Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Thoughts & Numbers: What I'm watching for in MLS Matchday 18

Doyle - Thoughts and Numbers - 6.8.23

The midway point of this season has gotten here real quick.

As always, all the below numbers are courtesy of TruMedia via StatsPerform unless otherwise noted. Let’s dive in:

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United

Can’t put any of Atlanta’s problems on Thiago Almada. The playmaker’s been as good as advertised, ranking first in MLS in both expected assists and chances created per 90 (among players with at least 500 minutes).

Charlotte FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC

It’s been a tough stretch for the Sounders, but they still lead the league in xG (28.45) despite their recent struggles. The issue, obviously is finishing – or it was, anyway, until last weekend’s scoreless home draw vs. Portland. That was the first time all year Seattle really didn’t manage to create anything, taking just five shots for a total of 0.3 xG.

CF Montréal vs. Minnesota United FC 

Emanuel Reynoso got 43 touches in his 25 minutes on the pitch in his return to action last weekend, creating two chances in the process. He was excellent and looked exactly like the kind of No. 10 Minnesota’s been missing since October.

New England Revolution vs. Inter Miami CF

Miami could use that kind of No. 10, as they’ve created just 115 chances. That’s second-lowest in the league. Hello, Messi?!

Orlando City SC vs. Colorado Rapids

Orlando’s lack of heft in the air has been an issue most of the year (though it didn’t bother them at all last weekend vs. the Red Bulls): They are tied for last in MLS in aerial win percentage at 40.8%.

Center back Robin Jansson is particularly culpable, as he wins just 52.6% of his aerial duels. That’s 83rd among MLS defenders with at least 10 appearances.

Toronto FC vs. Nashville SC

Nashville, now sporting that 4-4-2 diamond on the regular and on an eight-game unbeaten run, are still doing more with less in attack: they have received 1,042 passes in the final third, tied with St. Louis for fewest in the league.

Chicago Fire FC vs. Columbus Crew

The Crew are all the way over at the other end of that spectrum, having received 1,926 passes in the final third. That’s second-most in the league behind the Sounders (who have played one more game than Columbus).

Houston Dynamo FC vs. LAFC

Houston at home: 5W-1L-1D, nine goals scored and two allowed. Houston on the road: 0W-6L-2D, six goals scored and 19 allowed.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Austin FC 

Rumors of Sporting KC’s demise have been, it turns out, greatly exaggerated:

Apparently, getting your DP No. 9 and DP No. 10 back from long-term injuries is a good way to put some gas into a team.

Real Salt Lake vs. New York City FC

NYCFC are 0W-5L-2D in their last seven MLS games, which is their worst seven-games stretch since May of 2015 – their expansion season.

If they don’t get a result this weekend in Utah, it’ll be their worst eight-game stretch ever.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Philadelphia Union

Something I’m surprised at is the fact San Jose don’t attempt more switches of play, which is always a good way to unlock dynamic wingers and fullbacks (the Quakes have both). They’ve attempted just 50 and completed 32, both of which are 25th in the league.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. FC Cincinnati 

Cincy are starting to remind me of Bruce Arena’s great 2011 LA Galaxy side, which 1-0’d their way to a Supporters’ Shield:

The Garys still feel like they’ve got two more levels to hit, but for now, grinding out results has them atop the standings and collecting points at a record pace.

St. Louis CITY SC vs. LA Galaxy

St. Louis’s goal differential minus expected goal differential of +1.24 per game is EASILY the highest in American Soccer Analysis’s database, which goes back a decade. No one else clocks in at over +0.75.

So yeah, they’re good but they’re probably not this good. The finishing we’ve seen from them is unsustainable (and if you doubt the underlying numbers’ chance at victory over a long enough timeline, consult with the folks in Austin).

Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas

And finally, the Timbers will have their hands full trying to break down a Dallas defense that’s among the league’s best in limiting opponent xG per shot: