The Daily KO - Puig

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The Recap

Just two games to get right quick. Let’s talk it out.

T. Oluwaseyi (31'), R. Lod (49'), H. Dotson (53')

Charlotte have been outstanding at home. Minnesota only seem to win on the road. Something had to give here. This time, Charlotte gave. A lot. Tani Oluwaseyi kicked things off with his third goal of the season while Robin Lod and Hasani Dotson put nails in the coffin in the second half. Lod had two assists as well.

The Loons tore up a Charlotte team whose baseline has been: a “solid defensive side that’s tough to break down.” It’s an impressive win, but an unimportant one until Minnesota can do the same thing at home. What is important is that Oluwaseyi made his first career start and continued to be one of the season’s best stories. The 2022 SuperDraft pick has three goals and two assists in 219 minutes this year. He played just 11 MLS minutes in the last two seasons.

Gabriel Pec (14'), J. Paintsil (PK 24'), M. Yoshida (30'), Riqui Puig (56') | Rodrigues (32'), B. Kikanovic (58'), J. Ebobisse (PK 72')

If it stayed normal, it wouldn’t be a Cali Clásico. The Galaxy exploded out of the gate on their way to a 3-0 lead. Riqui Puig added another goal in the second half to give LA a 4-1 lead, but the Quakes still had some fight in them. Benji Kikanovic responded immediately, and Jeremy Ebobisse brought San Jose within a goal after Eriq Zavaleta got sent off for pulling Ebobisse down in the box. The Quakes couldn’t find a final breakthrough, though, and LA held on to the win.

Neither team beat any of the allegations in this one. Both defenses were suspect. But the Galaxy attack has a habit of being too good for shoddy defending to matter. All three Designated Players scored in the win. The Galaxy are averaging a league-best 2.33 goals per game. The Quakes are allowing a league-worst 2.67 goals per game. These two were destined to hit the over.

On a related note, LA are on top of the West with 18 points. San Jose are in last place. The Earthquakes have three points in nine games.

A brief look at which MLS teams are shrugging off their underlying numbers

There’s some debate about this, because of course there is, but most soccer analytics folks will tell you that underlying numbers don’t start to become predictive until about eight to 10 games in. Basically, once you’re about eight games in, you can start pointing to a team’s expected goals numbers and act like they mean something with some degree of credibility.

Every team but one has played eight games by now, so it feels like an appropriate time to check in on which are living up to their underlying numbers and which have records that don’t reflect their performance.

Most underperforming team: San Jose Earthquakes

Hey! Maybe all that stuff we said in the recap isn’t as bad as it seems?

Our friends at American Soccer Analysis have a metric called “expected points.” It’s exactly what it sounds like and can be boiled down to, “How many points would a team typically earn based on the chances they’re creating and allowing?” Based on the chances the Quakes are creating and allowing, their expected points total is a solidly mediocre 1.34 points per game. Their actual points per game total is 0.33.

So, what’s real and what’s fake? Well, I think we can safely assume the Quakes aren’t a good team. On top of that, things seem to be spiraling a bit. They won’t suddenly become a playoff team. But you don’t have to lock them into a Wooden Spoon win quite yet.

The more likely candidates at this point are FC Dallas. Dallas are averaging 0.93 expected points per game. That’s just slightly better than their current rate of 0.63 points per game. There’s hope for San Jose. Kind of.

Anyway, would it make anyone in San Jose feel better if we told you that Inter Miami and Columbus are only on 1.37 expected points per game? If you ignore the eye test entirely and take out any context, the Quakes are just as good a team as two of the league’s best.

Second-most underperforming team: Seattle Sounders FC

It felt worth mentioning the second-most underperforming side too. It’s fascinating to see the numbers still believe in Seattle when we’re pretty much at the point where folks in Seattle don’t even believe in Seattle.

The Sounders have an expected points-per-game rate of 1.54. That’s the ninth-best mark in MLS and a 0.79-point difference from their actual rate of 0.75. On top of that, ASA’s all-encompassing performance metric, Goals Added (g+), loves Seattle even more. The Sounders are third in MLS in g+ differential.

They’re getting the ball into good positions. They’re keeping their opponent from doing the same. But when you watch them (and see their place in the standings), you can tell that something isn’t clicking. It’s weird. And we might need to take a week’s worth of Daily Kickoffs to figure out what exactly is wrong. Odds are, though, that Seattle end up coming good sooner rather than later.

Even if it feels like nothing will ever go right again.

Most overperforming team: Austin FC

They’re back! But we know how this goes by now. Austin will probably win the conference or something now while rejecting the concept of underlying numbers outright. And good for them. It’s about time someone took math down a peg.

Let’s move on to something more interesting.

Second-most overperforming team: LA Galaxy

When you play defense the way the Galaxy do, it’s almost a given that the underlying numbers aren’t going to be kind. The Galaxy are overperforming their expected points total by 0.54 points per game. ASA’s expected points model has them closer to a good but not great 1.46 points per game.

It all comes down to their defensive issues. LA are allowing 1.9 expected goals per game, the second-worst mark in the league. The only team with a worse defensive record is New England. The Galaxy are getting away with it by creating a ton of chances of their own, though. They’re averaging 2.04 expected goals per game, the second-highest mark in the league.

Is that any way to live? Probably not. But, LA have so much individual quality that it feels like they can get by the same way Inter Miami have. They’re never going to be out of a game. That should be enough to earn plenty of points, even if any lead they hold is never truly safe. You can put together a solid regular season that way. The only issue is that you’re not going to survive come playoff time.

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Good luck out there. Get the right support behind you.