You see all those asterisks up there? You know, the ones attached to every team from fourth to thirteenth? They indicate that MLS's byzantine tie-breaker rules are in play. Allow me, if you will, a brief divergence into what parity has wrought upon our humble league. Take the four-way pileup on 24 points. These four teams have all faced each other, multiple times for one pairing, but only one of them has managed to win (twice, in fact). That would be the Rapids. Their 2 wins, 2 draws, no losses record against the other three gives them the #6 spot, after which, MLS rules say we go back to step one of the tie-breakers with the three remaining teams.
The three remaining teams have each played each other once. Every one of these games ended in a draw (shocker, I know, given the rash of draws in MLS this season). So that bumps us to goal difference. All three teams are on +1. And on we wend to total goals scored, where DC United manage to grab victory and the #7 spot, despite the fact that when all four teams were subject to tie-breakers, United had the worst overall record. Regardless, it's back to the tie-breakers with the remaining two teams, where, once again, it all comes back to goals scored, leaving the Crew in the eighth, and final, playoff position, with the Gals ruing their lack of firepower.
Could we end up with such a numerical labyrinth to navigate on the final day of the season? If we do, we know the accounting gods are smiling somewhere. So what else can we divine from the numbers?
- The table tiers have shifted again. Now the Dynamo (31 points), despite losing, are all alone up top. The Sounders (28) and Goats (27) are wedged between the Texans and the big scrum of 24 and 25 point teams (six clubs) fighting for the remaining playoff spots. KC and RSL (20) are detached but within striking distance, while the Revs and Dallas (17) have a bit more work to do. And the Quakes (13) and Red Bulls (10) should be booking their November vacation plans.
- The points per game table gives us a more nuanced and congested picture. The Dynamo (1.8) are still ahead, but Chivas (1.7) are right behind, with the Sounders and Fire (1.6) hot on their tails. TFC and the Rapids (1.5) are our next layer of sediment with a thick band of United, Crew, and Galaxy (1.4), followed by KC and RSL (1.3) and a trace suggestion of Revs (1.2). In this case, Dallas (1.0) join the Quakes (0.8) and Bulls (0.5) in the land of the forlorn.
- The goals were in short supply this weekend, and that's reflected in the dropping of the goals per game marks. No club in MLS scores more than 1.5 per game, with the Sounders and DC United being the only sides to reach that mark. Is it parity or better defending that has the entire league, save the Red Bulls, piled in the 1.1-1.4 range behind the leaders? Those poor Bulls. At 0.8 ppg, they're the laughingstock of the league...
- But strangely they aren't the worst defense. That dubious title would fall to the Quakes, who are shipping 1.9 goals per game. And it's still the usual suspects that are keeping them out, with the Dynamo leading the way on 0.7 apg.