Brittany Campbell

Analysis: The Galaxy could look here for a backup striker

The LA Galaxy may be looking for another goal scorer to be paired with or backup Chicharito. We take a look at two very good choices.

December 16 marked the beginning of free agency for MLS players that are at least 24 years old, with at least five years of experience, and with either their option declined or are out of contract. In trying to determine what players may provide the best value, we need to look at the list of all available players, regardless of whether they are free agents or not. Thus, looking at players who will be entering the Re-Entry Draft helps us identify which are statistically the best available.

It is no secret the LA Galaxy are in need of a “backup” striker that can consistently perform at an MLS level. And yes, it is our assumption that Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will be the first-choice center forward.

At the top of our list is Bradley Wright-Phillips (BWP). There is much to like about the former New York Red Bull and LAFC center forward. As the saying goes, you’re only as good as your last game, or in our case, as your last season. Of the available free agents, BWP posted the best numbers for goals (0.67 G90) and expected goals (0.51 xG90) per 90 minutes for all available center forwards that played more than 1,000 minutes.* That’s about two goals scored every three games. He’s also scored 0.17 goals more than expected about every game (G-xG90). And finally, when he was on the field, LAFC scored 0.30 more goals than expected (onG-onxG90). Along with his 0.10 expected assists (xA), BWP shows that he can not only score goals but also helps in making LAFC a more dangerous team.**

Aside from the numbers, there are other factors that make him appealing. BWP holds a green card and counts as a domestic player, was rumored to have made about $300,000 in 2020, and though the numbers won’t show, COG can confirm that he is an overall very nice guy. His age (35) may be a concern, but that didn’t stop him in 2020. In fact, for a team that is trying it’s best to add veterans and steady a flailing ship, his age may even be a positive. All in all, BWP may provide the best value for a player that consistently played and scored this past season.

By the eye test, BWP seems to be the best available center forward, but the numbers show that Erik Hurtado may be a better per 90 player.

The Kansas City frontman was third-choice behind DP center forward Alan Pulido and Khiry Shelton. His per 90 stats for goals (1.18) and xG (0.66) are tops for all available center forwards. In addition, he scores 0.66 more goals than expected (G-xG90), almost doubling the next-best center forward. Like BWP with LAFC, Hurtado’s presence on the field resulted in Sporting Kansas City scoring 0.33 more goals than expected (onG-xG90) and is responsible for 15% of SKC’s goals scored when he is on the field.

When we think of a backup center forward, we want someone that can perform well with limited time or opportunities, and Hurtado provides that and more. In only 381 minutes, he scored five goals. Hurtado’s value continues to increase when you consider his age (30), he counts as a domestic player, and he made about $181,250 in 2019. With the 2020 player salaries unavailable for this year, it’s fair to assume his compensation is slightly above last year’s.

It may be very possible that the LA Galaxy already has its backup center-forward within its own organization and is confident with its players such as Ethan Zubak (22) and possibly Augustine Williams (23). There’s no timetable on when to expect moves, but it would be a safe assumption that the incoming head coach should have some say and influence on the forwards at his or her disposal.

*Per 90 is a statistic that counts a measurement (i.e. goals) and divides it by the total minutes played and then again divides it by 90 to convey how a player has statistically performed every 90 minutes or one full game.

*Expected goals (xG) measures the probability that a chance (shot or header) will be a goal.

**Expected assists (xA) measures the probability that a pass will become an assist. It does not necessarily rely on a shot actually being taken. Every pass in a game is assigned a value. It takes into account the probability that the average player would score as a result of the pass.

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