We’re technically just past the 2022 campaign’s halfway point with MLS Week 18 recently concluding. But with July 4th weekend in the rearview, it’s an ideal time to take stock of some midseason lessons.

Step in expected goals (xG), with data sourced from Opta. For those not well-versed in xG or simply needing a refresher: It measures the quality of scoring chances by calculating how likely they are to result in a goal or not. Every chance is measured on a scale from zero (impossible to score) to one (expected to score every time). On-field position and phase of play are factored in, too.

Now, xG doesn’t necessarily dictate game outcomes and players/teams don’t necessarily have to regress to what the model, well, expects. But there’s still plenty it reveals, and the underlying stats tend to mirror real-world production over a long enough period (i.e. a 34-game MLS regular season).

Below, let’s take a closer look at how some player/team-specific xG data matches up with what offenses are actually producing against what xG totals predict they should be.

As Week 19 approaches, MLS’s 28 teams have played anywhere between 16 games (D.C. United) and 19 games (New York Red Bulls and three others).

Top 10 teams (total xG)

Based on sheer quantity, New York City FC (34.43 xG) and LAFC (32.05 xG) produce some of the best chances in the league. It's no surprise, either, considering the MLS Cup 2021-winning Cityzens (33) and Supporters’ Shield-leading Black & Gold (35) have some of the highest goals scored totals in MLS. NYCFC have the most big chances created (39) in the league, and LAFC have the most shots attempted (275).

FC Cincinnati also crack the top three, reinforcing the attacking progress they’ve made under first-year head coach Pat Noonan as the 2019 expansion club looks to ditch a track record of three straight Wooden Spoon finishes (bottom of the overall league table).

Team
xG
Goals
Difference
1. New York City FC
34.43
33
-1.43
2. LAFC
32.05
35
2.95
3. FC Cincinnati
30.64
29
-1.64
4. LA Galaxy
30.55
24
-6.55
5. New York Red Bulls
29.64
29
-0.64
6. Atlanta United
28.91
26
-2.91
7. CF Montréal
27.98
32
4.02
8. Austin FC
27.41
35
7.59
9. Portland Timbers
26.91
29
2.09
10. Seattle Sounders FC
26.85
26
-0.85

Teams most overperforming xG (top 10)

Austin FC, second in the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield tables, are outperforming their xG (7.59) by the widest margin. The second-year club is making significant progress under head coach Josh Wolff and with midfielder Sebastian Driussi leading the way.

CF Montréal, challenging for the Eastern Conference's first-place spot, are the second-highest xG overperformers in MLS (4.02), paced by a Landon Donovan MLS MVP-caliber campaign from US men’s national team hopeful Djordje Mihailovic.

Team
xG
Goals
Difference
1. Austin FC
27.41
35
7.59
2. CF Montréal
27.98
32
4.02
3. San Jose Earthquakes
23.28
27
3.72
4. New England Revolution
25.6
29
3.4
5. LAFC
32.05
35
2.95
6. D.C. United
20.29
23
2.71
7. Toronto FC
21.41
24
2.59
8. Portland Timbers
26.91
29
2.09
9. FC Dallas
26.15
28
1.85
10. New York Red Bulls
29.64
29
-0.64
Sebastian Driussi ATX
Austin FC, led by MVP candidate Sebastian Driussi, are the biggest xG overperformers in MLS. (Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports)

Teams most underperforming xG (top 10)

You might want to look away, Chicago Fire FC fans. The Eastern Conference’s last-place team is most underperforming their xG (-8.34), reinforcing some big chance-creation struggles under first-year head coach Ezra Hendrickson (15, second-worst in MLS). The Fire’s new-look attack, led by midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri and winger Jairo Torres – offseason Designated Player signings – isn’t quite clicking on all cylinders.

Western Conference sides Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy are tied for second when it comes to xG underperformance (-6.55). Colorado aren’t getting consistent goals beyond Diego Rubio (team-leading seven), while the Galaxy have a mixed bag between striker Dejan Joveljic proving clinical and wide forward Kevin Cabral struggling in front of goal.

Team
xG
Goals
Difference
1. Chicago Fire FC
24.34
16
-8.34
2. LA Galaxy
30.55
24
-6.55
3. Colorado Rapids
25.55
19
-6.55
4. Inter Miami CF
21.96
18
-3.96
5. Columbus Crew
23.74
20
-3.74
6. Atlanta United
28.91
26
-2.91
7. Philadelphia Union
24.8
22
-2.8
8. Charlotte FC
21.7
19
-2.7
9. Real Salt Lake
24.6
22
-2.6
10. Nashville SC
26.48
24
-2.48

Top 10 players (total xG)

Much of NYCFC’s attacking gravity, unsurprisingly, runs through striker Taty Castellanos, the 2021 Golden Boot presented by Audi winner. With a stated $15 million value on the transfer market, it’d be a big task if the Argentine and his league-leading 9.67 xG were to leave the Bronx.

There’s similar importance behind Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar, as the Designated Player’s ​​9.58 xG is the second-most in MLS. His 14 combined goals + assists are one of the league's highest totals, and could only grow as Nashville progress through their home-heavy second half of the year at GEODIS Park.

Player
xG
Goals
Difference
1. Taty Castellanos (NYC)
9.67
10
0.33
2. Hany Mukhtar (NSH)
9.58
9
-0.58
3. Brandon Vazquez (CIN)
8.15
8
-0.15
4. Chicharito (LA)
8.13
7
-1.13
5. Sebastian Driussi (ATX)
7.41
10
2.59
6. Jesus Ferreira (DAL)
7.33
10
2.67
7. Jeremy Ebobisse (SJ)
7.3
9
1.7
8. Diego Rubio (COL)
6.91
7
0.09
9. Daniel Gazdag (PHI)
6.89
7
0.11
10. Cristian Arango (LAFC)
6.87
6
-0.87
Taty Castellanos NYC
NYCFC's Taty Castellanos has 29g/9a in his last 46 regular-season games. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Players most overperforming xG (top 10)

Taxi Fountas is busting a big hole in the xG models, scoring nearly five goals more (4.98) than the analytics suggest. Undoubtedly, the Greek international has become an immediate centerpiece for D.C. United upon his earlier-than-expected introduction from Rapid Vienna in Austria. Can the Designated Player keep it up, though? The answer may hinge on how much the Black-and-Red lean on him this summer and fall, especially with two open Designated Player spots.

Another newcomer cracks the top five in New York Red Bulls midfielder Luquinhas (3.15 difference), while the second-place spot belongs to another offseason addition in FC Dallas winger Paul Arriola. The latter, chasing one of the USMNT’s 26 roster spots for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, has scored over three goals more (3.33) than his xG would indicate.

Player
xG
Goals
Difference
1. Taxi Fountas (DC)
4.02
9
4.98
2. Paul Arriola (DAL)
4.67
8
3.33
3. Djordje Mihailovic (MTL)
3.68
7
3.32
4. Luquinhas (RBNY)
1.85
5
3.15
5. Adam Buksa (NE)
3.89
7
3.11
6. Jesús Jiménez (TOR)
5.03
8
2.97
7. Ryan Hollingshead (LAFC)
1.14
4
2.86
8. Jesús Ferreira (DAL)
7.33
10
2.67
9. Dejan Joveljic (LA)
3.39
6
2.61
10. Sebastián Driussi (ATX)
7.41
10
2.59

Players most underperforming xG (top 10)

As strong as Real Salt Lake’s first half of 2022 has been, it may be even better if striker Sergio Cordova was more clinical in front of goal. On loan from German Bundesliga side Augsburg, the Venezuelan international has most underperformed the xG model (-2.89 difference).

Right behind him is FC Cincinnati forward Dominique Badji (-2.86 difference), a free-agent signing this past offseason who’s not necessarily their top scoring option. And then there are two Minnesota United FC wide forwards, Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Franco Fragapane, who have one goal between them despite generating 5.68 combined xG.

Player
xG
Goals
Difference
1. Sergio Córdova (RSL)
5.89
3
-2.89
2. Dominique Badji (CIN)
2.86
0
-2.86
3. Bongokuhle Hlongwane (MIN)
2.43
0
-2.43
4. Franco Fragapane (MIN)
3.25
1
-2.25
5. Kévin Cabral (LA)
2.2
0
-2.2
6. Julian Gressel (DC)
2.05
0
-2.05
7. Patryk Klimala (RBNY)
5.95
4
-1.95
8. Franco Jara (DAL)
3.94
2
-1.94
9. Samuel Grandsir (LA)
1.94
0
-1.94
10. Maxi Moralez (NYC)
1.94
0
-1.94
Sergio Cordova RSL
RSL's Sergio Cordova has three goals on a team-leading 33 shots. (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)