The possession discussion has assumed a frantically confused tenor in recent months. It’s as though the hive mind of the global soccer fan has tired of the intricate Barcelona-esque passing networks to such a fantastical degree that it’s decided to snap the other way entirely. Instead of deifying possession, there’s an increasingly vocal subset that’s begun to evangelize for a more balanced approach. Play out of the back, yes, but don’t demonize a varied approach. Suddenly a bit of Route One doesn’t seem as out-of-style as it did even a few years ago.
With a few notable exceptions, the movement has largely been positive in the sense that it’s brought context to our ongoing debate as to how we quantify possession stats and how they continue to mold and fit into our understanding of how their utility fits into the construct of an average game. The extremists exist, as they always do, but we’re lucky that those advocating for 70+ percent possession or pure over-the-top long ball rarely get much attention anyway.
In MLS, that reality is unique. Here are some numbers, and then we’ll talk about what they mean in a minute.