Major League Soccer

Expected Goals: Upcoming Milestones for Matchday 35

September 28, 2023 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

From Worst to First: Cincinnati's Dreaming of a Shield

FC Cincinnati's Cinderella story has nearly reached its final chapter of the regular season as the club sits a win away from securing their first-ever MLS trophy, the 2023 MLS Supporters' Shield.

Following three consecutive last-place finishes between 2019-2021, under the guidance of then first-year head coach Pat Noonan, Cincinnati earned both their first berth in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and their first playoff win in 2022. This season, Noonan has Cincinnati firing on all cylinders, taking the lead for the Supporters' Shield in May and never letting go of first place since then.

Only the 2008 Columbus Crew and the 2010 LA Galaxy have won a Supporters' Shield two years after finishing at the bottom of the league table. Columbus and the Galaxy ended their last-place seasons with 33 points before winning the Shield with 57 and 59 points, respectively. Cincinnati ended their last-place 2021 season on 20 points and already have 62 points heading into their final four games of the 2023 season.

Peter Vermes Eyeing Third-Most Wins by a Manager

For Sporting Kansas City and head coach Peter Vermes, an 11th win on the season would not just be crucial for their push to the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, but also to make league-wide coaching history. Kansas City travels to face rival St. Louis CITY SC at CITYPARK on Saturday evening (8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass), and with a win, Vermes would tie Bob Bradley (194) for the third-most regular-season wins by a head coach in league history.

Sporting KC has won four of their last six regular-season matches, which included a 2-1 victory over the Dynamo on Matchday 34. Saturday's meeting with St. Louis will be the third of the season after the clubs split the first two games of their 2023 series. In Sporting's victory over their rivals earlier in September, forward Alan Pulido bagged a brace, and the Mexican striker now sits on 13 goals this season, just two goals off the league-lead of 15 scores. Pulido will be hoping to gain ground in the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race, while helping Vermes reach another historic coaching milestone.

Duncan McGuire Becoming a SuperDraft Sensation

One of the surprises of the 2023 season has been Orlando City SC forward Duncan McGuire, who has immediately carried his success in college to MLS in historic fashion. McGuire was a prolific goal scorer at Creighton University, where he led the nation with 23 goals in 2022 en route to earning the Hermann Trophy, which is given to the top collegiate soccer players in the United States. McGuire was then selected sixth overall by Orlando City in MLS SuperDraft 2023 presented by adidas.

Typically, it can take a year or two for SuperDraft picks to make an impact in MLS play, but McGuire has been the opposite, scoring nine goals in only 1,162 regular season minutes (0.7 goals per 90). The former Blue Jay is one goal shy of becoming the fifth SuperDraft pick to score double-digit goals in their first MLS season after being drafted out of college. Another SuperDraft success from Orlando, Cyle Larin, tops that list in, as he scored 17 goals in 2015 and captured the MLS Rookie of the Year.

McGuire will look to hit 10 goals when Orlando hosts CF Montréal on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass).

Timbers Streaking Towards the Finish Line

As the 2023 regular season speeds towards the finish line, no MLS team is hotter than the Portland Timbers entering Matchday 35. Winners of five of their last six matches, including four consecutive wins, the Timbers (42 points, 11-11-9) have shot up the Western Conference table and currently sit in seventh place with a playoff spot beginning to come into focus.

Under the direction of interim head coach Miles Joseph, the club now has the opportunity to secure a place in team annals with a victory against the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday night (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass). With a win over the Galaxy, Portland would tie the second-longest win streak in club history, matching the five-game stretch from Sept. 19 - Oct. 11, 2020. The longest win streak in Timbers history is six matches, set during the 2018 season (April 14 - May 26).

Real Salt Lake Looking for Lucky Number Road Win Seven

It's been a decade since Real Salt Lake could claim the moniker of "road warriors", as they last won six games away from home during the 2013 MLS regular season. With a trip to LAFC awaiting them this weekend, Salt Lake has the opportunity to break their club record for away wins in a single season and to do so on a ground which they have historically struggled at since 2018 (0-5-0).

A win at LAFC would also mark the most points won away from home in a single season in RSL's history, while a draw would equal their record of 22 points, set in both 2012 and 2013.

Salt Lake is tied for the second-most away wins in MLS this season and trails only Orlando City SC (seven) for most away wins by an MLS team in 2023.

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