The Weekend Kick-Off: A Coast-to-coast trip / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)

A mid-week US Mens National team game, a Thursday evening game between Philly and NYC, all leading up to a Friday game? Maybe I should have posted this "kick-off" on Wednesday? Well, forgive me. At least there has been plenty of American soccer to go around this week, which has inhibited my new seasons of Property Brothers that hit Netflix last week (why do they go always go with the smaller Reno budget???). I'll live.

Let's get to this week's Friday night game of San Jose traveling to Harrison, New Jersey to take on the New York Red Bulls (notice, I didn't use sarcastic tone or put New York in parentheses? Be proud of me, this is growth).

San Jose will be without exciting newcomer in Innocent Emeghara, who was suspended by MLS, and defender Shaun Francis, who is out one to two months with a fractured cheekbone. However, Dom Kinnear and company got a bit o' luck with Chris Wondolowski who was with the US national team but played zero minutes. Wondo ranks 11th in the league in xGoals + xAssists, indicating that he is a crucial piece of the Earthquake's offense, and he should be available tonight.

Jesse Marsch is in a much better position with his line-up. A healthy attack of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Lloyd Sam and Felipe Martins with Sascha Kljestan launching passes into the attacking third makes for an altogether overwhelming task for San Jose defenders Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernandez. That said Marsch still will have to deal with his own set of missing personnel with the potential unavailability of both Ronald Zubar and Damien Perrinelle.

Something that we talk a lot about around these parts is the traveling conditions for teams that are traveling West-to-East and East-to-West. I haven't done research on it, but it's something that Drew has talked a lot about. I don't like speculating on things for which I have no data in front of my face, but I feel like East-West travel through time zones has been shown to have a hangover effect on away teams (anyone that wants to do a study and needs some help give us a shout). Going into this, my mind thinks San Jose has a lot to overcome.

But, we're not here to get opinions. We're here for facts. That's why you come to read this blog...mostly. It might also be my winning personality and Property Brother mentions.

The Red Bulls are tied for first in points per-game within Major League Soccer, cohabiting that position with DC United. Paradoxically, both teams are ranked toward the bottom of our expected goals tables, so perhaps some regression is coming. If not this week, soon.

Currently the Red Bulls are tied (with Real Salt Lake... you can't script this stuff) with the second-highest PDO. Which, as we discussed last week, is a barometer for exceeding or falling short of likely expectations, especially early in the season. Their shots against totals are a very under-discussed talking point that could end up costing them some points in the future. Especially when their finishing rate against (6.8%) is almost sure to rise in the coming weeks.

I still think that the Red Bulls are the better team, and considering they are a very good home team and San Jose is making a cross country trip, things kind of lie in their favor. But don't be surprised if San Jose finds some cheap goals and still gets a point.

That said, PREDICTION: I'm going with the Red Bulls.

FANTASY PERSPECTIVE:

San Jose Earthquakes

Fatai Alashi (owned %6.6 - worth $5.1)
Alashe is getting plenty of selections by owners with the growing importance within MLS Fantasy of having someone cheap that is going to see minutes on your bench. His performance for SJ isn't about getting a bunch of points--though he's had some solid moments--it's about making sure you get some points. He's started four of six games played by San Jose this year.

Chris Wondolowski (owned %5.1 - worth $10.7)
Wondolowski is the most consistent goal scorer in MLS not named Robbie Keane. Goals scored isn't everything in MLS Fantasy, but it's of course the big point-getter, and there are few that are going to be worth that much of an investment. As mentioned above, Wondo is 11th in the league in combined xGoals and xAssists. He's a key part of that offense.

 

New York Red Bulls

Bradley Wright-Phillips (owned %12.9 - worth $10.9)
BWP is showing that he's more than just Thierry Henry's last project with two goals and two assists in four games. My initial concern is that he's creating fewer shots, especially considering that last season's 27 goals came not just from quality chances but also volume of shots (109). However, our numbers have him at 3.46 xG+xA, which is fifth in the league and first on a per-game basis.

Lloyd Sam (owned %8.9 - worth $8.8)
Sam is in a similar situation as BWP with gathering less total xG than what he's actually scored. But, just like Wright-Phillips, it's not as if he's overachieving by much. His expected assists is over one, putting him on pace for 8 - 10 assists this season. I really like Sam and I fully expected there is going to be a tough moment where I have to come to the realization that he might not be worth the price relative to the other market options, which makes me sad, but for now he's doing great and I expect him to continue to do so.

The Weekend Match-ups:

Saturday

Houston (-.49) at DC United (-0.82)
Prediction: Draw

Orlando City (0.26) at Columbus Crew SC (0.11)
Prediction: Draw

Toronto (-0.56) at FC Dallas (-0.12)
Prediction: F-C-D

Seattle Sounders (0.62) at Colorado (-0.06)
Prediction: EBFG, Sounders

Vancouver (0.00) at (Real Salt Lake -0.62)
Prediction: Southersiders

Sporting KC (1.26) at LA Galaxy (0.32)
Prediction: SKC, but this is one of the more mind boggling match-ups--I may come back to this one in a few weeks.

 

Sunday
New England (0.34) at Philadelphia Union (0.61)
Prediction:  Union, because it has to eventually happen.

Portland Timbers ( 0.37) at New York City (-0.91)
Prediction: Cascadia with a third win on the day. #BestCoast

 

NERD IMAGERY OF THE WEEK:
 

 

One day I'm going to finish my Marvel meets MLS post and you're all going to hate it. For the time being I want you to think about how much Dax McCarty looks like Remy Lebeau. You're welcome.