Carlos Vela - LAFC - September 1, 2018

There are a lot of tidbits to follow, both surface level and a bit deeper, so let's get right into it.

But first, a few obligatory disclaimers: Yes, it's a small sample size considering the 34-game season. Context is everything — schedule played, home vs. away, game states, etc. have a huge factor when looking at stats across the first handful of games. No, these are not final. Teams and players have streaks. Some of these numbers may be a mirage, some may be more meaningful. 

Now that's out of the way, here are some stats from the first month of the MLS season:

All stats courtesy of Opta

Comeback SZN

Let's start at the top. Current Supporters' Shield leaders LAFC have quickly reached the summit by rescuing a league-leading seven points from losing situations, including victories against Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake after conceding first.

That isn't the only way to pick up points, of course. FC Dallas, who are tied for second in the Western Conference with 10 points, haven't gained a point from losing positions and only have dropped two points after taking the lead. Steady. 

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the San Jose Earthquakes have dropped a league-leading six points from winning positions. 

Pass masters

Back to Dallas, FCD lead the league in both passes completed per game (541) and pass accuracy (86%). They are second in possession, though, behind Atlanta United (62%).

The New York Red Bulls have the league's lowest pass accuracy, a ripple of their system, while Real Salt Lake have held the least possession thus far (40%), which can probably be attributed to the four red cards they have been shown. 

Individual pass masters

Considering Dallas leads the league in passes and passing accuracy, it makes sense to find that their center back pairing lead the league in passes completed. Reto Ziegler is first (390) and Matt Hedges is second (369). Sporting Kansas City center back Andreu Fontas has completed 86.01 passes per 90 minutes, the highest average in the league.

Revs midfielder Carles Gil has completed the most passes ending in the final third (156), just ahead of Sounders star Nico Lodeiro (145). The pair are far ahead of the pack, with Orlando's Sacha Kljestan in third with 105. 


Alberth Elis, Darwin Quintero and Carlos Vela are tied for the early-season lead in primary assists with three each, while Vela has created the most chances (20) — second place Diego Valeri has created 15. Vela's teammate Lee Nguyen has created the most chances per 90 minutes this season, at a rate of 4.44.

Golden Boot race

Back to Vela, which is as sound a gameplan in this space as it is on the field for LAFC.

The Mexican leads the league with six goals as well as expected goals, with 3.9 while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is second (3.82). Oh, yeah: Zlatan has played 270 fewer minutes than Vela.

Wayne Rooney, Krisztian Nemeth and Memo Rodriguez are lurking behind Vela with four goals, while other heavyweights are waiting to catch a hot streak.

Last year's record-breaker Josef Martinez has scored just once, almost in line with his 1.63 xG. He is suffering from the team's slow start, having only created 35 chances, bottom-third in MLS. 

Bangers only?

For NYCFC fans, the following should come as no surprise: Alexandru Mitrita fancies a shot from distance. Those shots from range come with a lower expected goals value than those nearer the goal line. 

As such, of players to attempt 10 shots or more this season, none have a smaller expected goals total that Mitrita at 1.58. He's taken the second-most shots in the league (15) — trailing only Vela (18).

Shooters shoot

On a similar thread, no player has taken more shots per 90 minutes (min. 200 minutes played) this season than Marco Fabian with 4.07. Mitrita is second. 

Goals vs. xG

Below are the top three players who are overperforming their xG output this season:

David Accam
Johnny Russell
Jordan Morris

Below are the players who are most underperforming their xG output this season:

Fafa Picault
Nemanja Nikolic
Marco Fabian

Unlucky or better finishing required? 

The LA Galaxy have underperformed their team xG totals by -2.78 goals, most in the league, while in-city rivals LAFC have overperformed their xG more than anyone in the league (3.68), a byproduct of scoring a league-leading 15 goals.

LA have only had one game with their presumed strongest XI available, too. 

Meanwhile, Orlando City have created the more big chances than other clubs in the league (12) but have just a 33.33% conversion rate of those chances.

Gettin' stuck in

On the defensive side of the field, RSL defensive midfielder Everton Luiz leads the league with 15 tackles won. D.C. United's midfield dynamo Junior Moreno has the best tackle success (min. 10 tackles) in the league with 87%. 

Dallas have won the most tackles collectively across the league (69) while New England have won the most duels (308).  


Here's an interesting line to end with: Nico Lodeiro has been fouled 16 times in just 342 minutes played, meaning he suffers an infraction once every 21 minutes on the pitch.

What will April bring?