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Is Riqui Puig a serious MVP candidate? 5 takeaways from MLS Matchday 24

Matchday 24 was critical for many of the cellar dwellers in MLS. Important results took different forms, like Charlotte FC’s draw against Cincinnati or Colorado’s first win at home, so let’s take a look at what these results mean for those clubs stranded at the bottom of the table. 

5 takeaways from MLS Matchday 24

#1. Świderski earns Charlotte FC a massive point

We’ll start with a team that earned a commendable 2-2 draw against a very good Cincinnati side. This year, Charlotte has been wildly inconsistent, enduring three-game streaks of both wins and losses, but five consecutive ties have become worrisome.

Last season’s expansion side has struggled since its inception, and this year, the issue is chance creation. Charlotte accumulates 0.95 expected goals (xG) per game which is the second worst in MLS. The main thing keeping the club at all competitive is Karol Świderski.

The Polish forward is his side’s top goalscorer and has come up clutch when needed. His brace against Cincinnati was enough for his side to earn a draw on a day when it was perhaps more likely they would go home empty-handed.

Defensively, Charlotte is fairly average, but the midfield transition into attack needs to be addressed if head coach Christian Lattanzio and his side want to earn their way into the playoffs, especially with the way some of their competitors have been playing.

#2. Is Chicago on Fire?

For a side that has struggled all season, three wins from four games is pretty good. Take into account the fact that Chicago’s wins have come against inconsistent Portland, confusing Sporting KC and underperforming Nashville, and suddenly it’s an underwhelming run of its own. 

Let’s not criticize the Fire for winning games. They can only beat the opponent on the other half of the field, and they did exactly what they needed to with one-goal margins in each victory. It is important, however, to step back and see if there has been any serious change. 

Despite scoring five goals during this stretch, the club still sits dead last in MLS for xG, and defensive struggles are still clearly visible. Chicago ranks in the bottom five for expected goals against (xGA) while keeping two clean sheets in the last two games. 

A pair of trips to Canada await before the summer break, so if Frank Klopas and his team can find ways to keep the streak going against pitiful Toronto FC and poor CF Montréal, they might just sneak their way into a great spot to challenge for a playoff spot. 

#3. It’s good to have Driussi playing well again

Considering where Austin FC is in the table, you’d be forgiven for assuming it's been smooth sailing this season. In reality, it's been a tale of two halves to the campaign thus far. After 11 games the club had just 10 points to its name, but a quick turnaround gave birth to a season-changing run of form. 

After losing 1-0 to FC Dallas on May 13, Austin won six of its next ten games and jumped all the way from 12th place in the Western Conference to fifth. During that stretch, last season’s MVP candidate Sebastián Driussi regained the form he lacked at the beginning of the campaign. 

The Argentine has six goal contributions in his last seven games including two goals and an assist in his side’s 4-1 win over Minnesota. If he can keep this form up, Austin has an outside chance of earning a home-field advantage toward the end of the season, especially if they cut down on the ridiculous 1.61 xGA. 

#4. Is Riqui Puig a serious MVP candidate?

The past two weeks have been dreamland for Galaxy fans. The side from Carson earned a statement win against LAFC at the Rose Bowl before a comprehensive stomping of the visiting Philadelphia Union the following week. At the heart of these positive results is a young Spanish midfielder whose performances have gone unloved far too much this season. 

Riqui Puig was a massive name when he signed for the Galaxy last season, but this year, he’s been a superb cog in a subpar machine. Los Angeles has been plastered to the bottom of the Western Conference all year but now seems to have finally turned a corner thanks to heroic performances from the 23-year-old. 

While Puig only has three goals and as many assists to his name, his on-the-ball numbers show just how vital he is. The former FC Barcelona man is fourth in MLS for shot-creating actions (106 SCA) and has the most progressive passes with 220. He also leads the league in multiple possession-based statistics, including touches (1,754), successful take-ons (72) and progressive carries (105). 

Put simply, Puig excels with the ball at his feet and has made a habit of not just retaining possession but creating great goalscoring chances for his side. The Galaxy creates lots of expected goals (xG) but does not convert them nearly as much as they should, and the majority of those expected goals are accumulated thanks to Puig. 

When choosing an MVP, it's easy to see players like Hany Mukhtar or Luciano Acosta who register lots of goals and assists, but with the trained eye, players like Puig, Carles Gil and Roman Burki begin to stick out. Winning goes a long way, though, so if the Galaxy manages to turn this season around and make the playoffs, Puig might be in line for some recognition. 

#5. The Rapids finally win

Rapids fans, the wait is finally over. After 10 home games, Colorado finally earned three points at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. While they are still stuck at the bottom of the table, the Rapids just took a massive step towards avoiding the Wooden Spoon. 

While Inter Miami continues to tie games and Toronto FC avoids winning like the plague, Colorado earned three points in the league for the first time since May 6. After trailing early, Robin Fraser’s side managed to level the score from a set piece and then took the lead outright from the spot. 

The goals were just the 15th and 16th for the Rapids, who have scored the fewest in the league this campaign. There is an issue on both sides of the ball as Colorado has accumulated the sixth worst xG and xGA in MLS. On top of that, they’re underperforming in front of goal, which exacerbates the already glaring issue. 

The club desperately needs to invest in some more talent and properly use its Designated Players. There is so much more Colorado could be doing to be competitive but currently, the Rapids appear comfortable settling for mediocrity.

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