.48813827.311 Drew Brees2011NO54.556.035258.0 201639.186847.05321544.56 Keenum also led all quarterbacks in Football Outsiders’ passing Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metric, which measures efficiency, and he may just be the least likely quarterback to do so since 1986. A big part of Keenum’s success has been his improvement at handling pressure. When we first saw Keenum with the 2013 Houston Texans, he held the ball a long time as an inexperienced second-year player. Keenum’s pressure rate in 2013 was 38.7 percent, the second-highest season among all quarterbacks since 2009. With the Rams in 2016, Keenum ranked dead last in QBR under pressure (6.5). He took a sack on 26.7 percent of the plays he was pressured on.In Minnesota this year, Keenum has cut that mark in half, taking a sack on 13.3 percent of his pressures. Keenum has taken multiple sacks in each of his last seven games, but he was sacked just one time total from Week 5 to Week 11. A big help to Keenum has been wide receiver Adam Thielen, who led the NFL with 40 targets while his quarterback was under pressure — seven more than any other player. Thielen’s 397 receiving yards while targeted under pressure also led the NFL.Thielen is a great security blanket for Keenum, but Stefon Diggs has also been helpful in these moments. The game-winning touchdown pass to Diggs against New Orleans technically wasn’t a play under pressure, but it was a pressure-packed moment of desperation for the duo. Keenum’s QBR under pressure against New Orleans was just 26.4; he completed 4 of 10 passes for 53 yards with a bad interception that got the Saints back in the game. He’ll have to be much better against a Philadelphia defense that got after Matt Ryan often last week. For the season, Philadelphia allowed a 4.7 QBR when getting pressure on the quarterback, which ranked third among all defenses. Keenum can’t force things this week or create turnovers in what should be a low-scoring battle.Speaking of defense, the Jaguars ranked No. 1 in QBR when getting pressure (2.8). This is often a product of the Jaguars being able to get at the quarterback without sacrificing defenders in pass coverage: no defense blitzed less than Jacksonville at just 17.8 percent of its pass plays. That’s probably the right strategy against Tom Brady and the Patriots. You especially don’t want to send a big blitz of six-plus pass rushers at Brady. Since 2006 (including playoffs), Brady has 71 touchdowns to one interception against big blitzes (six-plus pass rushers).Still, at 40 years old, Brady has managed to improve in this area, posting a phenomenal season against pass pressure. His average yards per pass attempt under pressure was 8.76, the highest of any of the 277 qualified seasons since 2009. He also had the second-highest completion rate (59.0 percent) and second-highest passer rating (109.1) under pressure since 2009. The only real issue was that Brady still took 35 sacks this year, but sometimes that’s just the smart play instead of forcing a pass into coverage. Jameis Winston2016TB51.81%6.3112576.7 Tyrod Taylor2015BUF49.387.574255.0 Carson Palmer2015ARI49.647.067255.0 Tom Brady2017NE58.978.7610254.0 Jay Cutler2015CHI55.568.534369.2 201041.672986.21112510.79 Ryan Fitzpatrick2015NYJ43.405.005269.1 201334.654424.3821407.126 Rob Gronkowski and his large catch radius are obviously a big help to Brady when he’s under pressure. Gronkowski led the Patriots with 226 receiving yards when his quarterback was pressured, but Danny Amendola also has a tendency toward clutch catches. Filling in for Julian Edelman in the slot, Amendola caught 14 of 21 targets for 186 yards when Brady was pressured this year. Throw in Brandin Cooks’ 215 receiving yards in these scenarios and the Patriots have a lot of formidable weapons for defenses to worry about even when Brady is pressured. They’ll need all this playmaking ability against a tough Jacksonville defense. While the Jaguars didn’t pressure Ben Roethlisberger often last week, they did hold him to just 1-of-10 passing for 43 yards (including a brilliant touchdown to Antonio Brown) under pressure, and had a huge strip-sack returned for a touchdown in the second quarter.The Jaguars will need to do that to Brady to have a good chance at another upset, but Brady’s seen just about everything from defenses in his career. Against the Titans last week, Brady’s QBR under pressure was 87.6, including a touchdown pass to Chris Hogan and a soft toss to Amendola after heavy pressure.Even if Brady and Keenum aren’t at their best in tough matchups this weekend, they should still have a decisive advantage over the other quarterbacks. Blake Bortles finished 14th in QBR under pressure (21.2), but the strength in his game is really his scrambling ability. According to Sports Info Solutions, Bortles avoided 21 sacks this year, the second most by any quarterback (Matthew Stafford had 22). Bortles will have to use his legs against a New England defense that likes to make quarterbacks hold the ball —a unit that took down Marcus Mariota for eight sacks last week.As for the Eagles, Carson Wentz ranked third in QBR under pressure (52.7), so the offense has been missing that element since his injury. Nick Foles, in a limited sample of games, only has a 7.6 QBR under pressure this season. He’s always a hard one to predict with his unusual career path. Foles actually led all quarterbacks in QBR under pressure in 2014 with a mark of 48.2, but he was dreadful with the Rams (2.3 QBR under pressure in 2015).Then again, as Keenum has shown, stats collected in a Jeff Fisher offense may not be all that telling. If head coach Doug Pederson can devise another good game plan for Foles to implement this week, there’s no reason he can’t get this team to the Super Bowl.Then a whole new level of pressure begins. YearCmp %YardsYPATDINTSacksQBRQBR Rank Regular season onlySource: ESPN Stats & Information Group Keenum and Brady are elite with defenders in their facesThe best seasons based on QBR while facing pressure, 2009-2017 Includes all action plays (passes, sacks, runs); regular season onlySource: ESPN Stats & Information Group Aaron Rodgers2016GB48.185.9610166.7 201442.025684.77452136.33 201758.9710258.761023554.02 PlayerYearTeamCMP %YPATDINTQBR Dak Prescott2016DAL50.435.213052.4 200945.637036.83771634.16 201141.033874.96313215.013 Carson Wentz2017PHI43.436.378052.7 read more

How Worried Should Real Madrid Bayern Munich And Barcelona Be

Bars in orange indicate Real Madrid seasons with Ronaldo.Source: Opta Sports 2015-1627.7– In its last three league matches, Bayern has taken only 1 point — a draw against Augsburg — and scored just one goal while conceding six. However, its expected goals difference for those matches is roughly 4.8 to 2.5. These are performances typically good enough to win in the Bundesliga, and the points should come.But even the expected goals numbers do not reflect outright dominance. Bayern has struggled to produce spectacular attacking numbers. In particular, 30-year-old striker Robert Lewandowski is having a surprisingly down season, which comes on the heels of a surprisingly down World Cup. After scoring 27, 29 and 37 nonpenalty goals in the past three seasons between domestic and Champions League competition, with underlying numbers to match, the Polish forward has scored just two nonpenalty goals this season. His expected goals per 90 minutes has been more than 0.8 each of the last three seasons, and it’s down to 0.28 now. Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez have carried the shooting load for Lewandowski so far, but that has meant a decline in their creative passing numbers, which has weakened the whole team. It is possible that this is just an early season slump or World Cup-related fatigue, and Lewandowski will snap out of it. If he doesn’t, Bayern could be in for a disappointing year.Striker problems also have beset Real Madrid, but for them it’s even worse. Real sold Cristiano Ronaldo over the summer and shocked observers by simply not replacing him. The club eventually purchased Mariano from Lyon, but no one expected that to be a like-for-like replacement. In nearly the same number of minutes last season, against weaker competition, Mariano attempted 130 shots, exactly half of Ronaldo’s 260. Mariano has yet to start a match this season for Real; Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have now been promoted to the point men in the attack after serving as Ronaldo’s support crew for years. The results have been as expected. 2010-1125.0– The big leagues in continental Europe have been dominated by their superpowers for years. Bayern Munich won the German Bundesliga title each of the past six seasons. In 13 of the past 14 seasons in Spain’s La Liga, either Barcelona or Real Madrid has taken the crown. The trio has also combined to win the past six Champions League titles. But right now, you can say something about these teams that’s been largely unthinkable for nearly a decade: They look vulnerable.Bayern is sixth in the Bundesliga, 4 points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund and trailing smaller clubs like Werder Bremen and Hertha BSC as well. Sevilla currently tops La Liga, with Barcelona and Madrid trailing close behind, but the two Spanish giants have each won just four of eight matches this season. Over the past decade, both teams have typically won at least 28 of their 38 matches per season, and the lowest win total either has posted was 22. These numbers are well off their pace.How worried should the superpowers of soccer be? The Soccer Power Index suggests reason for both confidence and concern. At the start of the season, Bayern was projected as 82 percent favorites to win the title. That has fallen, but only to 70 percent. Real Madrid has seen its La Liga title chances drop from 41 percent to 37 percent, but Barcelona’s have actually increased to 47 percent from opening at 43. For now, it seems likely that these teams have enough of a head start in talent that they can still win their domestic leagues.The Champions League may be another story. At the beginning of the year, the continental big three plus Manchester City were dead even with one another at the top of the projections. Now City leads, Juventus has caught up, and the gap to Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain is narrowing. And this is particularly striking because all three clubs are still massive favorites to progress out of their groups. What’s changed is that the Soccer Power Index is starting to downgrade its projections.The early season struggles of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are not merely a matter of a few bad bounces. Expected goals, a measure of the quality of scoring chances created and conceded, shows that this is no fluke of hot or cold shooting — these sides’ underlying production numbers are off, too. The following chart shows the goal difference and expected goal difference for Barcelona, Bayern and Real Madrid in their first 10 matches of the season between domestic and Champions League play since 2010-2011, according to data analytics firm Opta Sports. For all three clubs, these are among their slowest starts to the season ever.1Bayern Munich has played only nine matches, so its numbers are prorated to 10 to match up with the rest of the chart. 2018-1919.4– 2011-1232.4– 2012-1330.5– Real has consistently produced about 2.5 or more expected goals per match over its first 10 games of the season, and that number is under 2.0 per match this year. The attack is no longer elite, and it’s hard to see how Real can improve without an injection of talent. Real Madrid looks headed for year in the wilderness as merely one of Europe’s 10 to 15 best teams rather than a top Champions League contender.For Barcelona, the problems are more complicated but perhaps no less severe. And unlike with Bayern and Real, they do not start at the top. Lionel Messi is still Lionel Messi, with 11 goals and four assists. Rather, Barcelona is struggling in the midfield, and that’s leading to defensive problems. Last season, Barcelona conceded just 29 goals, second-fewest in La Liga. It is hardly unusual for the Catalan side to put up dominant defensive numbers, but last year’s effort involved a change in tactics from manager Ernesto Valverde.In 2017-18, Barcelona relaxed the high press that had been a feature of its play at least since Pep Guardiola’s reign ended in 2012. With midfielders content to allow opposition teams to hold possession in less dangerous areas, Barcelona broke up only about 48 percent of new open-play possessions for the other team before they completed three passes. This year, Valverde has brought the old press back, and Barca is breaking up 55 percent of new opposition possessions.This has not worked to their advantage. The 2017-18 team conceded shots at a reasonably high rate — 444 shots, seventh fewest in La Liga. But it prevented quality chances by keeping numbers back and not allowing passes in behind the defense. Barcelona’s 0.087 expected goals per shot was second-best in La Liga after only Atletico Madrid. Valverde drilled his team to defend deeper rather than dominate midfield, and it worked. This year, the new style is having the opposite effect. Barca’s expected goals per shot conceded has exploded to 0.148, the worst in La Liga.Barcelona’s midfield depends on two 30-year-olds, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic, and last year Valverde’s tactics already suggested he knew he needed to cover for their deficiencies in the press. The results of the new, more aggressive midfield tactics confirm he was right to pull back.So Barcelona’s problems seem fixable, at least compared to those of Real Madrid and Bayern. If Valverde can accept once more the limitations of his midfield and play the more basic, defensive style he rolled out last season, there should be more than enough talent in the forward line to carry Barcelona deep in the Champions League. But if the team persists with this press, the Catalan side may end up in just as much trouble as Bayern and Real.Check out our latest soccer predictions. SeasonExpected goals through first 10 matches 2013-1425.3– Among all these starts to the season, the only one that was significantly worse than the three this year was Bayern Munich’s in 2010-11, when the club ended up in third place in the Bundesliga on 65 points.These numbers suggest three things. First, Bayern has been better than its table position suggests. Its goal difference is the second-worst of any of these clubs since 2010, but its expected goal differential is merely eighth-worst. Barcelona’s good goal difference, by contrast, is covering up problems in the underlying numbers. And Real Madrid is simply in trouble. 2017-1828.6– 2014-1526.5– 2016-1724.9– Losing Cristiano Ronaldo has zapped Real’s offenseReal Madrid’s expected goals through the first 10 matches of its season, 2010-19 read more

Preview Ohio State mens soccer heads out west for two games

Oregon State is lead by junior forward Jordan Jones, who tallied two goals and one assist in the team’s first two games. Jones and teammate Timmy Mueller have combined to score 36 career goals over the course of the past two seasons. “These are probably the two most important games that I can see in the upcoming future,” senior forward Danny Jensen said. “You don’t want to start 0-4 obviously so getting at least your first win and hopefully getting two wins out there is really what everyone is focused on.” “Portland is a very, very good attacking team so we are going to have to – again – play against a side that is capable of creating chances,” Bluem said. This season, Portland is 1-1 to start the year, with a loss to Wright State 3-1 and a win over DePaul 2-1. It is their first year under head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt. “Oregon State in the second game is a team that also uses its physical tools,” Bluem said.  “It sounds like they play pretty direct. We have to be ready at all times for them to play a long ball at you and try to use their speed and strength and beat you.” OSU mens soccer players gather in a huddle during a game at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Credit: Lantern File PhotoThe Ohio State men’s soccer team will hit the road this weekend to take on two West Coast opponents – Portland on Friday and Oregon State on Monday. It will be the first regular season West Coast action for the Buckeyes since 2012. It’s OSU first match against either team.The trip comes on the heels of back-to-back overtime losses at home to start the season, falling 1-0 in double overtime to Virginia Tech and 1-0 in overtime to UC Santa Barbara. The Buckeyes will look to get back on the right track in the Beaver State.   The first game for the Buckeyes this weekend will come against Portland on Friday at 10 p.m. ET. The Pilots are coming off a 2015 campaign in which they finished with a 3-12-3 record, where they averaged exactly two goals against per game a year ago. Another issue facing the Buckeyes in their first two games was injuries. OSU only played 12 men in its game against UC Santa Barbara on Sunday. Reinforcements, however, are expected to be on the way. The main issue facing Ohio State early in the season has been scoring. The team did not manage to find the back of the net in either game it has played so far. Offense was the main point of emphasis in practice this week. The Buckeyes will faceoff against Oregon State on Monday at 3 p.m. ET. The Beavers are 1-0-1 on the season, playing to a 1-1 draw against DePaul and beating up on Wright State 4-0. They are outshooting their opponents 33-17 to start the year, and they lead the Pac-12 in assists with seven. All three of the Pilot’s goals this season have come from sophomore forward Jackson Jellah. Jellah did not score a goal in the entire 2015 season, despite playing in 16 games.   “First two games we did real well defending. Our defense stepped up,” sophomore midfielder Abdi Mohamed said. “Offensively, I think we just need to start finishing better. We need to just move off the ball. Our forwards just need to have confidence that they can finish and put the ball in the back of the net.” “We are starting to get healthy,” OSU coach John Bluem said.  “We are taking the full squad out to Portland with us. We expect that probably everybody will be able to play this weekend.” The Buckeyes will return home on Sept. 9, opening Big Ten play against Northwestern at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. read more

Buckeye baseball returns to Big Ten Tournament Minnesota up first

After missing out last season, the Ohio State baseball team is making its return to the Big Ten Baseball Tournament at Huntington Park on Wednesday. “I’m really excited to play in the Big Ten Tournament and have an opportunity to win the Big Ten Championship,” coach Greg Beals said. The Buckeyes (25-25, 13-11) clinched a tournament berth with a series win at Minnesota over the weekend. OSU secured the No. 4 seed with a 3-0 win Saturday behind a strong outing from freshman starter Greg Greve, who threw eight shutout innings. “I liked most that we decided our fate on the field ourselves,” Beals said. “We needed to win Saturday and played probably our cleanest game of the season all year long.” It was the first time in program history that OSU won a series at Minnesota. “When you think about all the great teams OSU has had and to have never won there before, it’s crazy to think about,” Beals said. “For us to accomplish that this year, it’s something great.” Beals credited his seniors for helping give the team momentum down the stretch. “It’s senior leadership,” Beals said. “They can see the light at the end of the tunnel and they’re trying to push that light further and further away. They want to play as long as they can and they’re just playing with great determination.” OSU, making its 14th tournament appearance in 15 years, has to travel just a few miles away from campus for a chance at the Big Ten Championship. “We’re playing in home in Columbus,” Beals said, “and it is as friendly an environment as it can be for a conference tournament.” OSU will face a familiar opponent in its opener against the No. 5-seeded Golden Gophers (22-22, 13-11). Minnesota, which was the Big Ten coaches’ preseason favorite to win the league, is the reigning conference champion and has the most tournament championships and appearances, with nine and 27, respectively. “Our game plan against this Minnesota weekend was solid,” Beals said. “We’re going to go out and run the same plan again.” Senior pitcher Drew Rucinski, who will start against the Golden Gophers, said it shouldn’t be too difficult facing a team again so soon. “It’s a little bit tougher,” Rucinski said. “But it’s just another team lineup that’s trying to hit the ball. They’ve got to hit the ball just like I’ve got to throw the ball.” Greve, who the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week, said he is excited for his first experience in tournament play. “I can’t wait,” Greve said. “It’s been our goal all year to make the tournament, and now we have to go out and make the most of this opportunity.” Illinois (25-25, 15-9) and Michigan State (34-19, 15-9) were awarded the top seeds of the tournament after finishing as Big Ten regular-season co-champions. The Fighting Illini were given the No. 1 seed after winning their season series against the Spartans. No. 3 seed Purdue (36-18, 14-10) is making its fourth straight tournament appearance, the longest active streak of any Big Ten team. Purdue faces No. 6-seeded Penn State (32-20, 12-12), which returns to the tournament for the first time since 2008. The double-elimination tournament, which started in 1981, will run Wednesday through Saturday. OSU and Minnesota will open up tournament play at 12:05 p.m. Wednesday. read more

Urban Meyer Braxton Miller Adolphus Washington daytoday

Junior quarterback Braxton Miller (5) lays on the field after injuring his knee during a game against San Diego State Sept. 7, at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 42-7.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorOhio State coach Urban Meyer said both junior quarterback Braxton Miller and sophomore defensive lineman Adolphus Washington are day-to-day leading into Saturday’s matchup at California (1-1).Miller sprained the MCL in his left knee early in OSU’s 42-7 win over San Diego State and Washington injured his groin in the first half. Neither returned to the game after their injuries.Meyer said he met with Miller Monday morning, and the quarterback said he is still “very stiff.” The OSU coach said the “first 48 hours after that (type of) injury is very tough.”Miller’s replacement, redshirt-senior quarterback and known team trash-talker Kenny Guiton, was named offensive player of the week by the coaching staff after leading the Buckeye offense in Miller’s absence.Both Miller and Guiton were named captains before the season by a team vote.Meyer said he wondered how many times a backup quarterback has been named a captain in college football.“It’s an incredible case study and arguably one of the greatest that I’ve been around as far as your backup quarterback is elected captain,” Meyer said.Although Miller wanted to go back into Saturday’s game, Meyer said there “was really never that consideration,” because OSU was ahead 21-0 and Guiton was playing well.“Kenny was managing really well,” Meyer said. “It was the kind of defense where management was really the key to the whole game, and getting us in the right stuff at the right time. Kenny is really strong at that, so there was no conversation about that.”If Miller is healthy to play Saturday against California, Meyer said he will.“We’re not saving anything. This will be everything we’ve got to win this game,” Meyer said.However, if the training staff does not feel comfortable with Miller suiting up against the Golden Bears, the 2-0 Buckeyes will bring a trio of players with them that could replace him.In addition to Miller and Guiton, redshirt-freshman Cardale Jones and true freshman J.T. Barrett will make the trip west for the game, Meyer said. Both Jones and Barrett are close to being the third quarterback on the depth chart, but, right now, Jones is next in line.Senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown said if Miller cannot play, nothing will change in the offensive scheme if Guiton starts.“Kenny can run any play in the offense,” Brown said. “Kenny does a lot of similar things that Braxton can do, except running, obviously. When Kenny comes in the game everybody’s 100 percent confident he can do the same thing.”Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner agreed with Brown, but said the game plan is only “90 percent” kept when Guiton enters the game.“You don’t feel like all of a sudden half of the game plan page is eliminated because your second-team quarterback goes in,” Warinner said. “There are certain plays you might stay away from, but 90 percent of that game plan is still in play when Kenny is in the game.”Junior tight end Jeff Heuerman said the confidence Guiton has in himself is seen on the practice field.“You see it a lot in practice,” Heuerman said. “Coaches put us in situations like that sometimes when they take Braxton out and Kenny’s in now and you’ve still got to go about the game.”Guiton’s confidence shows both in his play and in what he says during practice.“Kenny, he’s crazy,” Brown said. “When he comes in the huddle he’s loud, obnoxious — you can tell he’s real confident with everything he does.”Brown said Guiton “talks a lot of trash on the field,” but that helps to “hype everybody up.”Junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said Guiton talks trash not only about the way he plays, but that he does it to stick up for other players as well.“Every now and then I’ll be talking trash to the offensive line and Kenny will stick up for them and he’s pretty vocal about it,” Bennett said. “He’s just a funny guy, but because he does his job, he can joke around and completely lock in for the play and then just be joking around again.”OSU is scheduled to take on California at 7 p.m. Saturday in Berkeley, Calif. read more

Football Nick Bosa leaves game against No 15 TCU with groin injury

Ohio State junior linebacker Nick Bosa (97) runs a drill in warmups prior to the 2018 Spring Game in Ohio Stadium April 14. Gray beat Scarlet 37-14. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Managing Editor for DesignIn the third quarter of the matchup between No. 4 Ohio State and No. 15 TCU, junior defensive end Nick Bosa left the game with an apparent groin injury.The injury occurred with the Buckeyes down 14-13, with 13:49 remaining in the quarter.Bosa left the game with five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. The fumble led to a touchdown by redshirt junior defensive tackle Davon Hamilton in the first quarter to put Ohio State up 10-0.Bosa will not return for the remainder of the TCU game.Story updated at 10:03 p.m. to update Bosa’s status for TCU. read more