Handicapping the MLS Golden Boot race: Which New York striker will win?

The Battle for New York has reached all-time highs in MLS.

Not only are the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC at the top of the Eastern Conference heading into the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, but Bradley Wright-Phillips and David Villa are jockeying for the MLS Golden Boot.

Both players are sitting on 21 goals with two games remaining, with Wright-Phillips holding a slight edge in goals per 90 minutes as he has played 95 fewer minutes than Villa this season. Crucially, Villa has also scored four goals via penalty kick while Wright-Phillips does not have any.

Excluding penalties, the two players have had a similar amount of expected goals this season according to OptaPro. But with Wright-Phillips not taking penalties, the Red Bulls striker has outperformed his expected goals number this season. He will look for that to continue over the last two weeks.

Columbus Crew SC will have a lot to say about who takes home the Golden Boot, as both NYCFC and the Red Bulls will face them in the final two games. They have conceded 1.58 goals per game this season, which is the seventh most in MLS this season. In their other games, Villa will face D.C. United and Wright-Phillips will take on the Philadelphia Union. D.C. have conceded 42 goals in 34 games while the Union have conceded 51, so the edge goes to the Englishman.

It’s not surprising that both star strikers have been successful against the clubs they are set to face. In 14 career games against Columbus and Philadelphia (not including playoffs), Wright-Phillips has scored nine goals. In eight games against United and Columbus, Villa has scored seven goals. You can find their per 90 minute numbers against these opponents below.

Player Minutes Goals Goals Per 90
Villa 720 7 .88
Wright-Phillips 1199 9 .68

Since July 24, Wright-Phillips has scored 12 goals. No other player has scored more than nine. So there’s little doubt that the Red Bulls striker is the most in-form striker in MLS over the last two months.

But Villa is no slouch himself. After scoring just one goal in four games, the Spaniard has ripped off four goals in his last two games to lead NYCFC to two straight wins. 

So who is going to win the Golden Boot? Given his current form and the fact that he gets to a struggling Union side rather than a surging D.C. United team, I have to give the edge to the Red Bulls striker.

Who do you think will win the Golden Boot? Let us know.

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