By Eric Walcott (@ericwsoccer)
Welcome to Setting the Table, where each week we take some time to focus on the best chance creators in MLS from the last weekend. If you want to see the best chances that were wasted check out Lowered Expectations. Here we focus on chances that ended with the ball in the back of the net.
#5 Bradley Wright-Phillips to Daniel Royer, NYRB, 5th minute, 0.387 xG
Passes in sequence: 1
Bradley Wright-Phillips kicks off a strange week of Setting the Table with this cross off a throw-in that’s perfectly placed for Daniel Royer to poke past Tim Howard. I don’t know if BWP saw Royer making the run before turning to receive the throw, or just whipped a cross into a dangerous spot and got lucky on the timing, but it is a perfect ball.
BWP, by the way, is off to an amazing start to the year, and his transition from pure goal scorer to all around difference maker is a big reason NYRB are off to such a great start despite trading Sacha Kljestan and Felipe in the offseason.
Here are his numbers from the last four seasons, per 96 minutes:
Note that BWP’s expected goals numbers are just above the last two seasons. What really stands out is his assist numbers. At 0.68 assists per 96, and 0.48 xA per 96, Wright-Phillips is well above his chance making pace of the last few seasons. If he keeps this up, he may just take home the MVP award.
#4 Alex Muyl to Derrick Etienne, NYRB, 76th minute, 0.416 xG
Passes in sequence: 3
There’s a hint of offside in this one, but expected goals doesn’t care whether you think Derrick Etienne was offside or not, only that he was in a REALLY good position to shoot when he received this pass from Alex Muyl. Watching the video, it almost looks like an own goal, and the Colorado defender is probably lucky if he didn’t get a touch on that because if he had it probably would’ve been an own goal.
#3 Kei Kamara to Kendall Waston, Vancouver Whitecaps, 94th minute, 0.43 xG
Passes in sequence: 2
Stoppage time, set-piece equalizers are a thing of beauty. Vancouver will be disappointed that it came to this, since they won the xG battle 2.28-0.51 over Houston, but it was a thrilling finish nonetheless. Kei Kamara does a great job of going up in a crowd and winning the first ball, playing it back into the middle where Kendall Waston does basically the same thing.
Speaking of Kendall Waston, this is quite the shot chart for a center-back:
Waston is actually sitting at 0.23 xG+xA per 96 minutes, which is higher than Benny Feilhaber, Yamil Asad, and Christian Roldan, to name a few. Maybe next time Kamara is out and Vancouver need a big target to aim crosses at they should move Waston up top.
#2 Chris Wondolowski to Danny Hoesen, San Jose Earthquakes, 69th minute, 0.533 xG
Passes in sequence: 1
Chris Wondolowski earns the “most unlikely high quality chance created” award for this week. There are many things one might expect to happen in the moment just before Wondo manages to get that pass off, and “he places a perfect ball for Danny Hoesen to volley into the goal” is probably the unlikeliest. Wondolowski was an absolute difference maker for San Jose after coming on, which might have had something to do with playing against Minnesota, but it was encouraging nonetheless. Actually, it definitely had something to do with playing Minnesota. San Jose have generated over 2 xG (player model) exactly twice this season. Their opponent both times? Minnesota United. Not great if you’re the Loons.
#1 Niko Hansen to Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew, 50th minute, 0.711 xG
Passes in sequence: 1
Niko Hansen take a bow. Runs like these are why Gyasi Zardes, who had 14 goals and 14.3 xG in 3 seasons from 2015-2017, already has 8 goals on 7.9 xG in just over 1000 minutes in 2018. Hansen does 99% of the work on this goal, winning the ball back for the Crew, dribbling two-thirds the length of the field and beating a slew of Chicago Fire defenders, and playing a ball that Zardes just sticks his foot out and taps into the goal. If you’re a goalscorer you can’t ask for much more than this in terms of chance creation. Zardes makes a good run to be in position for the pass, but with chances like this being generated, it’s no wonder Zardes is surprising us all with his goal scoring this season.
Tyler Miller vs David Villa, LAFC, 13th minute, Keeper xG 0.792
For the second week in a row the best save according to keeper xG still ends up in a goal. Turns out, giving up a rebound right back to the shooter on a penalty kick is a bad idea. Tyler Miller actually makes a really nice save on this David Villa pk, but is helpless as the rebound goes right to Villa.
That’s all from this week’s Setting the Table. Thanks for taking the time to explore last weekend’s top assists and give some praise to the weekend’s best chance creators. See you next week.