If the Chicago Fire make the MLS Playoffs, they’ll open Friday, Nov. 20, away at Nashville SC, the New York Red Bulls, or possibly the New England Revolution. To get there, the Fire will have to defeat New York City FC this Sunday, or hope for help from other teams.
Interestingly, NYCFC ranks second in the East in Expected Goals stat at 34.9, according to stats tracking website FBref. So who’s number one in xG?
It’s the Chicago Fire.
The stat, which tracks the number of goals a team could have expected to score based on the quality of the shots they recorded, shows the Fire have an xG of 36.1 through 22 games this season. That’s tops in the East, and only Seattle (40.9) and LAFC (40.8) have a higher xG in the league, according to FBref.
The Fire have only scored 30 goals this season. If the team had managed to meet their xG of 36.1, they’d be solidly in the playoffs. The stat speaks to the larger point Raphael Wicky has been making this season that his team is creating, but not finishing.
The East’s top scoring team, the Philadelphia Union (42 goals), has an xG of only 32.6, meaning they’ve scored nearly ten goals more than they could have expected.
This doesn’t mean all Fire players are underperforming. Robert Berić, who leads Chicago with 11 goals, has an xG of 9.4. Similarly, Fabian Herbers (4 goals, 3.9 xG), Mauricio Pineda (3 goals, 2.4 xG), CJ Sapong (2 goals, 1.9 xG), Boris Sekulić (2 goals, 1.8 xG) and Jonathan Bornstein (1 goal, 0.2 xG) are ahead of where they should be, according to FBref.
So who’s struggling? Quite a few players, it seems. Przemyslaw Frankowski (1 goal, 3.3 xG), Djordje Mihailovic (2 goals, 3.8 xG), Álvaro Medrán (2 goals, 2.8 xG), Ignacio Aliseda (1 goal, 2.4 xG), Elliot Collier (0 goals, 1.6 xG) and Gastón Giménez (0 goals, 1.0 xG) are all underperforming their xG.
Expected goals don’t tell us everything, but based on the eye test this season, this feels pretty fair. While it seems like a downer, it’s also a reason for hope going forward. If the Fire can at least meet their xG beginning this weekend, they could be poised for a playoff run.