It's not us, it's you: The MLS stars who hurt (or help) their teams the most

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Some big names have had huge impacts in the standings. Others? Not so much.​

Better without

Andrea Pirlo

The deep-lying Italian playmaker is among the world's most recognizable players and was a heralded signing when New York City FC joined MLS. Now he's mostly just in the way.

The Pigeons are a much better team when Pirlo, now 38, is on the bench or in the stands. When he starts, they're 4-7-2. When he doesn't, they're 11-1-4. They score at a 2.12 goals-per-90 rate when he's not involved, a number that drops to 1.09 when he's playing.

He has just two assists in his last 17 games, going back to last season, after setting up 16 goals in his first 43 games with the club.

Jordan Morris

MLS' Rookie of the Year last season was a pivotal part of the Seattle Sounders' MLS Cup run. He scored a dozen goals (plus two more in the playoffs), most by an American rookie and a total bettered among first-years only by Cyle Larin's 17 the year before.

Morris, out for at least the rest of the regular season (and the United States' final two World Cup qualifiers) with a hamstring injury, hasn't been so productive in year two. The dreaded sophomore slump, indeed.

He's scored just three goals and dished off one assist in 23 league games, and he's hit the net just once since April 23. And the Sounders are better when he's not around. They're 4-1-2 when he doesn't start, 7-6-9 when he does, and they score more goals (1.78 per 90) and concede fewer (0.89) when he's absent than they do when he's on the field (outscored, 27-26).

Juninho and Dax McCarty

The Chicago Fire's two big pickups in central midfield have claimed some of the credit for the club's turnaround after two worst-in-MLS finishes, but the numbers say otherwise.

Chicago scores at about the same rate whether either is on the field, but a lot fewer goals are conceded when they're gone. Foes score 1.45 goals per 90 when McCarty is on the field and 1.43 when Juni is present. When Juni is missing, only 1.06 per 90 hit the net. It's 0.64 when McCarty isn't available. Chicago has four shutouts in the six games McCarty has missed.

When both are present, Chicago has scored 20 and surrendered 20. If one is missing, the Fire has a 31-17 advantage. That edge is 1-0 in the 115 minutes both were missing, over two games in June.

The Fire's success, at least statistically, mostly coincides with Nemanja Nikolic's 18 goals. When the Hungarian striker finishes, the team is 11-1-2. When he doesn't, it's 3-8-4. Chicago picked up just seven points and dropped from the top spot to fourth in the East during his recent nine-game goalless spell.

Better with

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Josef Martinez

We've raved about the crafty Venezuelan striker a lot lately, what with the back-to-back hat tricks and 17 goals in just 15 games. The first-year club did a marvelous job of reeling in offensive talent ahead of its kickoff, but the MVP here, and maybe in all of MLS, is Martinez.

Atlanta sits fourth in the East, in good shape to become the second modern-era expansion team to reach the playoffs, where anything is feasible with this group. As long as Martinez is on the field, that is. His numbers are astonishing -- 1.38 goals per 90 minutes, a pace that would generate nearly 47 goals over a full season -- but the Five Stripes' figures when he's on the field are far more impressive.

Atlanta is 8-2-2 when the 24-year-old forward is in the starting lineup. When he isn't, thanks primarily to injury, the record is 5-6-5. With Martinez, the club has outscored foes, 38-13, averaging 3.08 goals per 90 and conceding 1.05. When he's not there, the tally is 23-22, 1.47 per 90 to 1.41.

Jefferson Savarino

How big has the Venezuelan youngster been for Real Salt Lake? The team is in the West's top six, above the red line, and so much of the credit goes to the 20-year-old forward.

The numbers are extraordinary. Without Savarino in the starting XI, RSL is 2-9-2 with a 30-12 goal deficit. That's 0.62 points, 0.93 goals and 2.31 goals allowed per game. With him, the team is 9-5-3 with a 32-22 advantage. That's 1.76 points, 1.88 goals and 1.29 goals against per game. Throw out that 5-1 debacle in Houston at the end of May, just his third start, and the goals against average falls to 1.06.

There's more to it than Savarino, of course, but the kid has been spectacular for RSL, who has lost just twice since the end of June. He's got a knack for scoring wonderful goals -- check out his winner last weekend against Portland -- and think what Joao Plata is going to do when defenses really start keying on the youngster.

Yordy Reyna and Alphonso Davies

Reyna's presence has been critical as the Vancouver Whitecaps have vaulted atop the Western Conference standings behind a 7-2-2 run since July 1, his MLS debut after missing the season's first four months with a foot injury.

The 24-year-old Peruvian forward has scored four goals, every one of them a game-winner, and if he's starting, the 'Caps are picking up points. They're 4-0-3 when he's in Carl Robinson's XI, with a 17-7 edge on foes. That comes out to 2.14 points, 2.43 goals and 1.14 goals against per game. When Reyna doesn't start, those numbers are 1.43, 1.33 and 1.48.

Vancouver also is better when Alphonso Davies is on the field. The 16-year-old wunderkind midfielder makes the Whitecaps a better defensive group. They're better in the attack, too, by a small margin -- they score 1.70 goals per 90 with and 1.56 per without him -- but the defensive numbers are stark. If Davies is out there, they concede 0.95 goals per 90 minutes. When he's not, it rockets to 1.62.

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