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Stefan Frei has Sounders performing better than expected defensively

Should Stefan Frei be considered a favorite to finally win MLS Goalkeeper of the Year?

Some data backs up that claim for the Seattle Sounders veteran.

Through 33 games, the Sounders have conceded just 36 goals, second best in the league behind the New York Red Bulls’ 33 goals. But Seattle is performing significantly better than expected defensively this season. They lead the league, conceding 15.42 goals less than their expected goals against per 90 minutes. Their expected goals against figure of 51.42 is the number of goals they would be expected to concede on average based on the quality of chances they have conceded.

The Red Bulls, who are considered to have one of the best backlines in the league, come in second at -12.45. This helps to speak to Luis Robles' prospects for his second Goalkeeper of the Year award. It is important to note that while both teams are conceding far less than goals than they would be expected to, that discrepancy could be the result of performance or luck.

Interestingly, while so much of D.C. United’s success in the second half of the regular season has been credited to Wayne Rooney’s arrival, Bill Hamid’s return in goal has helped to solidify the Black-and-Red’s defense.

Since July 14, United are conceding 9.06 fewer goals than expected. On the attacking side, Ben Olsen’s side has scored 9.43 more goals than the 27.57 expected goals since July 14. Throughout the course of the season, though, that number is actually higher (11.34).

The team underperforming the most on the attacking side is the Columbus Crew SC, who need a victory on Decision Day presented by AT&T to clinch a spot in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup playoffs.  Crew SC have scored 40 goals this season, 11.83 fewer than expected. They are also the runaway leaders at goal differential vs. expected goal differential, at a whopping -19.96. On average, their goal differential should be around +17 but it's actually at minus-3, meaning their underperforming their xGA figure by a healthy margin as well. 

No other team this season has scored seven fewer goals than expected. And just two teams — Orlando City SC (-13.45) and Toronto FC (-12.74) are in double-digit in GD-xGD.

How about Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Landon Donovan MLS MVP? He might not win the Golden Boot — Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez has that wrapped up with 30 goals through 33 games — but no player is performing better than expected when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net.

Ibrahimovic’s 22 goals are 6.81 more than his expected strike rate. New York City FC winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is second on that list, his 11 goals are 6.34 more than expected.

On the flip side of that, Atlanta’s playmaker Miguel Almiron has scored just 12 goals, 6.16 fewer than expected. Philadelphia Union striker C.J. Sapong is second, his four goals are 5.91 fewer than expected.