By Eric Walcott (@ericwalcott)
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. This is were we focus on chances that ended with the ball in the back of the net.
#5 Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Ola Kamara, L.A. Galaxy, 59th minute, 0.411 expected goals
Passes in sequence: 5
Zlatan makes what is actually a pretty difficult pass look easy, playing a perfect through ball into the path of Ola Kamara who calmly slots it past Luis Robles. It looks so simple, but there’s really very little space between the two New York defenders for Zlatan to thread the ball through. Aaron Long reacts to the pass rather than tracking Kamara, which is why his slide comes up just short of breaking up the assist. One might also wonder why Tim Parker didn’t provide a bit more pressure on Zlatan, giving him all the time he needed to pick his pass.
#4 Bradley Wright-Philips to Florian Valot, NYRB, 49th minute, 0.479 expected goals
Passes in sequence: 2
A second high expected goal chance from the Galaxy vs Red Bulls, this time courtesy of New York’s Bradley Wright-Philips. To be honest, BWP makes the easiest pass of this sequence, with Kaku’s ball over the top to play BWP into space being the real moment of genius. Galaxy defender Jorgen Skjelvik tries to head the ball clear and is unlucky to put the ball right at Kaku’s feet. With BWP and Florian Valot already rushing towards goal, there’s not much Sjkelvik or any other Galaxy defender can do as Kaku flicks the ball into space, leaving only a simple pass from Wright-Philips and a simple finish from Valot to give New York a 2-0 lead.
#3 Bradley Wright-Philips to Daniel Royer, NYRB, 7th minute, 0.656 expected goals
Passes in sequence:3
New York gets a bit lucky here in that at the beginning of this sequence Sebastian Lleget breaks up a pass, only for it to land directly at the feet of Sean Davis. Again it’s Kaku who plays a great ball to put Wright-Philips in position and give him the space to make the final pass. You can see the moment where Skjelvik checks behind, sees Daniel Royer coming, and adjusts, but doesn’t really commit to marking him. The only other Red Bull remotely close is Tyler Adams, but as you can see he’s tightly marked by Perry Kitchen, so I’m not sure why Skjelvik doesn’t commit to Royer, but his hesitation gives BWP just enough space to find Royer at the back post.
#2 Sebastian Giovinco to Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC, 8th minute, 0.746 expected goals
Passes in sequence: 6
Dear Kevin Ellis, and any other defender who loves to raise their hand in calls for offside rather than actually defending,
Keep your dumb arm down and play defense. You’re not convincing anybody, and in the second you wasted waving your arm Jonathan Osorio ran right past you and now he’s scoring a goal.
Okay, so maybe Osorio would have run right by Ellis anyways. That seems likely, since Osorio is pulling away from Ellis as Giovinco finds him for the tap in, but we’ll never know for sure.
#1 Alphonso Davies to Anthony Blondell, Vancouver Whitecaps, 79th minute, 0.784 expected goals
Passes in sequence: 2
Alphonso Davies does ALL the work here. So much so that this ball might even be going in without Anthony Blondell’s touch. Apparently some in Vancouverland have ripped Blondell for “stealing” Davies’ goal, but imagine how upset they’d be if Blondell hadn’t tapped it in and it had gone wide. It’s such a great run from Davies, showcasing his speed and strength on the ball. The defending? Less great. I’m not going to hate too much on the guys Davies beats since he ends up at a wide angle and without a deflection his initial ball probably isn’t going in. That said, Pablo Ruiz jogging behind Blondell is reminiscent of a Liam Ridgewell moment that got him left home from a road trip.
Stefan Frei gets credit for the biggest save from open play for this past week, but probably not for the save you’re thinking of. This save from Frei on Marcos Urena looks like a great save, and it is pretty impressive, generating a keeper xG of 0.574.
Then there’s this chance, which comes from a pinpoint pass and looks tame because Urena takes a bad touch, but the keeper xG of 0.921 suggests Urena really should have done better.
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.