Weekend Kickoff: Round 23 / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

Last week, I talked about the tiers of MLS and teams that are going to be the ones to watch as we close out this season. Since there is no relegation (and that is not a statement that implies I'm either for or against it), wading through the rest of the season as a Chicago Fire or Colorado Rapids supporter could be a burdensome and/or underwhelming task. That said, there are a few things to watch for from MLS as a whole as we race towards the end of the season.

Bottom dwellers and Transfer Fees

Generally speaking, MLS has yet to really get into the transfer game. This is mostly because of how they distribute the transfer fees back to the team in terms of allocation money. A larger percentage of the fee goes to the teams non-player budget than to allocation money. There are a lot of nuances that goes into it, but basically it's best if the player you sell on is not a designated player because of the money invested and salary paid which works against the possible allocation that could be received.

For that reason I've selected five players from the bottom of the MLS table who were draftees/homegrown players, which tend to be a team's most valuable resources. These guys could find themselves in Europe in the not-so-distant future.

5.  Patrick Mullins, New York City, Striker

I love Mullins and that's no secret. But he's one of the few financially viable sell-off pieces NYC currently has at it's finger tips. I thought about Mix Diskerud, and that's probably a better pick value-wise since he arrived with no transfer fee. That being said, Diskerud is going nowhere, and Mullins lack of playing time compared to his contributions and potential make him a good fit for a club toward the bottom of the table in the Championship, or perhaps a club with much cash needing help getting promotion from Ligue 1.

4. Chris Schuler, Real Salt Lake, Center Back

Obviously there is an injury risk that comes with spending money on Schuler. That said, he's a physical beast, and in the time he's healthy he could be a great fit on a team such as Fulham or even Brentford--teams that are looking for defensive help on the cheap side.

3. CJ Sapong, Philadelphia Union, Striker

Sapong has really turned a corner this season. After finally reaching healthy point in his career and growing up through a series of horrible choices, Sapong is doing things that are sure to be noticed overseas, tallying 4.73 xGoals this season in less than 1,000 minutes. He's putting up a solid season and at 26 with fewer miles on his legs than most 26-year-olds, and he could be a steal with his likely abnormal career arc. I think he needs to push himself a bit further to really garner the interest that would be needed to turn a profit, but he's deffinitley showing he's got the swag.

2. Harry Shipp, Chicago, Attacking Midfielder

Chicago is in a weird situation in that they have a ton of attacking pieces to manage and something is going to give. Shipp makes the most sense as he would likely incur the highest and maximum amount of allocation. Additionally I can't imagine that there are any reasons why he couldn't fit into a team in at a Premier League club such as Stoke ranging down to a team desperate for promotion such as Derby County doesn't consider the young American. Lots of option abroad and a bright future for this 23 year-old.

1. Dillon Powers, Colorado, Attacking Midfielder

There are already so many twitter rumors about Italian clubs in the mix to acquire Powers talents. I'm not sure if there is one specific league that I think makes “the most sense” but with he's been managed the last two years I think it's only natural that he looks overseas. I'll be interested to see what he can do with talented support.


The shaping of the Western Conference playoff situation

During the CONCACAF Champions League match between Vancouver and Seattle, it was mentioned that there was growing concern with the Sounders form, and that they may miss the playoffs for the first season in team history. Now the growing concern of their form is fair. They've accumulated six points through ten matches, and that's only good by 2013 DCU's standards. That being said, they're in a Western Conference that is rather top heavy.

Team Playoffs Supporters
FCD 0.992 0.230
VAN 0.990 0.212
SKC 0.958 0.122
LA 0.945 0.032
POR 0.634 0.004
SEA 0.612 0.004
HOU 0.384 0.000
SJ 0.237 0.000
RSL 0.170 0.000
COL 0.078 0.000

Taken from our http://www.americansocceranalysis.com/playoffshield-push/

Moving past any of the top four would be a stretch, but Houston and San Jose haven't exactly shown the fire power to knock them out. Seattle is probably in line for a 5/6 seed, and a first round matchup with one of the West's best. It's early to be trying to guess seeds, but needless to say, a 5/6 seed includes both a more difficult opponent and an additional round through which to survive. 


Sebastian Giovinco and breaking records

It's great that he's managed to score 16 goals already this season, but he's probably not going to break the record for goals scored in a single season. Toronto only has 13 matches left, and even if Gio played every minute of those remaining games, it would be a tall task to continue scoring a goal per game. 

MinProj. MinsGoalsxGoalsxG/90MinProj. Goals
163310611311.750.6513 + 7.7 = 20.7

Assuming we can use xGoals from the first part of his season to predict the rest, and based upon Matthias' work that's a safe assumption, I think we can expect, at most, nine more goals from the Atomic Ant, which would take him to second place (with a projected 21 goals) on the club's all-time record books.

That doesn't diminish the accomplishment of leading Toronto to what we should all expect to be the end of their playoff droughts this season (97.3% playoff chances). Just one season into his five-year deal, worth a reported $7 million, and he's already the club's fifth all-time scorer.  He's among the leaders for the MVP trophy (though I would argue that BWP is a better candidate, an argument for another day) and is probably the best player in MLS right now.

Update: With a hat trick Wednesday night, Giovinco's expected output by season's end is about 23 goals.


Game of the week: New York Red Bulls versus New York City in the Hudson River Rivalry.

Game to avoid: You could just point to Houston hosting San Jose and say "DUH," but I think that Vancouver and Real Salt Lake might be a bit of a snooze fest, too.

Surprising game you might keep an eye on: Colorado and Columbus could turn into a fun one, but a game with both story lines and numbers to back-up it could be Montreal and DC United.



#PORvCHI – Friday, 8PST-11EST

Top Attackers: Fanendo Adi, 8.81 xG+xA / Harry “Don't call me Harrison” Shipp, 7.43 xG+xA


#TORvSKC – Saturday, 1PST-4EST

Top Attackers: Sebastian Giovinco, 17.48 xG+xA / Benny Feilhaber, 10.11 xG+xA


#ORLvPHI – Saturday, 4:30 PST-7:30 EST

Top Attackers: Kaka, 11.66 xG+xA / Sebastian Le Toux, 7.74 xG+xA


#MTLvDCU – Saturday, 5PST-8EST

Top Attackers: Ignacio Piatti, 10.35 xG+xA / Chris Rolfe, 8.15 xG+xA


#HOUvSJ – Saturday, 6PST-9EST

Top Attackers: Brad Davis, 6.22 xG+xA / Chris Wondolowski, 8.46 xG+xA


#COLvCLB – Saturday, 6PST-9EST

Top Attackers: Dillon Powers, 6.56 xG+xA / Kei Kamara, 15.75 xG+xA


#VANvRSL – Saturday, 7PST-10EST

Top Attackers: Octavio Rivero, 10.43 xG+xA / Javier Rosales, 8.04 xG+xA


#LAvSEA – Sunday, 1PST-4EST

Top Attackers: Robbie Keane, 8.52 xG+xA / Clint Dempsey, 9.69 xG+xA


#NYRBvNYC – Sunday, 4PST-7EST

Top Attackers: Bradley Wright-Phillips, 15.09 xG+xA / David Villa, 14.96 xG+xA