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Luck or precision? Analyzing Gotham’s xGA and path to success in the NWSL playoffs

Photo copyright by Valerie Terranova/Equalizer Soccer.

NJ/NY Gotham FC enter the National Women’s Soccer League postseason on the back of some disappointing draws. Nonetheless, on paper, they are in good shape, with the second-best defensive record in the entire league. Only NWSL Shield-winning Portland Thorns FC can boast a better goals-conceded record than Gotham’s 21.

But the underlying numbers paint a completely different picture. While Gotham’s actual goals against average is very good, their expected goals against (xGA) record is, well, not very good. In fact, their xGA of 38.28, per Wyscout data, is the third-worst in the league. Only the Orlando Pride and Racing Louisville, neither of whom made the playoffs, have a worse xGA.

Before we continue, a brief explainer: Expected goals (xG) is a performance metric that indicates the likelihood of a shot becoming a goal, based on where it is taken from, how many opponents are in the way, what type of service led to the shot. So xGA is just that but relating to the shots a team concedes.

So, why is Gotham’s xGA so high?

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