Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top 5 MLS pleasant surprises

Saer Sene: superior goalscorer. Impeccable driver. this point, anyway. Because why? Because we're a positive family here at NSC. Y'dig?

5. The Montreal Impact

So it's true the Impact haven't done much to quell the notion that expansion teams are destined from on high to be more or less atrocious away from home. Montreal only has two wins away from the friendly confines this year and they've had occasion to look rudderless when south of the border. But let's look at the other side of the coin: after the Impact failed to even make the NASL top six and, by extension, failed to receive a playoff bid in its last year in the tier 2 league, how high were your expectations, really? Even with a roster that benefitted from the expansion draft? That was before Sanna Nyassi fell free and Jesse Marsch poached Davy Arnaud to complete one of the best attacking expansion sides we've seen. Yes, the defense is bad, and the possession game is nonexistent (17th out of 19th in possessions per game). BUT, Montreal is sixth in goals per game, fourth in attempts on goal and seventh in expected goals at 1.07 per game (as measured by Tempo Free Soccer, this is goal attempts multiplied by conversion percentage plus shots on goal multiplied by conversion percentage, then divided by two). Those constant strafing runs are helping the Impact stay on the periphery of the playoff chase.

#4. Saer Sene

New England struggled desperately up top last year, and Sene's inclusion in the Revs' offseason plans largely went under the radar. But few can question the Frenchman's impact on what has been an improved front line. Yeah, the Revs are ninth in the East and out of the playoff discussion, but the club has been terribly unlucky and Sene has certainly done his part. Sene has scored nine of the Revs' 27 goals this year, or 33 percent, one of the largest numbers in the league. He's certainly shown a propensity to waste a few, but for a signing most of us ignored, this was a fantastic find for a team in desperate need of a striker. He's also an awesome driver.

#3. The rise of the metric era

Stats have become a huge part of MLS' makeup and have fundamentally altered the way we see the beautiful game. It's easy enough to bump into them everywhere, whether that's Devin Pleuler's Central Winger column, the influx of Opta Chalkboard data, the Free Tempo Soccer blog or this brilliant roundtable at The Shin Guardian. The introduction of adidas' miCoach technology and the adoption of goal line technology will only further cement MLS' status as arguably the most forward-thinking league, institutionally, in the world. Eggheads rejoice.

#2. Alan Gordon

Ahem. What's this? Alan Gordon, career vagabond/castoff, has the best rate of return in the league this year with nine goals in just 823 minutes? Who saw this coming? He already has almost twice as many goals as he's ever had in a single season, and we're not done yet. Gordon even earned an incredibly unlikely call-up to the USMNT and was a party to the Mexico upset, even if it was just in a celebratory capacity after the game. Nobody with at least 20 shots can touch Gordon's 33 percent scoring chance percentage or his rate of .98 goals per 90 minutes. Upon such niches are MLS Cups won and lost, and Gordon has found his. 12th man of the year award right here (don't sue me Seattle!).

#1. Kenny Cooper

I panned Kenny Cooper here, I'll admit. Just roasted him before the season. "What is NY thinking... he was listless in Portland... another misallocation of funds..." Yadda, yadda. Boy was I off. Cooper has resuscitated a career that was flatlining in Portland with the kind of dead-eye finishing that made him a go-to sniper in Dallas. He's held off a stocked roster of forwards with a team-best 14 goals and sports a 20 percent scoring chance, the second-best number among players with at least 10 goals. Cooper (HODOR!) is already having the second-best season of his career statistically, and he needs just four goals to tie his best-ever season from 2008. You've proved me wrong, Kenny. Well played.

- Will Parchman

1 comment:

Jay said...

Montreal only has two wins away from the friendly confines this year and they've had occasion to look rudderless when south of the border. But let's look at the other side of the coin: at least they're 16 points and 6 wins above even-more-rudderless Toronto FC.