Orlando City have had an incredibly solid start to the 2021 MLS season. They currently sit in second in the Eastern Conference and remain unbeaten after five games. The reason for this? Undoubtedly their solid defense.
Here are the key facts:
- The joint-fewest goals conceded in 2021 alongside Seattle Sounders (two).
- Allowed a league-low total of 2.82 expected goals on target.
- Faced just 13 shots on target in five matches – only Nashville and RSL have allowed fewer (12).
One of their goals conceded came from a penalty, the other came from a defensive error when trying to build out from the back versus Sporting KC in their second match.
At 0.08, Orlando have allowed opposition teams non-penalty shots at the lowest quality average expected goals this season. Don’t give teams good chances and it’s likely that you’ll conceded less frequently – it’s not rocket science.
This weekend they face a Toronto FC side that have attempted the third-lowest total shots (37) and fourth-lowest shots on target (14) in MLS this season. However, Toronto have been a quality over quantity kind of team in 2021. Of all teams this season, only LA Galaxy (0.145 xG per shot) have attempted higher quality non-penalty shots on average than Toronto (0.139). Orlando beware.
We Know So, Reynoso
Emanuel Reynoso sure had fun in Minnesota United’s 1-0 victory over FC Dallas this weekend. The former Boca Juniors midfielder created an exceptional 10 goalscoring chances for his teammates in the match, but unfortunately for the Argentine, his strikers left their shooting boots at home as none of those led to an assist.
Reynoso’s 10 chances created is the highest seen by a player in a single MLS regular-season match since October 2020, when Jamiro Monteiro set up his Philadelphia Union teammates on 10 occasions in their meeting with Toronto, and just like Reynoso, none of these led to a direct goal assist. Imagine the frustration.
With this performance, it feels an ideal time to look at which players lead some of the MLS creative charts during 2021 so far.
It’s Reynoso himself that’s the lead creator from open play in Major League Soccer this season with 17 such chances created. The only player with more than his overall total of 25 is the New England Revolution’s Carles Gil. The Spaniard has created 29 chances – just 21 more than any other player at the club.
It would be foolish to look at chances created to understand the most dangerous playmakers in the league, after all the final pass leading to a shot could happen anywhere on the pitch. This is where expected assists matter and why Gil is having an almightily impressive campaign to date.
Gil has an xA total of 3.61, which equates to 0.60 per 90 – both the overall highest total and the highest average for any player to have played at least 250 minutes. Special mention to Portland star Diego Valeri, who has posted a per-90 average of 0.66 but falls just seven minutes short of the 250-minute threshold.
Gil’s numbers are slightly inflated due to his role on set pieces at the Revs, so he falls behind Randall Leal of Nashville in the open-play xA charts, which he leads both overall (1.95) and on a per-90 basis (0.40). Interestingly, Leal is just tied for seventh in the overall open-play chances created chart (10), another case of quality over quantity.