MLS Table Talk | The Muddled Pursuit
Will you look at that? The accordion table is expanding again. This time we have a three-rider break from the pack, with the Dynamo (35 pts), Crew (33), and Fire (32) all at least three points clear of the trailers. That muddle of a pursuit is squeezed into a narrow two-point window from the Sounders (29) in fourth through to the non-playoff Rapids (27) in ninth. Threatening to pick off the stragglers are the Revs (24 pts with two games in hand) and RSL (23), while KC (21) and Dallas (20) are on life support, the Quakes are in a coma (17), and the Red Bulls (10) have long since started to rot in the ground.
The points-per-game table throws up a couple of interesting exceptions to this picture. The leading trio is still the Dynamo (1.8 ppg), Crew, and Fire (1.7 ppg apiece), but Chivas (1.6 ppg) are in that mix as well, courtesy of their games in hand. Similarly, the Revs' games in hand put them squarely in the trailing pack (1.4-1.5 ppg). This scenario also lumps RSL (1.2 ppg) in with KC (1.2 ppg) and Dallas (1.1 ppg).
Goals scored is rather a mixed bag. DC United (1.7 goals per game) are the clear leaders, with a trailing quartet boasting 1.5 gpg, but of that quartet, only one (the Crew) currently holds a playoff spot. Strangely, the second-to-last Quakes boast a 1.3 gpg mark, better than two of the current playoff sides. The only side not scoring more than a goal per game? You guessed it--it's the Red Bulls (0.8 gpg).
On the defensive side of the equation, the Dynamo's shipping of three goals to United last week sees them nearing the fabled goal-per-game barrier at 0.9 allowed per game, a figure matched only by Chivas. Defense would seem to be a better indicator of playoff potential than goal scoring, with just two of the current playoff sides surrendering at a rate greater than 1.2 apg, while all of the non-playoff sides suffer 1.3 apg or above. Sadly, those two exceptions (DC United and TFC) post marks (1.6 apg) that rival the bottom three, thus putting the lie to any grand, overarching theory of "how to succeed and prosper in MLS."
I'm going to mark next week as the two-thirds point of the season because most of the sides will be at 20 games played, but quick--what is the single most remarkable set of numbers on the table at this juncture? It has to be the Red Bulls, a supposedly flagship franchise in a potentially huge market, losing nearly 75% of their matches (15 from 21), scoring less than a goal per game (0.8), shipping nearly two per game (1.8), and saddled with an unfathomably bad (particularly in these parity-infested waters) goal differential of -21. It's frankly shocking that Osorio hasn't been canned yet, and will be even more so if he isn't gone today or tomorrow given that the Bulls meekly bowed out of the Champions' League, the only thing they had left to play for, at home and at the hands of a Trinidadian club.