Chicago Fire's Nemanja Nikolic sees slump continue against San Jose

Andrew Wiebe devoted one of his five questions to this topic on Friday, but and after the Chicago Fire's 4-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, it's worth asking again: What's going on with Nemanja Nikolic?

Here's what Wiebe said on Friday: "Nobody’s been on the end of more big chances (16) than the Fire No. 9 and 2017 Golden Boot presented by Audi winner. Nobody’s missed more big chances (11), either."

That trend continued at Avaya Stadium. Nikolic had two more big chances against the Quakes and failed to convert, both coming with the Fire down 1-0 and still in the game.

Nikolic has now converted just five of his 18 big chances. That 27.78% rate is 15% lower than the league average rate.

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Expected goals data tells a similar story.

Nikolic has been the worst finisher in MLS so far this season, as he would have been expected to score at least four more goals on average based on the quality of his chances.

(Numbers as of 8 pm ET Saturday)

Player Goals Expected Goals G-xG
Nikolic (CHI) 5 9.28 -4.28
Dwyer (ORL) 3 6.69 -3.69
Picault (PHI) 1 3.94 -2.94
J. Martinez (ATL) 5 7.69 -2.69
Ramirez (LAFC) 2 4.63 -2.63

The most concerning part for Fire fans is that Nikolic outperformed his expected goals numbers in his first two years in Chicago. It begs the question if we should expect the striker to progress to the mean or if this is what his form will look like for the rest of the season. If he had more of his chances, where would the Fire be in the standings right now? Can head coach Veljko Paunovic afford to let Nikolic work his way out of his funk?

Year Goals Expected Goals G-xG
2017 24 21.78 2.22
2018 15 13.44 1.56
2019 5 9.28 -4.28

The silver lining for Chicago? That’s a TON of big chances and expected goals through 13 games, which suggests that the build-up is working, and in a lot of ways the attack is clicking. Now they just need someone – maybe it’s Nikolic, maybe it’s not – to finish off those sequences and put the ball in the net.


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