Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Thoughts & Numbers: What I'm watching for in MLS Matchday 15

Doyle 5.24.23

Through the first eight matchdays of the season, MLS teams picked up 1.76 ppg. Over the past six matchdays, that's climbed to 1.84. I’m not sure if that means anything yet – it’s a small sample size and a small variance.

All data comes from TruMedia via StatsPerform unless otherwise noted.

In we go:

CF Montréal vs. Inter Miami CF

Over the past two games – both losses – CF Montreal’s attack has been tilted pretty far to the left. As per Sportec’s tracking data, over 50% of Montréal's attacks came up that side this past weekend.

They were more balanced, or even rightward-tilting during their four-match winning streak.

New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire FC

Will Carles Gil be healthy? The DP No. 10 limped off with what looked like a muscle strain in the first half of last weekend’s loss to Philly.

He leads the team in expected assists (duh). Second on the team is right back Brandon Bye; third is left back DeJuan Jones. I don’t expect the club’s outside back to get forward as freely if Gil’s not out there. Bye’s also confirmed out this weekend with a left shoulder injury (not great!).

New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union

Last year, American Soccer Analysis had NYCFC sixth in the league in their “Goals Added - Receiving” metric, which basically means “they received a lot of passes in good spots.” Center forwards tend to dominate this metric.

This year NYCFC are 20th. They blew it, in my opinion, by not getting a high-level center forward before the close of the Primary Transfer Window.

Orlando City SC vs. Atlanta United

Orlando have finally started figuring some things out in attack, but they’re not yet the most clinical bunch, putting only 31.8% of their shots on target. That’s 23rd in the league.

It’s not a death sentence, but it certainly confirms the eye test that their wingers and attacking midfielders are leaving some low-hanging fruit unplucked.

Toronto FC vs. D.C. United

Remember up above, in the NYCFC segment, when I said that center forwards dominate the “Goals Added - Receiving” stat? D.C. United’s Christian Benteke is third in the league as per ASA, and if anything that understates his effect on the team. He’s winning more aerial duels than any other center forward in the league by a mile.

Houston Dynamo FC vs. Austin FC

Back to the complete other end of the spectrum on that stat, you find the Houston Dynamo.

It makes sense since they’re a team that plays with no true chance creator (a lot of good passers, a lot of good connectors, but nobody is that guy) and no true center forward. They’ve been good at taking the air out of the game by using the ball, but they have not yet figured out how to put goals on the board using it.

Minnesota United FC vs. Real Salt Lake

The underlying numbers love Bongi Hlongwane. The South African winger has been really good for Minnesota over the month in large part because his movement in the final third is so good, which means he finds a lot of high-quality shots – especially for a winger.

His non-penalty xG per shot is 0.17, which is best in the league for non-center forwards.

St. Louis CITY SC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Here’s a weird one: It felt like St. Louis won every 50/50 against Sporting KC last weekend, but the duels turned out to be 75-60 in Sporting’s favor. Part of that might be from St. Louis dropping their lines a little bit after taking a two-goal lead, which really changed the flavor of the game. So it feels like a one-off.

But most weeks they can’t be on the wrong side of that stat. And especially so against a team that keeps the ball like Vancouver.

Colorado Rapids vs. FC Cincinnati

Colorado are winless at home. Cincy have just one win from five on the road. They’re atop the Supporters’ Shield race because of this:

If they’re going to stay there, they’ll have to start claiming three points on the road every now and again.

LA Galaxy vs. Charlotte FC

Believe it or not, the Galaxy have created the most chances in the league with 160. And these aren’t crappy chances – they’re third in xA.

The issue: 10 goals on 18.99 expected goals. No matter what formation they’re playing (and to be clear, it should be a 3-5-2) they’ve been brutal in front of net.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas

San Jose are the only team in the league putting fewer than 30% of their shots on target (they’re at 29.7%). This is despite the fact they are mid-table in percentage of shots taken from inside the box.

It’s bizarre.

Seattle Sounders FC vs. New York Red Bulls

Shooting goals added: the difference between your expected goals and your expected goals on target.).

RBNY are dead last at -5.22. Nobody else is even above (below?) -3.5.

They’ve started to convert some of those chances under new coach Troy Lesesne. We’ll see if that continues.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers

Portland have dropped their total cross ratio – the percentage of passes into the box that are crosses – significantly in recent weeks, and are down to 32.5%. That’s come in conjunction with playing new DP Evander as more of a true No. 10, which is a role he didn’t look particularly comfortable in earlier in the year.

Nashville SC vs. Columbus Crew

Hany’s been unbelievable, man: