NYCFC has never had more than 4 players score 5 or more goals in a season. It managed this twice before this year, in 2016 and again in 2018. This year, with 14 games remaining, NYCFC has 4 already (Heber, Moralez, Castellanos and Mitrita), plus a fifth poised to do so once he gets healthy (Shradi). Even Ring has an reasonable chance with 3 to date.
Meanwhile, in the summer transfer window, the team added an additional player, Gerard Mackay-Stevens, who seems very capable of putting up at least 5 given a full season of work.
Two years ago in 2017 NYCFC finished with just 3 players at the rather modest 5-goal threshold (Vila, Harrison and Moralez). This did not go unnoticed, and it now seems clear that team management noticed as well, having obtained Castellanos, Heber, Mackay-Stevens, Mitrita and Shradi all since the end of the 2017 season, and the team now has one of the most (if not the single most) balanced and deep attacks in MLS.
And having used this attack to drop 3 goals on a struggling SKC defense, NYCFC again sits with the second best PPG in the league (though only 9th best by points and 4th place in the East conference due to games in hand).
The biggest gap in the East table is between Montreal at 8 and Orlando at 9. The conference is shaping up to have 8 teams vying for 7 playoff spots down the stretch. In addition, with the much smaller gaps between all of the top 8 teams, there will likely be a true competition for every spot on the table at the end, though both 538 and the Playoff Status website both give NYCFC a better than 50% chance to finish first.
With 2 straight wins after a pair of disappointing losses, NYCFC is as good or better than every team in the East after 20 games, and is poised to take the lead once it plays its additional games, as long as it does not suffer another late season slump.
The Revs have managed one of the more impressive in-season turnarounds in MLS. They now sit above the playoff line in 7th Place in the real standings, and hold 6th Place by PPG. The are undefeated at 6-0-4 in the last 10 games after starting the season a dismal 3-8-2.
The toughest part of the Revs season is coming up, with games at Home against LAFC (next) and NYC. Away they still have Seattle, the Red Bulls, NYC, Portland and Atlanta. Their H/A adjusted Opponent’s PPG to date is 1.26 (with no real difference between when they were terrible and the undefeated streak). The upcoming adjusted Opponents’ PPG is 1.53. They do have some quality, impressive wins during the streak including San Jose at Home and the Galaxy Away, but they are facing an upcoming series of tests the likes of which they have not yet faced.
New England also has an impressive record of 6 wins against 0 losses and 2 Ties against the West, but they arguably have 3 of the toughest West games remaining.
On that note, it is worth mentioning that 4 of the 8 top teams in the East still have to play Portland in Portland: Atlanta, DC, the Revs, and Red Bulls.
On the table showing how NYC gets to various levels, we are close to dropping some of the lower possibilities.
Before closing, a word on the NYCFC defense. They have a league 4th best Goals Against per Game of 1.20 based on 24 goals conceded in 20 games. They started the season allowing 11 goals in the first 6 games, then tightened up considerably to allow just 13 in the last 14 games with 5 shutouts.
But there still is some cause for concern, as the more medium-term results are 12 goals allowed and just 1 clean sheet in last 9 games. NYCFC seems to be in that mode where there is at least 1 mistake in each game that is not forgiven by their opponent. In the last 4 games, a review of how they gave up those goals shows that the team defense in the regular run of play remains excellent, while concentration and/or execution in specific moments fail. With 5 goals conceded in the last 4 games, they came off of (1) in the regular run of play, (2) a PK, (3) a free kick, (4) a throw in signalled as a corner, and (5) a corner kick.
Finally, let’s note that DC United, Vancouver and Chicago now have 9 Ties each and NYCFC no longer leads the league in that oddity.
Break, eject, eject, eject