Welcome to Setting the Table. 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.
This week I’m going to do something a bit different. Don’t worry, you’ll still get to see the top assists of the week (based on the quality of chance they create, rather than the awesomeness of the actual pass, a fact that seems extra evident this week), and you’ll still get gifs of fun goals. That said, with it being the beginning of the World Cup, I’m also going to take a look at some of the players MLS is sending to Russia and what stands out about them.
#3 Diego Fagundez to Teal Bunbury, NE Revolution, 82nd minute, 0.512 expected goals
Passes in sequence: 1
If you just looked at the chalkboard here you might think this was a fairly normal goal. Diego Fagundez gets into a dangerous position and finds Teal Bunbury making a run down the middle and he makes the simple pass for the easy finish.
Except, ummmmm, WHAT? The Fire had a chance to steal all three points and thanks to Richard Sanchez playing hot potato, could only manage a draw (though based on the quality of chances, you could argue they stole one point as they lost the xG battle 0.73-1.55).
There are a number of things Sanchez could’ve done with the ball as his momentum carried him out of bounds. He could’ve thrown it towards the sideline, he could’ve even held on to the ball and conceded a corner kick. Instead he does probably the world possible thing and drops it basically onto the foot of Fagundez. One simple pass and Bunbury’s shot, which you’d expect him to score with a goalkeeper in net, is against an empty net and he easily finishes it.
Sanchez has been okay for the Fire this season, conceding about as many goals as expected based on expected goals data. His xG against is 22.91, while actual goals conceded is 22. That said, he was benched earlier this month and only returned to the lineup due to injury. Moments like this are not going to make a strong case for staying in the lineup once Patrick McClain is healthy.
#2 Alphonso Davies to Yordy Reyna, Vancouver Whitecaps, 87th minute, 0.774 expected goals
Passes in sequence: 2
Alphonso Davies take a bow. Against Orlando over the weekend, the 17-year old scored a goal and provided three assists in a breathtaking performance. Davies has had his moments in recent weeks, but it all came together on Saturday. Looking at Davies’ numbers per 96 minutes you can see a clear increase in production from 2017 to 2018. Interestingly, he’s actually taking fewer shots, but putting more of them on target and taking those shots from more dangerous positions. The area where he’s seen the most growth is the chances he’s creating for others, up to 0.31 xG per 96 minutes in 2018 after only 0.1 xG per 96 in 2017.
Davies won’t be going to the 2018 World Cup, but if he keeps this up he just might be the star of the 2026 World Cup, which Canada will be joint hosting. I’m not saying Davies’ speech before the vote sealed the deal for the United bid, but it would’ve won my vote!
#1 Walker Zimmerman to Adama Diomande, LAFC, 90th minute, 0.832 expected goals
Passes in sequence: 3
Let’s call this week "the week of the maybe lucky assist played to the wide open person in front of goal." Walker Zimmerman is stretched so far to win the ball in from Steven Beitashour that it’s amazing he’s able to direct it in front of goal. He couldn’t have done it better had be been standing perfectly positioned to receive the ball. He does get a foot on it, and he finds Adama Diomande right in front of goal for the tap in and the equalizer.
Diomande, who has played only 155 minutes since joining LAFC, is going to be key over the next few weeks if they want to keep up their hot start. While there’s a bit of a break for the beginning of the World Cup, LAFC are going to be missing Marco Urena and Carlos Vela for a few games at minimum. Between the two of them, they’re producing 1.69 xG+xA per 96 for LAFC. That’s a lot of attacking production missing. Luckily, Diomande is off to a good start, generating 1.53 xG+xA per 96 on his own. While he’s unlikely to keep that up, it’s a good sign for LAFC.
Now, on to Russia. There will be 19 players from MLS representing their countries in Russia, 0 of them from the United States. They are: