Last season, we saw a South American playmaker enter MLS and lead a Cascadia team to the playoffs while also putting himself in the MVP discussion and on the Best XI. This year, we are seeing something eerily similar – and maybe even better.
Pedro Morales joined the Vancouver Whitecaps three days before the 2014 season started and, when he came on against the New York Red Bulls in the opener, he instantly showed what he was capable of in MLS. He scored one goal and assisted on another in just 25 minutes that day and now sits at seven goals and nine assists for the season.
Now, five of those seven goals have come from the penalty spot, but if he is able to keep up that pace, Morales has a chance to have a historic season in MLS. With seven goals and nine assists in 21 games, Morales’ pace would have him finish with 11 goals and 14 assists if he plays in the Whitecaps' final 12 games. That would put him among a select few in terms of players who have been able to score 11-plus goals and notch 11-plus assists in a season.
Since 2007, there have only been four players to have reached those numbers in a season:
|Players with 11+ Goals and Assists since 2007|
|Sebastien Le Toux||2010||14||11|
|Dwayne De Rosario||2011||16||12|
It should be noted that LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane also has a chance to reach these numbers for the second consecutive season, as he already has 12 goals and seven assists.
There is another stat where Keane is nowhere near Morales’ equal. That is when you add shots (including blocks) and chances created and look at them per 90 minutes played.
Looking at this, Morales is unmatched, at least in MLS. His rate of 7.22 shots plus chances created per 90 minutes is first in MLS and the highest rate of any player in MLS, according to Opta’s stats, which go back to 2010. There are only two other players in MLS this season with rates higher than 6.00 (Clint Dempsey: 6.82, Kekuta Manneh: 6.31).
Taking a lot of shots isn’t necessarily a good thing all the time, as players could be passing up better opportunities or being selfish, but it does display aggression and attacking instincts. Also when one compares Morales’ season in this statistic against some of the best players in the world from 2013-14, it shows how great of a season he is having with the Whitecaps.
The chart below shows Morales’ (and Clint Dempsey's) shots plus chances created per 90 in 2014 compared against the best players in the big four leagues in Europe (England, Spain, Germany, Italy). Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Marco Reus finished with a higher rate than Morales in this statistic.
Shots Plus Chances Created Per 90
Of course, there is the caveat that Morales is doing this in MLS, which for now is not up to par with the top European leagues. When Morales did play in La Liga with Malaga, his shots plus chances created per 90 sat at 5.14 (given a small sample size of 1,050 minutes), which would have put him in the top 10 of the league in 2013-14 had he played enough minutes.
So the Chilean maestro wasn’t named an MLS All-Star in 2014, but he should be on the tips of everyone’s tongues in talking about MVP candidates, especially if he leads the Whitecaps to the playoffs.