- As we head into the final stretch of the regular season in MLS, we’re looking at one key stat for every team in the Eastern Conference
- From standout performers to struggling attackers to a ticking clock, there’s plenty to discuss
Look away Pablo Mastroeni and Bruce Arena. We’re about to dive into one important stat for each team as we enter the final stretch of the season. Today, we’re running through every team in the Eastern Conference. We’ll have the West out soon.
Let’s do this thing.
Stat: 9…games remaining in the season
DC United has a smaller chance right now of making the playoffs than Pablo Maurer does of responding favorably to a weather-cliche-related tweet. But new manager Wayne Rooney will have the final nine games of the season to start prepping for 2023 by installing his tactical system, auditioning players and integrating new talents in Christian Benteke, Ravel Morrison, David Ochoa, and Victor Palsson.
Stat: 14…entries in J. Sam Jones’ timeline of Atlanta United injury sadness
Injuries have been the overwhelming story of Atlanta United’s season. It certainly seems like those injuries have broken them more than just physically. Given all of their talent, it’s hard to write Gonzalo Pineda’s team off, but with Atlanta slipping further behind the playoff line, time may be running out for the Five Stripes.
Stat: 2.07…xG per game since the Italian attackers hit the field
Small sample size issues aside, the Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne additions have Toronto buzzing. The Reds are among the hottest teams in MLS with three wins in their four MLS games since the Italian wingers were added to the starting lineup on July 23. According to American Soccer Analysis, Toronto averaged 1.15 xG per game before July 23, so 2.07 xG is a massive increase.
We’ll need to see a couple more games this month to see how real this glow-up is, but a potential late-season push to the playoffs looks possible.
Stat: 10…road losses this year
Charlotte FC have been suffering from a serious case of the home/away blues this season. One of the biggest surprises in all of MLS this year has been how good Charlotte have been at home: with eight home wins, Mint City can happily point out that only LAFC (10 wins) have more in 2022. On the flip side, Charlotte lacks an ability to generate offense on the road and have chalked up a league-worst 10 losses.
According to ASA, Charlotte is only generating 0.84 xG on the road. Maybe it’s time to start bringing Sir Minty along for some road trips.
Stat: 10…clean sheets for Gaga
Gaga has been fantastic for Chicago this season. His 10 clean sheets are only bested by Sean Johnson’s 12. Slonina has been on the short-list alongside Johnson, Andre Blake, and Djordje Petrovic for league’s best keeper. At times, it’s hard to remember that Slonina is only 17 and still has time to grow.
Continuing to make big saves will be critical if the Chicago Fire are going to finish above the playoff line…and if Slonina wants a chance to hop on the plane with the USMNT to Qatar.
Stat: 45…goals allowed this season
I was ready to get on my Brandon Vazquez to the national team soapbox, but I decided to scrap that idea with Cincinnati currently in 9th place in the East. Even with Vazquez scoring goals, Cincy are below the playoff line because of their work on the defensive side of the ball. You can’t give up as many goals as Cincinnati have this season (4th most in MLS) and expect to make the playoffs. According to ASA’s xG model, opposing teams are overperforming against Cincy, so there is some hope that their defense will improve. Matt Miazga should help with that, too.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Stat: 7.07…fewer goals allowed than expected with Petrovic in goal
There probably isn’t another player in MLS who has done more to keep their team in the playoff race than New England Revolution goalkeeper Dorde Petrovic. The Serbian international has been sensational this season after Matt Turner left this summer to join Arsenal: according to FBref’s post-shot expected goals stats, Petrovic has been the best shot-stopper in MLS in 2022.
Having the league’s best in goal is a huge boon for the Revs while they try to get over the playoff line.
Stat: 6…goals scored by Gonzalo Higuain since July 14
Since July 14, Gonzalo Higuain has been MLS’s hottest player. He’s leading the league with six goals over the last month and, according to ASA, he has the fourth most xG in that window as well, with 3.55. Who knows what finally set the Argentine off, but Higuain is fully engaged and makes everyone around him better. A playoff run is actually on the table for Inter Miami right now.
Stat: 18…goals scored in open-play
Orlando City have really struggled in the attacking third in 2022: only Wooden Spoon contenders Sporting Kansas City have scored fewer goals in open-play than the Lions. If Alexandre Pato, who needed to be helped off the field by the stretcher crew this weekend, is out for an extended period of time, Orlando’s offense could be in even more trouble. Per FBref, the Brazilian currently leads Orlando City in goal-creating actions per 90 minutes.
Stat: 8..goals and assists for Zelarayan since Cucho arrived
When you’re a star attacker without much talent around you, most teams will organize their defense to stop you. That’s just how soccer works. However, when you have two star attackers, like the Columbus Crew now have with Lucas Zelarayan and Cucho Hernandez, life gets much more difficult for opposing defenses. It’s challenging to stop one without creating space and opportunities for the other.
With his boost in production, no one is happier about the Cucho signing than Zelaryayan.
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Stat: 1,347…pressures in the attacking third
Everyone knows the Red Bulls press, but they press a lot more than even other teams that like to press. The Philadelphia Union, for example, come in at No. 2 in pressures in the attacking third with 963, but that’s still a major gap between first and second. The problem for New York right now is that the press is their only tactical weapon. If you survive the press until the Red Bulls tire out, you can exploit their heavy legs to get a result on the road.
Stat: 22…shots from open play since Taty left
At this point in the year, interim manager Nick Cushing’s biggest task is to get the NYCFC goal-scoring machine back on track. Per ASA, Cushing’s team has the fewest shots in open-play of any team in MLS since Taty Castellanos played his last match for New York City on July 23.
The Pigeons still have time left before the playoffs and a talented core of attackers, but Heber and Talles Magno have not seized their opportunities so far. Neither player has shown that they can come close to replacing Taty as New York City FC’s main scoring threat.
Stat: 9.56…more goals allowed by Breza than expected
The analytics say that Montreal should be a lot better on defense than they are. According to FBRef, Montreal have allowed 41 goals in 2022 compared to an expected goals against figure of 25.8. Much of that disparity points towards goalkeeper Sebastian Breza. According to Statsbomb’s post-shot xG model, Breza has given up nearly 10 goals more than expected this season.
There’s a reason why Wilfried Nancy recently moved Breza to the bench in favor of James Pantemis.
Stat: 15…goals and assists for Gazdag
It’s natural to compare the Philadelphia Union and the New York Red Bulls because of their similar styles of play. But if you want to know why the Union are solidly in first place in the Eastern Conference and the Red Bulls aren’t, look no further than Daniel Gazdag.
Gazdag, Philly’s No. 10, is having a great year and thrives in moments when he can crash the box as an accent runner.