Who have been the best young attackers in MLS so far? | Expected Goals

When you look at the goalscorers from Week 16, you'll see three players over 30 who have been some of the best players in MLS since their arrival (Ignacio Piatti, David Villa, Bradley Wright-Phillips). You'll also see some young, exciting players who have quickly become standouts in the league (Miguel Almiron, Alberth Elis, Hector Villalba).

When trying to measure who have been the best attacking players in MLS this season, that mix is apparent. Non-penalty goals plus assists per 90 minutes can help identify these players, as it measures raw production, and in the top 20 you find some familiar names but also some of these young, exciting players.

(Min. 700 minutes played)

The highlighted players are those who are 23 and under. While Almiron has gotten many of the headlines so far this season, it's clear that Elis is among the top attackers in MLS. The Honduran has played just 881 minutes for the Houston Dynamo this season due to injuries and international duty, but he has collected six goals and three assists in his limited time compared to the other top players.

Looking at his expected goals numbers provided by Opta, it's clear how special Elis is. His xG plus xA value per 90 minutes is the best among players under the age of 23 so far this season, with his teammate Mauro Manotas among the top five.

Player xG+xA per 90
Elis (HOU) .68
Larin (ORL) .64
Harrison (NYC) .63
Manotas (HOU) .59
Savarino (RSL) .58

The expected assists model here is not only based on chances created – in other words, passes that lead directly to shots – but rather it measures the cumulative probability over all completed passes that each individual pass was an assist. The model does a better job isolating the pass from the result and how effective of a pass it is.

These numbers show that Elis has been the best attacker among players 23 and under, while New York City FC's Jack Harrison is also in the top five after another assist on Saturday. Real Salt Lake's Jefferson Savarino has also been impressive in limited time so far.

Two important notes before looking at Week 16's xG numbers: Penalties have a value of .79, and own goals are not factored into the values.

Game Result Home xG Away xG
New York City FC vs. Seattle Sounders 2-1 2.28 .66
Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew SC 3-1 .86 1.32
Orlando City SC vs. Montreal Impact 3-3 1.79 1.47
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire 1-2 2.85 1.53
Toronto FC vs. D.C. United 2-0 1.14 .46
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Sporting Kansas City 0-0 .21 .79
Colorado Rapids vs. Portland Timbers 2-1 .94 1.02
Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United FC 1-0 2.14 .22
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. FC Dallas 1-1 .33 .88
LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo 2-2 1.86 1.74
Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls 0-2 .66 2.31

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