Four interesting MLS advanced stats at the halfway point of the regular season

  • Now that we’re at the halfway point of the MLS season, let’s look at a handful of advanced stats to learn a little more about the league in 2022
  • From Jesus Ferreira’s speed to the New York Red Bulls going super Red Bull, there’s plenty to learn
May 11, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil (10) reacts during the second half against FC Cincinnati at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

This is an excerpt from Monday’s Weekend Recap. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future editions of the Weekend Recap delivered right to your inbox.

Now that we’re halfway through the 2022 MLS regular season, let’s look at a handful of advanced stats that tell us something about this year.

We’re going rapid fire this week, folks, so let’s get to it.

1. Jesus Ferreira is almost as fast as Cade Cowell

Yep. You read that right. Jesus Ferreira, the USMNT’s starting No. 9, is just behind Cade “The Superhuman” Cowell in terms of top speed in MLS this year. Per Second Spectrum’s top sustained speed stat, Cowell has the highest recorded speed in MLS in 2022 (10.18 meters per second). Ferreira? Well, he’s number two (10.12 meters per second).

I knew Ferreira could move, but I didn’t think he could move like that.

2. Tens are still alive and well

While other leagues around the world have, at least in part, given up on using a No. 10, MLS very much has not. The four players with the most touches per 90 minutes this year are all attacking midfielders. Carles Gil, Nico Lodeiro, Victor Vazquez, and Maxi Moralez lead MLS in touches among players with at least 500 minutes, per 2S.

In 2020, Michael Bradley led the league in touches per 90. Eduard Atuesta and Haris Medunjanin were also in the top five that year. Last year, Andreu Fontàs led the league in touches per 90. This year, though: it’s all about the No. 10s.

3. The Red Bulls have gone super Red Bull

The New York Red Bulls lead the league in pressures in the attacking half per 90 minutes. Woah, crazy. Who could’ve ever guessed.

Everyone. Literally everyone could’ve guessed.

But maybe the part that everyone wouldn’t have guessed is just how pressy this Red Bull team is. According to 2S, RBNY average 178.1 pressures in the attacking half per 90 minutes. That’s 26 pressures more than the next pressiest team this year (Vancouver?!) and 16 pressures more than the next pressiest team in Second Spectrum’s database (LAFC, 2020). Gerhard Struber’s 2022 Red Bulls team has officially gone super Red Bull. And hey, it’s working for them. They beat SKC 1-0 on Sunday and they’re thriving up towards the top of the East.

4. Three-at-the-back shapes are out

Remember last year when three-at-the-back shapes were all the rage? No? Well, neither do most MLS teams. In 2021, there were 71.1 offensive possessions involving a back three on a game-by-game basis, per 2S. This year, MLS is back down to 52.7 possessions per game that involve a back three.

Plenty of teams are still rocking with various three-at-the-back shapes: Vancouver, D.C., Nashville, RBNY, Colorado, and Montreal all love playing with three center backs. But others, like Seattle and LAFC, have fallen out of love with that.