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Let's Play the Blame Game

There have been very few times this season that I've been as disappointed as I was on Sunday. In an absolute must-win game, Charlotte collapsed. I won't get into too many of the details in this post, but suffice it to say that Orlando was a beatable team. We needed a full 3 points and got 0. I usually lean pessimistic when it comes to fandom. Still, I'm guessing even the most optimistic of supporters would acknowledge the extreme unlikelihood of us making the playoffs at this point.


The one play I do want to talk about is the second goal. I'm not going to discuss Walkes much because his errors (wiffinga kick, not taking the foul) are evident and directly led to the game-winning goal for Orlando. However, I do want to talk about Kahlina's role in the goal. Overall, this was not one of Kahlina's finer performances and--in addition to the odd water break where he didn't see the ball being rolled towards him and simply launching passes out from the back--I think he bears a good amount of responsibility for this second goal.


Would it surprise you to learn that Tesho's first attempt--the one Kahlina saves--has an xG of 0.31 (or just a 31% chance of being a goal), while the second shot that is actually a goal only has an xG of 0.035 (or just a 3.5% chance of being a goal)?


Now maybe you're one of those people who are skeptical about these types of stats (in which case, I'm really glad you are engaging with a blog that tries to utilize them!) and feel that's not an accurate reflection of the goal. I mean, wasn't this a break-away attacker who was one-on-one with the keeper? Kahlina saving the first shot is amazing! He did his job; he needed a teammate to help!


Well...I'm not so sure. Let's take a look at the actual goal.



What is most interesting with this goal--and I think you especially see it from the second angle that is shown in the highlight--is that Tesho isn't one-on-one with the goalkeeper, at least in my estimation. Sobociński has made up a ton of ground and is actually forcing Tesho wide. I think with better goalkeeping, we maybe escape this situation.


My first problem with Kahlina here is his positioning. There isn't an angle that shows this, but his positioning looks like someone who was unsure about whether he should have come out or stayed put. My gut says he probably started to charge out before seeing that Sobociński was making up ground. On the save, he's already positioned outside the 6-yard box. For me, that's a weird place for him to be. It feels a little like no man's land, where he's come too far out, but can't retreat anymore in time. It's not the first time this year Kahlina's made a questionable call with when he comes out (see some of the examples below) either.


My second issue is that Tesho is shooting this ball with his right foot. By doing so, he's giving himself a small angle to go for the near post. This is what he ends up doing with the first attempt and Kahlina covers this angle well.


To better show this, below is from just after Tesho shoots. Taking a shot with the right foot towards the far post is an incredibly difficult one. To hit it across Kahlina and not spin it away from the goal with the right foot would take something special. If he wants to hit that far post, it would more likely require a left-footed shot. As a result, Kahlina has to be anticipating the shot going to his left (which, again, it does).

Further mitigating the risk of a goal, Lindsey is doing a good job of tracking Orlando's #19 to prevent Tesho from passing it to him; if he tries, Jaylin is in a terrific position to cut it out. Again, Sobociński is forcing Tesho wide and I think the reason Tesho takes the first shot when he does is that if he takes another touch, Jan is going to be able to cut across him. I mean, look at where Jan is just after the first shot. Another yard and Sobociński is making a tackle.


Aside from #19 for Orlando, there really isn't anyone else up there to help Tesho. #20 is making a late run into the box, but when Tesho takes the first shot, he's still yards outside of it. Fuchs has tracked back, as well, and would have been in a good position to deal with #20.


This brings me to my biggest issue with Kahlina and this goal: he palms it right back into the center of the pitch. It's probably too much to ask for him to catch that ball due to the distance between him and the shot, but he has to do a better job of blocking it into a less dangerous area. Along with his subpar distribution, Kahlina's inability to consistently redirect shots out of dangerous areas is a problem.


This isn't new either. Look at the 3rd goal (0.28 xG) from the first DC game.

I had this to say at the time:

I'm not in love with Kahlina's decision to go for the punch here. Moreover, his execution leaves a lot to be desired. Even if he doesn't hit his defender or the attacker right in front of him, he's pushing this ball back into the middle of the box. I'd really like to see a keeper go catch that ball. Nitpicking? Sure. But if as a fanbase we're trying to argue he's been one of the best keepers in the leagues, I think you have to. There's definitely bad luck involved in this goal, but it's bad luck that he contributes to.

As with the 2nd goal on Sunday, with this goal in DC, Kahlina's decision on his positioning (to come out) is questionable and, once he's made that decision, his execution is poor. These aren't the only two examples, either.


There is the 2nd goal (0.12 xG) in the LAFC game. Here, he comes out when he probably shouldn't, can't get much on it, and touches it into a dangerous area.

Then there is the 5th goal in that same game (0.16 xG on the attempt, n/a on xG for goal since it was an OG). Yes, this is a true one-on-one situation but he again blocks the shot straight back out (of all these examples, this is the one he's probably least culpable for).

How about the 1st goal (0.02 xG on the attempt; 0.21 xG on the goal) against Chicago? Sure, it's a weird bounce, but I would argue Kahlina should catch it and, barring that, should absolutely be able to redirect it better than he does.

How about the 2nd goal (0.04 xG on the attempt; 0.33 xG on the goal) versus New England in Foxborough? A major issue with this goal is Corujo not clearing the ball quick enough after he gets the rebound, but Kahlina is pushing that ball directly back into the box.

Look, I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me on blaming Kahlina for any of these goals and will probably consider this harsh on him. Maybe it is, but, if so, I don't believe it's overly harsh. There are very legitimate issues with his positioning and/or redirection of the ball in each of them.


I want to make it clear that I don't blame him entirely for all of these goals. With that said, these are goals that are coming off of poor punches/palms/blocks by him. Look again at the xG's from these attempts and goals. None are incredibly high-percentage shots and many are very low.


A few rebound goals are going to be conceded every year; no goalkeeper is able to prevent that. However, I'm adamant in my belief that Kahlina's ability to consistently redirect shots out of danger is an issue and something he needs to improve on. His shot-stopping ability is very good, but there are several goals here that are a result of him not catching a shot that he probably can, or should. For the shots that it's not reasonable to expect him to catch, he has to do a better job of pushing these balls towards the sidelines and not the middle of the pitch.


I still have tremendous faith that Kahlina will be a good goalkeeper for us in the years to come, but there are deficiencies to his game that shouldn't be ignored. If he were a perfect goalkeeper, he wouldn't be playing for us. Walkes is rightly taking a lot of blame for this second goal and the loss; I just don't think he should take it all. Kahlina is one of our best players and I expect more from him. I would bet he feels the same.



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