MLS Table Talk | Five Weeks
There are five weeks left for most of the clubs in MLS. Five weeks for the top sides to find consistency and form heading into the post-season. Five weeks of cage-match brawling for playoff spots for a great swath of the table. Five weeks for those hovering around the fringes to mount a glorious charge. Five weeks for a handful to buy new golf clubs and call their travel agents.
The current playoff sides are packed into a six-point swing courtesy of the Parity Police, meaning that five weeks from now we might be looking at a dramatically different table as we kick off the battle for MLS Cup. Realistically, eleven sides are fighting for eight spots, though strong finishes by Dallas and KC may see them entertaining faint post-season hopes, assuming that a few sides ahead of them stumble severely.
You can see the way the points table stacks up, but what about points-per-game? That's an interesting picture. The Crew (1.8 ppg) are clearly the class of the league, and, at the moment, it looks like the Dynamo, Fire, Galaxy, Sounders, Rapids, and Chivas are all in advantageous positions (1.5-1.6 ppgs). Where the real battle lies is the scrum for that final playoff spot. We've currently got four teams: United, RSL, TFC, and the Revs, all sitting on 1.4 ppg, with the Revs' two games in hand putting them in the driver's seat. Dallas and KC (1.1 ppg) still have a pulse, but it's illustrative to note that they need to make up more ground on the quartet of 1.4 ppg-ers than that quartet needs to make up on the vast majority of the playoff field. Lesson for the Hoops and 'Zards? Don't hold your breath.
When it comes to offense, we're finally starting to get a little differentiation, allowing us to identify the Rapids (1.6 goals per game), Dallas (1.6 gpg), Crew (1.5 gpg), and United (1.5 gpg) as the goal-getters. The Red Bulls (0.8 gpg) are still struggling to overcome the deficit that has seen them detached from the league average for so long, but goal-shy KC (1.0 gpg) are swimming into their sights. Defensively, it's the Dynamo (0.9 allowed per game), Sounders (1.0 apg), and Chivas (1.0 apg) that are setting the standard, with the Quakes (1.8 apg), Dallas (1.7 apg), and Red Bulls (1.7 apg) struggling along in the league's wake.
Can we use goal differential as any sort of indicator? Considering that the top nine on the table are boasting positive values while the bottom six are all negative, there might be a nugget of truth there. If those numbers are to be believed, then TFC and the Revs might have less to say about post-season play than their points totals would suggest. That said, RSL are tied for second-best in the league with a +8 yet are still two points out of a playoff spot, and Dallas are only at -1 despite being nine points off the pace. Perhaps these aren't the droids you're looking for?
Anything else strike you from those numbers? How about DC United, a side seemingly in crisis and in danger of missing the playoffs, having lost only 6 of their 26 league games thus far? And you can maybe understand the Quakes and Bulls having drawn just 5 and 4 games respectively (they're bad teams, and thus less likely to have the belief or ability to salvage draws), but what about Chivas? They've completely bucked the parity-enforced trend towards draws by only posting 3 in their 23 games.