MLS Table Talk | The Great Divide
Ladies and Gentlemen, it's official: we have achieved three-tiered wedding cake status on the MLS Table.
Tier #1: The Shield Hunters
Sure, one of those clubs with games in hand could nip in and grab the Supporters' Shield, but at the moment it looks like a four horse race courtesy of three horses pulling up lame this weekend and the fourth leaping across the great divide between the top tier and the chasing pack. The Dynamo continue to hold onto the top spot, but all of their competition, hell--the entire league, has games in hand on them. Just one point separates them from the Crew, and the Galaxy and Fire sit just two back.
Tier #2: The Mad Scramble
All signs point to a chaotic finish to the season, with seven teams clustered into a three point spread (31-34 points) trying to grab four post-season places. The Sounders hold the slightest of edges in this contest, sitting on top with 34 points; however, all but one of the other six have games in hand on the Sounders, and a three point (or less) cushion looks supremely vulnerable. Behind the Sounders, four teams sit on 33 points, with Chivas on the outside looking in at the playoffs courtesy of their -1 goal difference (and the head-to-head tie-breakers, but goal difference is the final straw), the second worst among those still alive and in the hunt. And trailing, but still very much alive, are DC United on 32 points and TFC on 31 points.
Tier #3: Calling their Travel Agents
Time to make the vacation plans because it's all but over now. There is an eight point gap between FC Dallas and TFC, and a ten point gap between FC Dallas and the playoff places. Yes, there are at least eight games to go for the trailers, but it would take some terrific form from a Tier #3 side combined with multiple collapses from Tier #2 sides in order to see Dallas, the 'Zards, or the Quakes make the playoffs. What about the Red Bulls, you ask? What about them? That ship has long since sailed, no matter how many miracles the little man works.
Prep the miscellany cannon!
* The points per game table illustrates the same divide, with those still in the post-season hunt posting 1.3-1.7 points per game, while those booking their tickets for various golf courses and sandy beaches are netting 0.7-1.0 ppg. Does the ppg table look any different? Slightly. The Crew are on top at 1.7 ppg, followed by the Dynamo, LA, Fire, and Revs on 1.6 ppg. The Rapids and Chivas would also be in on 1.5 ppg, while just one of the Sounders, RSL, and DC United (all on 1.4 ppg) would also be playoff-bound. TFC, on 1.3 ppg, is still in the 11 spot.
* The difference divide. Note also, that while all four of the vacation-bound have negative goal differences, only two of the playoff chasers are so afflicted. Chivas' -1 and TFC's -3 mark them as potential pretenders to post-season glory.
* Goal-scoring is still all over the charts, with the Rapids leading the way at 1.6 goals per game, and the Bulls posting half that number (0.8 gpg) in last place. But note that the first place Dynamo are only putting in 1.2 gpg, as are three other currently playoff-bound sides, while DC United (1.5 gpg), TFC (1.3 gpg), and FC Dallas (1.4 gpg) are all in the early-dismissal seats.
* Defense, on the other hand, is a more accurate predictor of league position. Note that the top nine sides all boast averages of 1.2 goals allowed per game or less, while the bottom six are all on 1.4 apg or greater.
If we booked passages today without accounting for games in hand, the playoffs would be set as follows:
Crew (E1) v. RSL (W5)
Fire (E2) v. Revs (E3)
Dynamo (W1) v. Rapids (W4)
Galaxy (W2) v. Sounders (W3)