MLS Playoffs Guide: 8 Eye-Opening Stats Ahead of the MLS Cup Final

💫 22-year-old @OrlandoCitySC winger Facundo Torres didn’t feature for Uruguay in their 0-0 draw against South Korea.

⚽️ He outperformed his xG more than almost any other player in the #MLS this season, scoring 4.7 goals over expected (9 in total).

#URU | #FIFAWorldCup

Move over #Thanksgiving, it’s time for #BlackFriday, and the big games just keep on coming:

🏈 Tulane @ Cincinnati
⚽️ #ThreeLions vs. #USMNT

Our Thanksgiving weekend viewers’ guide has you covered today.

#NCAA | #FIFAWorldCup
https://thegeniusplaybook.com/a-rare-sporting-equinox-our-ultimate-thanksgiving-viewer-guide/

🏈 #NFLThanksgiving gave us three close and competitive games yesterday, with wins for the #Bills, #Cowboys and #Vikings.

These were the top performers from the Thanksgiving slate, per @NextGenStats. ✨

𝙎𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙍𝙚𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩: @USMNT x @MLS

Just one player of the starting XI against Wales came from a team in the #MLS. But the bench was stacked with MLS talent that could hurt England tonight.

Here are a few to watch out for. 🧵

#ThreeLions | #USMNT

💫 Dak’s 88% completion rate in Week 11 was the highest recorded in a single game (min 15 attempts) in the whole of 2022 so far.

⭐️ The #Cowboys are getting hot at the right time, but Coach of the Year contender Brian Daboll has the #Giants playing elite football.

#NYGvsDAL

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From 14 to two. 

After two dramatic rounds, and some unforgettable performances in the Conference Finals, the stage for the MLS Cup Playoff Final is set.

For the first time since 2003, the two No. 1 seeds from the regular season have advanced to the MLS Cup Final, as LAFC prepare to take on Philadelphia Union this coming Saturday.

To prepare for the final, we’ve collated 10 match-defining stats using our tracking data.

Our tracking profiles charted the key performance metrics and potential match-winners for each Playoff team. Scroll to the bottom to see what we said about the eliminated teams. 

8 stats that show where the MLS Cup Final could be won or lost

Philadelphia Union’s Dániel Gazdag, who has scored 23 goals so far, has the highest shot quality in the MLS this season (0.32).

LAFC have recorded the most entries into the penalty area (21.1 per game) this season. Philadelphia only rank 13th. 

Oddly, neither of these teams rank in the top 10 for total distance covered. An example of their premium levels of organization. 

Union goalkeeper Andre Blake had made the 6th-most saves in the MLS this season, stopping on average around 2.9 shots per game. 

Overall, the Philadelphia defense has overperformed the most of any MLS team. Their xG conceded says they should have conceded 11.4 more goals than they have.

21-year-old Kwadwo Opoku has mainly featured from the bench this season, but has completed more successful dribbles than any other LAFC player (83). 

Neither Philadelphia or LAFC are particularly fond of pressing, ranking 13th and 17th respectively in team presses (where two or more players press in sequence).

Sought-after full-back Kai Wagner is arguably the most prolific crosser in the MLS. He’s made 318 crosses this season, and 32% of those crosses have resulted in a shot towards goal. 

Western Conference Winners

Los Angeles FC

Record: 21-4-9 | Next up: Austin FC

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 65 (2nd) | Goals conceded: 49 (3rd)

Expected goals: 48.9 (1st) | Expected goals against: 33.5 (1st)

Shots per game: 12.5 (2nd) | On target per game: 4.1 (1st)

~

Regular season verdict: LAFC have been frontrunners in the Western conference since day one. With an influx of shiny new signings like Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale, it’s no surprise that they topped the regular season standings. The reward for the Supporters’ Shield Champions is a bye, and either Nashville SC or city rivals LA Galaxy in the next round.

Match winner: Cristian Arango

The Colombian was LAFC’s top scorer in the regular season with 16 goals. As a focal point, he brings in players around him. He racked up 5 assists too, with the 6th-highest expected assists (9.7) rating in the MLS.

Eastern Conference Winners

Philadelphia Union

Record: 19-10-5 | Next up: New York City FC

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 72 (1st) | Goals conceded: 26 (1st)

Expected goals: 59.7 (2nd) | Expected goals against: 36.8 (5th)

Shots per game: 13.2 (6th) | On target per game: 5.2 (3rd)

~

Regular season verdict: The best goal differential in the league. The best expected goal differential in the league. The fewest goals conceded, and most scored. Philadelphia have been outstanding this season. And while Montréal  ran them close for the No.1 seed, they’ve been the best team in the Eastern conference all season long. They get a week off, followed by the winner of NY Red Bulls and FC Cincinnati. 

Match winner: Daniel Gazdag

The Hungarian international is beginning to get worldwide recognition as one of the best players in the MLS. He recorded the second-most goals (22), and the second-most assists (10) from the No. 10 position. He’s integral to this Philly offense, and a strong MVP candidate.

Eliminated

Austin FC (2)

Record: 16-8-10 | Next up: LAFC 

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 65 (3rd) | Goals conceded: 49 (11th)

Expected goals: 48.9 (10th) | Expected goals against: 50.0 (23rd)

Shots per game: 12.5 (17th) | On target per game: 4.1 (20th)

~

Regular season verdict: What more can we say about Austin FC? In just their second ever season in the MLS, Josh Wolff’s attractive brand of football lead them to a 2nd placed regular season finish. They’ve been one of the stand-out teams all year. They fell to a patchy run of form at the end of the regular season, but their playoff spot was all-but-guaranteed. 

Match winner: Sebastian Driussi 

Driussi has been electric all year. From an advanced midfield position, he ranks in the top 2% of MLS players for goals, shots, shots on target and xG. He scored 7.3 goals over expected during the regular season – the most in the MLS. 

Eliminated

FC Dallas (3)

Record: 14-11-9 | Last 8 opponent: Austin FC

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 48 (13th) | Goals conceded: 37 (2nd)

Expected goals: 43.7 (15th) | Expected goals against: 41.0 (8th)

Shots per game: 11.8 (22nd) | On target per game: 3.9 (23rd)

~

Regular season verdict: Another team that have been in the playoff driving seat for a long time. They’ve built their season around a solid defense, conceding the second-fewest goals in the MLS. They’re structurally sound, meaning they don’t need to create loads of chances to win games. Not having to travel to Minnesota is a big advantage in their first playoff game.

Match winner: Jesús Ferreira

The USMNT star has been one of the brightest young talents in the MLS this year. The 21-year-old bagged 18 goals this season, and his 22% conversion rate is one of the highest in the MLS. A raw and unpredictable threat, he’ll be key to any Dallas success.

ELIMINATED

LA Galaxy (4)

Record: 14-8-12 | Last 8 opponent: LAFC

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 58 (6th) | Goals conceded: 51 (15th)

Expected goals: 56.1 (4th) | Expected goals against: 48.5 (16th)

Shots per game: 13.9 (4th) | On target per game: 5.1 (4th)

~

Regular season verdict: Ultimately, LA Galaxy are no strangers to the MLS Cup playoffs. The addition of Riqui Puig from Barcelona may just turn out to be the signing of the season. He has been blistering since he joined, and is the key part of Galaxy’s midfield. With experience all over the pitch, and some truly dynamic attacking options, no-one will want to face Galaxy in the first game. 

Match winner: Chicharito

When your back is against the wall and you need a goal, there may be no better player to turn to than Javier Hernández. Another impressive goal tally (18), and the second highest xG (17.4) in the MLS proves exactly why that is. All of his goals this season came from inside the penalty area. 

Eliminated

Nashville SC (5)

Record: 13-11-10 | Round 1 opponent: LA Galaxy

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 52 (9th) | Goals conceded: 41 (5th)

Expected goals: 50.5 (7th) | Expected goals against: 40.0 (7th)

Shots per game: 13.1 (8th) | On target per game: 4.6 (8th)

~

Regular season verdict: Three years of existence, three playoff appearances. It’s a remarkable achievement for one of the newest clubs in the MLS. Despite fielding the oldest average starting 11 in the league each week, they’re a top 10 team in all the important metrics. They’ll be hoping they can go a step further than last year and make the semi-finals. 

Match winner: Hany Mukhtar 

The regular season Golden Boot winner. The German forward is a monster in front of goal. Mukhtar scored almost half of Nashville’s goals this season (23), with all but one coming inside the box. He will continue to score and terrify defenses.

Eliminated

Minnesota United (6)

Record: 14-6-14 | Round 1 opponent: FC Dallas

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 48 (14th) | Goals conceded: 51 (14th)

Expected goals: 43.2 (16th) | Expected goals against: 48.8 (18th)

Shots per game: 12.4 (18th) | On target per game: 4.1 (21st)

~

Regular season verdict: A convincing 2-0 win over Vancouver on Decision Day sealed a playoff berth for Minnesota, who face a tough FC Dallas team in the first round. And despite making their 4th-consecutive playoff appearence – a run which included a conference final in 2020 – Minnesota have punched above the metrics to get here. They should not be underestimated.

Match winner: Emmanuel Reynoso

10 goals and 11 assists from the number 10 position. It’s a very good haul from the Argentine, who sews Minnesota together. He has the 3rd-most carries in the MLS (392), driving his team forward. 

Eliminated

Real Salt Lake (7)

Record: 12-11-11 | Round 1 opponent: Austin FC

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 43 (23rd) | Goals conceded: 45 (8th)

Expected goals: 42.8 (18th) | Expected goals against: 44.6 (11th)

Shots per game: 12.7 (14th) | On target per game: 4.6 (7th)

~

Regular season verdict: A 3-1 win on Decision Day against Portland Timbers gave Real Salt Lake the final playoff spot in the Western conference. They made it all the way to the conference final in 2021, losing out, coincidentally, to Portland. The 2009 MLS Cup winners are among the lowest scorers in the league, but don’t ship goals the other end. A trip to Austin awaits.

Match winner: Pablo Ruíz

23-year-old midfielder Pablo Ruíz has made the no.6 position his own this season. He sits in the top 10% of MLS players for touches, pressured touches and passes completed, and in the top 3% for successful tackles. He’s everywhere. 

Eliminated

New York City FC

Record: 16-7-11 | Next up: Philadelphia Union

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 57 (7th) | Goals conceded: 41 (7th)

Expected goals: 56.5 (3rd) | Expected goals against: 34.9 (3rd)

Shots per game: 14.1 (3rd) | On target per game: 5.0 (5th)

~

Regular season verdict: It’s been a strong regular season for the defending MLS Cup holders. They overcame Taty’s transfer to Girona well, creating his presence in aggregate form with their crop of young South American talent. In particular, the Brazilian trio of Pereira (21), Andrade (21) and Magno (20) have made NYCFC one of the most exciting attacking teams to watch this season. 

Match winner: Talles Magno

Magno is so talented. He ranks in the top 7% for passes under pressure, xG and shots on goal, and the top 4% for carries. He’s a well-rounded attacker, and so dangerous to mark. 

Eliminated

CF Montréal (2)

Record: 20-5-9 | Last 8 opponent: New York City FC

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 63 (5th) | Goals conceded: 50 (13th)

Expected goals: 49.9 (9th) | Expected goals against: 34.4 (2nd)

Shots per game: 12.5 (16th) | On target per game: 4.5 (9th)

~

Regular season verdict: A run of4 wins in a row at the end of the season almost clinched the No. 1 seed, after a very successful second half of 2022. Made up of a core of youthful CanMT players, Montréal clinched their playoff spot at the start of September. With a Coach of the Year contender in Wilfried Nancy, Montréal racked up almost 20 more points than last year. Improvement.

Match winner: Kei Kamara

The MLS veteran moved up to third in the all-time scoring charts this season, adding 9 goals and 7 assists to his record. His conversion rate sits around 21%, one of the highest in the league, and his experience could be invaluable. 

ELIMINATED

New York Red Bulls (4)

Record: 15-8-11 | Round 1 opponent: FC Cincinnati

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 50 (11th) | Goals conceded: 41 (6th)

Expected goals: 41.0 (19th) | Expected goals against: 36.2 (4th)

Shots per game: 13.0 (10th) | On target per game: 4.3 (12th)

~

Regular season verdict: The Red Bulls consistently fielded the youngest starting 11 of any team in the MLS (22 years old at its youngest) – which speaks volumes about the bravery of coach Gerhard Struber. 

Match winner: Lewis Morgan

The Scotland international has had a breakout season for the Red Bulls. From wide left, he’s bagged 14 goals, and registered 4 assists. He also ranks in the top 3% for final third entries, and the top 7% for progressive carries. 

Eliminated

FC Cincinnati (5)

Record: 12-13-9 | Last 8 opponent: Philadelphia Union

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 64 (4th) | Goals conceded: 56 (23rd)

Expected goals: 51.8 (5th) | Expected goals against: 49.3 (19th)

Shots per game: 12.8 (13th) | On target per game: 4.9 (6th)

~

Regular season verdict: Cincy had a playoff spot in their hands heading into Decision Day, and secured it comfortably. they’re a top 5 team for goals scored and expected goals, but a bottom 5 team for goals conceded. They have a brave – if naive – style of play which is thrilling for the neutral. Our dark horses to make the conference final. 

Match winner: Brandon Vasquez

Acosta, Vasquez and Brenner combined for a staggering 46 goals and 33 assists this season. Of those, Vasquez scored 18. In fact, he sits in the top 2% of all MLS players for goals scorer, shots, shots on target, expected goals and expected assists. Remarkable. 

ELIMINATED

Inter Miami (6)

Record: 14-6-14 | Round 1 opponent: New York City FC

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 47 (16th) | Goals conceded: 56 (22nd)

Expected goals: 40.4 (21st) | Expected goals against: 45.8 (13th)

Shots per game: 11.1 (26th) | On target per game: 4.2 (15th)

~

Regular season verdict: 10 games into the season, if you’d have told Phil Neville that not only would he still be the head coach of Inter Miami – but they’d also be a playoff team, there’s a strong chance he’d have thought he was dreaming. And yet. In the turnaround of the season, Neville’s Miami lost just 4 of their last 13 games, winning 4 of their last 5 in a row, to place 6th. Football. 

Match winner: Gonzalo Higuaín 

Higuaín rallied towards the end of the season, finishing with 18 goals. He scored 6.6 above his expected – one of the highest tallies in the league – showing his prowess for finishing half-chances remains alive and well. Having announced his retirement after this season, is a romantic ending on the cards for Gonzalo? 

Eliminated

Orlando City (7)

Record: 14-6-14 | Round 1 opponent: CF Montréal 

~

Performance Metrics (& MLS rank)

Goals scored: 44 (21st) | Goals conceded: 53 (18th)

Expected goals: 36.2 (28th) | Expected goals against: 44.5 (10th)

Shots per game: 12.0 (21st) | On target per game: 3.7 (27th)

~

Regular season verdict: An 84th-minute winner from Facundo Torres sealed a 2-1 win against fellow playoff-chasers Columbus on Decision Day. It was that close. With the lowest xG in the MLS, and the second-fewest shots on target in the league, it’s an incredible achievement for them to be here. 

Match winner: Facundo Torres

A genuine match-winner, and Orlando’s most dangerous player. 6 of his 9 goals this season came in Orlando’s final 8 games. The 22-year-old Uruguayan also added 10 assists this season, and he’s a top 5% player when it comes to passes leading to a shot. He makes things happen.

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💫 22-year-old @OrlandoCitySC winger Facundo Torres didn’t feature for Uruguay in their 0-0 draw against South Korea.

⚽️ He outperformed his xG more than almost any other player in the #MLS this season, scoring 4.7 goals over expected (9 in total).

#URU | #FIFAWorldCup

Move over #Thanksgiving, it’s time for #BlackFriday, and the big games just keep on coming:

🏈 Tulane @ Cincinnati
⚽️ #ThreeLions vs. #USMNT

Our Thanksgiving weekend viewers’ guide has you covered today.

#NCAA | #FIFAWorldCup
https://thegeniusplaybook.com/a-rare-sporting-equinox-our-ultimate-thanksgiving-viewer-guide/

🏈 #NFLThanksgiving gave us three close and competitive games yesterday, with wins for the #Bills, #Cowboys and #Vikings.

These were the top performers from the Thanksgiving slate, per @NextGenStats. ✨

𝙎𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙍𝙚𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩: @USMNT x @MLS

Just one player of the starting XI against Wales came from a team in the #MLS. But the bench was stacked with MLS talent that could hurt England tonight.

Here are a few to watch out for. 🧵

#ThreeLions | #USMNT

💫 Dak’s 88% completion rate in Week 11 was the highest recorded in a single game (min 15 attempts) in the whole of 2022 so far.

⭐️ The #Cowboys are getting hot at the right time, but Coach of the Year contender Brian Daboll has the #Giants playing elite football.

#NYGvsDAL

Load More