In soccer, as with most sports, patterns indicate tendencies and game plans. Part of my role analyzing the team is to search for patterns.
There were plenty of great things to take away form the Los Angeles game. By beating the league-leading Galaxy 2-0, the Wizards kept their playoff hopes alive and continued their torrid form. But, if you’re hunting patterns, there was something far more interesting: It was the seventh time this season they won when they scored the first goal. (The team has won 7 games all season. Go sick with that math geeks.)
Scoring early is a beautiful thing. And, the way the Wizards have done it recently, reminds me a lot of the Phoenix Suns.
If you are an NBA fan (which I am), you may remember the "7-Seconds or Less" offense the Suns employed. If you aren't, here are the basics: Under head coach Mike D'Antoni and with point guard (and footy-nut) Steve Nash, the Suns became the darlings of the NBA by instituting a break-neck, run-and-gun offense. The team would rebound or inbound the ball, push it up the court as fast as possible (there aren't many players in basketball history who move as fast with the ball as Nash) and drive toward the basket. The goal? To score before the 24-second shot clock got to 17.* It was really, really fun to watch.*This is a rather simplified summary. I could get into how they needed athletic big men like Amare Stoudamire and Shawn Marion to gallop down the court and spread the defense to create lanes attacking the basket, but this isn't an NBA history blog. All you need to know is that this style worked and the team regularly scored in the 100s.
There are more than a few parallels I could draw between Phoenix and Kansas City (high pressure defense, up-tempo offense, both love the counter-attack, both absolutely need athletic big men), but the one that's relevant in our discussion today is that both teams had a very similar game-plan:
Every team, obviously, wants to take an early lead. But for Phoenix and Kansas City, it’s not just a benefit, it’s a requirement for their style of play.
For long stretches of time this season, Kansas City couldn't do this. Part of this was because they committed an unseemly amount of unforced errors. But part of that was that, forget scoring early, they couldn’t score at all.**To say that Wizards have struggled to score goals this year is like saying that Don Draper has a slight drinking problem.
The Wizards futility has been well documented around these parts (