What expected goals can tell us about Houston and San Jose

Both the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes sit above the red line heading into May, a welcome sign for teams that haven't seen postseason action since 2012 (San Jose) and 2013 (Houston). But could things be going even better for the two Western Conference sides?

The Dynamo currently have a positive goal differential while the Quakes are on the negative side of that statistic, but the expected goals numbers for both teams tell a slightly different story.

Houston have scored 15 goals this season, good for the third-most in MLS, but the expected goals figures show that they have been slightly lucky to do so. That figure sits at 11.13 according to data provided by Opta, meaning that on average – based on their quality of chances – they would be expected to score 11.13 goals. The fact that they have scored 15 points to the great finishing of Erick Torres and Romell Quioto and that they might have been a bit lucky to get those 15.

San Jose have given up just 10 goals in their first nine games, tied for the sixth-fewest in the league. That number is nothing to sneeze at but the data shows that they might be a bit unlucky to even give up that many. They have conceded just 7.47 expected goals, meaning they have been a bit unlucky to give up 10, or that their opponents are finishing at an above average rate. Of course, this gaffe from David Bingham didn’t help.

In all, the Dynamo have an expected goal difference of -1.08 and are the only team with a negative xGD and a positive GD (2). On the opposite end of the spectrum, San Jose are the only team with a positive xGD (2.72) and a negative GD (-1).

Given these figures, we could see these two teams trend in opposite directions in the coming weeks. It may have already started with San Jose's 1-0 win at Minnesota and Houston's 2-0 loss at Toronto FC.

Two important notes before looking at Week 9's xG numbers: Penalties have a value of .79, and own goals are not factored into the values.

Game Result Home xG Away xG
Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo 2-0 1.01 .93
Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1-2 .79 .66
Orlando City SC vs. Colorado Rapids 2-0 1.93 .11
Columbus Crew SC vs. New York City FC 2-3 1.27 1.94
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire 2-1 .93 1.53
Minnesota United FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes 0-1 .46 1.55
FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers 2-2 1.36 .67
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake 3-0 1.30 .53
Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution 3-3 2.15 1.56
LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union 0-0 1.02 .37
Atlanta United FC vs. D.C. United 1-3 2.32 .93