Before we transition to MLS Playoff Prattle (the post-season replacement for the Dogpile and Table Talk, in case you've forgotten from last year), let's take one last look at how the final single table shaped up in MLS this year...
- Just talkin' bout parity. Yes, you could argue that the Supporters' Shield-winning Crew were a much better team than, for example, 12th-placed Toronto FC. But in the end, what separated them? 10 points. That's right, if you ignore the "relegation candidates" in the bottom three spaces, all of the other twelve teams in MLS were compressed into a 10-point span. Remarkable. The question then becomes, why the outliers at the bottom and not the top? Surely if parity creates a system whereby mismanagement, poor player personnel decisions, and the vagaries of luck can drop a team away from the pack, then the inverse should provide for a couple of runaway leaders. Hmmm.
- The defense does not rest! Take a look at that AG (allowed goals per game) column. What do you notice? Defense wins championships. Or at least gets you to the post-season. Every playoff team conceded between 1 and 1.2 goals per game. Of those going home early, only the Rapids managed to concede at a rate anywhere close (1.3 AG). The rest were all at 1.5 AG or worse save the Wizards, who somehow managed to finish with a 1.4 AG while remaining comfortably off the playoff spots.
- Scoring is overrated? But perhaps the goals allowed is due to conservative teams making the playoffs. Consider: only two playoff sides scored more than 40 goals in a 30-game season. Those two? The league-leading Crew barely squeaked across the 40-goal line with 41, and RSL barely squeaked into the playoffs with 43. Of the non-playoff sides, two (the Rapids and United) scored more than 40, and FC Dallas managed a lofty 50. In fact, the seven sides that missed the playoffs averaged 38.3 goals per game, lowly Red Bulls included, while the playoff sides averaged 37.9.