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In David Villa and Jack Harrison, Does NYCFC Have the Best Attacking Duo in MLS?

Name a better pairing. I’ll wait.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at New York City FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven’t noticed yet, New York City FC has played 18 games already - just over 50% of the MLS regular season. And through this point in the campaign the Boys in Blue have emerged as an elite team, tied for third place in the Supporters Shield race on points and third overall in goal differential. Much of this has been accomplished by a new-look defense led by Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens and net-minder Sean Johnson, who have all made an immense difference in the club in 2017.

But don’t get it twisted, folks: this team is still all about putting the ball in the back of the net.

Once again, NYCFC ranks high on the offensive leaderboards in MLS. They are currently third in goals scored (31) and tied for first with Toronto FC in assists (33) on the season. Coming into 2017, there was much ado about how the club would score goals given the departure of Frank Lampard. And while the club brought in a DP replacement in Maxi Moralez, his game plays out a lot differently than Lampard’s. Maxi is much more of a facilitator and playmaker than he is someone who will look to finish off a chance himself. Yet even without a fox in the box like Frank, New York City has managed just fine.

Well, for one, David Villa is still out there playing as his amazing self. The reigning league MVP is following up his 2016 brilliance with quite possibly an even greater 2017 campaign. But we knew he was going to put the ball in the back of the net; the real question was always about who would provide the extra scoring punch. And so far this season, we have an answer to that question, and it’s Jack Harrison.

In only his second professional season, Jack is hot on Villa’s trail in both goals scored and assists. His 8 goals scored is second on the team only behind Villa, and his 5 assists is good for third on the team, behind Villa and Moralez. The right winger has definitely made his presence felt and is even doing a solid job of keeping up with his legendary teammate to make NYCFC one of the most menacing offenses in the league. But are they the best offensive duo in the league?

Let’s compare them with the top challengers— below is a table with the top two goal scorers of every club in MLS:

Top Scoring Duos in MLS 2017

Scoring Duo Goals Scored Shots on Goal
Scoring Duo Goals Scored Shots on Goal
Nikolic/Accam (CHI) 24 54
Villa/Harrison (NYC) 19 46
Valeri/ Adi (POR) 18 38
Higuain/O. Kamara (CLB) 18 39
Torres/ Elis (HOU) 17 30
Almiron/J. Martinez (ATL) 15 32
Ramirez/Molino (MIN) 14 34
Alessandrini/ G. dos Santos (LAG) 14 36
Altidore/Giovinco (TOR) 14 42
Urruti/Lamah (DAL) 13 30
Piatti/Jackson-Hamel (MTL) 13 25
Agudelo/Nguyen (NE) 13 24
Sapong/Picault (PHI) 12 26
Wright-Phillips/Royer (NYRB) 12 31
Larin/Rivas (ORL) 11 38
Fernandes/Dwyer (SKC) 11 44
Dempsey/Bruin (SEA) 10 24
Techera/Montero (VAN) 10 23
Wondolowski/Hyka (SJ) 9 19
Movsisyan/Rusnak (RSL) 8 23
Badji/Doyle (COL) 7 24
Acosta/Le Toux (DCU) 6 14
Stats are current as of 6/30/2017 Source: mlssoccer.com

Harrison and Villa currently rank as the second best scoring duo in MLS, trailing only the lethal combo of Nemanja Nikolic and David Accam of the Chicago Fire. The same is true for shots on goal. It’s no surprise to see Chicago’s DP duo banging in goal after goal this season, as it’s literally what they’re paying them to do. But to see a young Harrison emerge to these heights alongside Villa is truly impressive; not just the 19 goals they’ve scored combined, but also the 46 shots on goal show how relentless they are in creating danger for opposing defenses.

While Moralez has been a creative engine for NYCFC all season, it’s been the dynamic duo who have been consistently lethal in the final third for Vieira’s side, scoring goal after goal and keeping the good times rolling in Yankee Stadium. I spoke earlier this month about how David Villa has transformed himself into an even better playmaker and facilitator this season, and no one has been a bigger beneficiary to that than Jack Harrison. The interplay between the two of them, has opened up space for Harrison that he’s glad to utilize and taken advantage of with an ever-expanding ruthlessness in front of goal. Here’s the evidence:

The best part about this duo? There’s room for improvement. Villa may be 35, but he has already reinvented himself tremendously as a target forward who doubles an attacking midfielder for NYCFC. It’s possible we could still be awaiting his best season in MLS. And Jack Harrison is only 20 years old. 8 goals and 5 assists at the midway point, and he’s not even old enough to drink (in America) yet. The sky really is the limit for Harrison. We may even see him win a Golden Boot in MLS within the next few years. And that’s a wide midfielder we’re talking about...imagine if Vieira ever fancies playing him more centrally?

So, are these two the best attacking duo in MLS? No, not quite. They are awfully close to that mark, however, and have every chance to take that crown by season’s end. Add to that fact their ability as playmakers - they’ve totaled a combined 11 assists already on the year - and they are clearly an elite attacking duo ready to wreak havoc on every opponent.