We’re just about at the halfway point of the 2022 Major League Soccer season, with most teams at or approaching the 17 match mark. With 50% of the year in the rearview mirror, teams have relied heavily on their standout attackers to create and finish chances.
Which attackers have been asked to the the bulk of the heavy lifting? We dove into American Soccer Analysis‘s data to find out.
1. Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC
13.21 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (56.79% of team total)
Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar has had to shoulder a heavier load in the final third than anyone else in MLS. The German-born midfielder’s 13 combined goals and assists are tied for the league lead, and also leads the league in both shots and shots on target. His 12.44 non-penalty expected goals and assists are over 3.5 more than the next closest player.
Mukhtar’s production has been absolutely vital to Nashville. No one in the league has been responsible for a larger percentage of his teams’ chance creation than Mukhtar. His xG and xG accounts for an astonishing 56.79% of Nashville’s total, 14% more than anyone else in the league.
2. Taty Castellanos, New York City FC
11.58 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (42.71% of team total)
The Argentine striker has been arguably the most lethal forward in MLS for the last couple seasons. After winning the MLS Golden Boot last season, his eight goals in 2022 are just one off the lead.
NYCFC’s 27.11 expected goals are the third-most in MLS, and Castellanos is at the heart of it. His 8.75 expected goals are higher than anyone in the league other than Mukhtar, and his finishing is right about where the advanced metrics would predict. With legitimate interest from Europe and South America, his time in MLS appears to be limited.
3. Luciano Acosta, FC Cincinnati
11.33 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (42.59% of team total)
The second Argentine on the list, Lucho Acosta has been at the heart of FC Cincinnati’s revival. After three consecutive seasons at the absolute bottom of the table, the Blue and Orange have finally given fans the product on the field they deserve. With 16 games played, they’re in the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
After years of poor play, Cincinnati’s attack has rapidly blossomed into a dynamic unit, creating the fourth-most expected goals in the league. Acosta’s form has been at the core, with 11 combined goals and assists and a telepathic connection for striker Brandon Vázquez. Without Acosta, Cincinnati simply wouldn’t be close to where they are now.
4. Jesús Jiménez, Toronto FC
7.81 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (42.54% of team total)
Jiménez is a surprising name to be featured on this list. He’s towards the top of the scoring charts with seven goals and four assists, but his high percentage of his team total is also a reflection of some of Toronto’s struggles. They’ve accumulated just 18.36 expected goals, the fourth-worst mark in MLS.
Signed from Poland’s Górnik Zabrze in the offseason, the Spaniard has been a home run signing for Toronto. Despite the club’s struggles to start the year, Jiménez has consistently produced. Like the others on this list, his contribution has been absolutely crucial to his club.
5. Jeremy Ebobisse, San Jose Earthquakes
8.84 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (42.32% of team total)
Like Jesús Jiménez, Jeremy Ebobisse has been a standout attacker for a struggling team. After being stranded on the wing in Portland, Ebobisse has been let loose as a center forward in San Jose, and it’s paid off.
Finally given an extended run in his preferred position, Ebobisse finds himself at the front of the Golden Boot race. While San Jose are at the bottom of the Western Conference, he’s been a standout and could be a dark horse candidate to break into the United States’ World Cup squad.
6. Daniel Gazdag, Philadelphia Union
9.93 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (40.38% of team total)
Gazdag is an interesting inclusion because he’s not an attacker, per se. Playing at the tip of the Union’s diamond midfield, he’s been tasked with the bulk of chance creation for a team that doesn’t really create a ton in possession, instead using a high press to force turnovers deep in their opponent’s half.
The Hungarian international has been the best player for the best team in the Eastern Conference, and is firmly entrenched in the MVP conversation. His numbers absolutely back that up.
7. Diego Rubio, Colorado Rapids
8.79 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (39.59% of team total)
Rubio has experienced something of a renaissance in Colorado under Robin Fraser the last couple seasons. The Chilean striker has been a key player for the Rapids, who find themselves in 10th place after winning the Western Conference in 2022. Under Fraser, Rubio has played several roles, including playing in midfield on multiple occasions.
Rubio has always been a goal threat, but he’s added five assists to his seven goal tally this year, and he’s accounted for just under 40% of Colorado’s expected goals in 2022.
8. Darwin Quintero, Houston Dynamo
7.33 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (38.82% of team total)
At 34 years old, Quintero continues to be a high-level attacker in MLS. While he’s had plenty of ups and downs since leaving Minnesota for Houston, he’s consistently producing for the struggling Texas team. His six goals and five assists are among the best combined numbers in the league.
Quintero’s position on this list is certainly boosted by how poor Houston’s attack has been. Only six teams have created less expected goals than the Dynamo, but without Quintero they’d be in significantly worse shape.
9. Jesús Ferreira, FC Dallas
8.59 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (38.61% of team total)
It’s been quite the year for Jesús Ferreira. The Dallas homegrown signed a new Designated Player deal before the start of the season, has worked his way towards the top of the striker depth chart for the USMNT, and is tied for the MLS Golden Boot lead with nine goals so far.
In a Dallas attack with plenty of dangerous pieces (including fellow US international Paul Arriola), Ferreira hasn’t been forced to carry as much of the attacking workload as others on this list, but he’s still had a massive impact for his club, who sit in fourth place in the Western Conference.
10. Sebastián Driussi, Austin FC
9.06 Expected Goals + Expected Assists (37.62% of team total)
Austin have perhaps been the surprise of the season so far. After finishing bottom of the Western Conference in their expansion season, they’re in third place after 16 games, and have played some of the more entertaining soccer of the season to date. Sebastián Driussi is a core part of that.
The 26-year-old Argentine is positionally flexible, able to play anywhere across Austin’s front line. His nine goals are tied for the league lead, and he’s added four assists to put him just one off of Mukhtar’s combined goals and assists pace.