By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Nov 24, 2014) US Soccer Players – The 2014 MLS playoffs has been one of the best postseasons in recent history. The away goals rule, coupled with a quartet of strong final four teams, has added some extra spice to this postseason. Although none of the games have gone to overtime, these playoffs have indeed served up some tasty treats.
While Thanksgiving is just days away, MLS fans are thankful that the postseason has been so exciting this fall. The playoff platter has been filled with a smorgasbord of delicacies. And like any great dish, you need a number of ingredients to make it all happen. Landon Donovan, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Lee Nguyen, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane, just to name a few.
With Leg 2 of the Conference Finals taking place this coming weekend, here is a look at five statistical categories (along with the players and teams) that have stood out during the 2014 MLS playoffs:
Best Team Overall
Tough one given that the best team in MLS (Seattle) remains in the playoffs. Winners of the Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup, Seattle is trying to win the US version of the treble. A look at the number of goals scored overall, however, shows the Sounders in 7th-place with just one goal in three games.
Leading the pack is the New England Revolution with nine goals in three games, followed by the New York Red Bulls (six in four games) and LA Galaxy (six in three games). Including Sunday’s Eastern Conference Final, New England had posted three playoff wins (eliminating the Columbus Crew in the previous round) to improve to 12-1-1 in its last 14 matches. That includes a 5-1-1 record in the last seven away games from Gillette Stadium if you count the 2-1 win versus the Red Bulls. New England has also scored multiple goals in six of its last seven road games – recording a staggering 16 over that period.
Wright-Phillips leads the pack with four goals in four matches. That, however, may not be enough for New York as they head into New England for the second leg, especially when you count the impact of away goals. Second is Donovan. He has had a great season for the Galaxy, trying to end his career by hoisting another MLS Cup. He and the team have benefited immensely from having Keane in excellent form. Its 1-0 win over Seattle on Sunday puts them in great position heading into this weekend.
Wright-Phillips – with support from Thierry Henry – has been a scoring machine all season. Winner of the Golden Boot, the Englishman has benefited from Henry’s four assists this postseason. It won’t help New York in the deciding leg, with Wright-Phillips suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Most Shots on Goal
Like goals, shots on net help determine the amount of scoring opportunities by either an individual or team. In the playoffs, that honor goes to Wright-Phillips. He has scored four goals on 17 attempts for a 24% scoring rate. He leads the postseason in both attempts and percentage.
As a team, the Revolution, not surprisingly, have the best rate. The team has scored its nine goals off of 41 attempts. New England has made the most of its offensive chances – something that could hold the key to them winning its first MLS Cup. By contrast, Seattle has scored just once in 16 attempts. Makes one wonder what happened to the Sounders’ attack over the past few weeks.
Leading the pack are eight Red Bull players (not counting goalkeeper Luis Robles) who have played every minute of all four of the team’s postseason matches. That group who has played 360 minutes includes Wright-Phillips and Henry. While New York has few boldface names, it is a group coach Mike Petke has been able to mold into a championship contender. Credit to him for making the most of his team.
Other notables are defender DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle), midfielder Juninho (Los Angeles) and striker Teal Bunbury (New England), all playing every minute of three playoff games. All three have been essential for their respective teams. They don’t always show up on the score sheet, but each has been valuable this postseason. Expect all three, barring injury, to start for their teams this weekend.
Last, but not least, is the goalkeeper category. First among the pack is Jaime Penedo of the Galaxy. He’s given up no goals in three games (all starts), facing 10 shots over 270 minutes. He posted the shutout against Seattle in the Western Conference Finals and has a 2-0-1 record.
Another notable has been New England’s Bobby Shuttleworth. By comparison, he has given up four goals on 16 shots over 270 minutes. His 3-0 record is yet another reflection of how well the Revs have been playing as of late. Shuttleworth versus Penedo could be the goalkeeper matchup at this year’s MLS Cup Final. We’ll have the answer after this weekend.
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