by Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)
This season started off with Chicago being a punch line. They looked bad against LA and were arguably worse against Vancouver a week later. They were not aesthetically pleasing and their new star Shaun Maloney wasn't doing much to inspire visions of a team turn around.
Nearly five weeks later the team has back-to-back wins and Maloney is not looking as bad (sporting an xG+xA of .81). Shockingly enough, Chicago isn't the dumpster fire it once was. There may even be enough pieces with the return of Mike Magee to make a push for a playoff spot.
I'm not trying to get ahead of myself; there are still 29 more matches to play. Chicago could still be a bad team but there is something about having either an above average defense or offense that presents a complicated variable.
Chicago might be a mess defensively (1.40 xG against) but their attack has all sorts of interesting pieces. Harry "don't call me Harrison" Shipp is perhaps one of the most interesting American attacking pieces in Major League Soccer. Kennedy Igboananike is very quietly having a strong first year. Quincy Amarikwa is still doing his thing as perhaps the most under-appreciated striker in MLS, and Joevin Jones has been a nice little pick-up too.
The sum of the team has melded to make a greater whole than the individuals. We'll see this weekend if their success can continue.
Whereas Chicago has been defeated by their poor and mistake prone defense, it's been New York City's moments without David Villa on the ball that has been their downfall. Villa has been worth just about every penny. The problem has been outside of Villa. They've gotten league average assistance from his trio of strike partners Khiry Shelton, Adam Nemec and Patrick Mullins. But inconsistent creation from the midfield and a defense that is still trying to get on the same page has created problems.
Mikkel Diskerud has shown moments of brilliance between his slick passes and curling shots finding holes for goals. But he's still working through adjustments to the league and he's perhaps not the pure creator that Jason Kreis or NYC needs. Maybe Frank Lampard will be that person, and maybe not. Maybe it will take the summer transfer window to acquire that player.
Right now, New York City boasts a defense that has pieces and talent but somehow hasn't yet translated that to being successful. Currently averaging 1.40 xG against and standing 15th overall, the scary thing is that their PDO is sitting around 987, right near the normal resting heart rate of a club. In other words, they probably are what they are as a team. I'm sure they'll have some ups and downs through the season, but without limiting the shots this club isn't going to really take that step.
They already found out that backup striker Tony Taylor is out for the season. Should NYC loose out on Villa tonight, and that's the current rumor going around, they will have to not only figure out how to make up the difference in his ability to create and score goals but hold to bay a team that actually has a decent attack of their own.
The real outcome of this match will boil down to whose defense holds. Will Sean Johnson show up for this match and can Josh Saunders continue to be an above average keeper? This season is still young and while a single game hardly defines the destiny of a season, I suspect these two clubs will be dancing around each other through the season in the standings.
Tonight, for mostly obvious reasons, I'm taking the Chicago Fire for all three points. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if their defense collapsed and a draw was a result but either way I shade in the Fire's direction of earning points.
Harrison Shipp (Selected 26.1%, Cost $7.9)
There are few entertaining and redeeming qualities about the Fire and Shipp is one and perhaps all of them at the same time. I can't imagine that his cost is going to stay suppressed for much longer if he keeps putting together the goal scoring opportunities for his strikers and finding the back of the net himself.
Lovel Palmer (Selected 12.3%, Cost $5.9)
There are few players in MLS as versatile as Palmer which translates to more minutes because of it. He'll never be an individual that puts together huge games in terms of points. But it'll be consistent point allotment from match to match and in MLS Fantasy that's a huge quality to be find.
New York City FC
David Villa (Selected 20.3%, Cost $10.3)
The 33-year old Spaniard looks out this week so he probably doesn't impact fantasy this week but looking down the range, once he heats up, he'll be the best striker in MLS. Write it down.
Mix (Selected 10.9%, Cost $9.1)
This is one of those occasions that I don't get the price relative to the production that an owner is going to get. There are a lot of people that bought into him early (probably due to the pairing of Villa) and kind of got burned. He's a player that we're still learning about because we didn't have a lot of concrete data on him. I think he still has a bright future with the US and in MLS.
THE WEEKEND MATCH-UPS
(expected goal differential in even game-states)
Dallas FC (0.04) @ Colorado Rapids (-0.20)
Philadelphia Union (-0.03) @ Columbus Crew SC (0.29)
Real Salt Lake (-0.37) @ New England Revolution (0.32)
Prediction: New England
Sporting KC (0.78) @ Houston Dynamo (-0.18)
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City
DC United (-0.49) @ Vancouver Whitecaps (0.00)
LA Galaxy (0.08) @ New York Red Bulls (-0.01)
Toronto FC (-0.46) @ Orlando City SC (0.13)
Portland Timbers (0.22) @ Seattle Sounders FC (0.86)
Yo, hooch is crazy.