- NYC has more points at home than Atlanta does in 2 fewer games. Atlanta is outpacing NYC on the road, albeit against somewhat lesser competition. I don’t think that many folks saw that coming. The Away game in Houston this coming week is the sort of game NYC will need to win to keep pace with Atlanta’s Away record and RB overall.
- While it is a positive that NYC is done with what was probably the toughest part of its schedule, and Atlanta and RB probably have yet to face theirs, it is not the case that ATL and RB will have to go through something similar to NYC this year. NYC has already faced away games against the top 3 teams in the West (SKC, LAFC, and POR). Atlanta and Red Bulls both play all 3 of those teams at home this year. Columbus — like NYCFC — plays all of them on the road.
- Speaking of which, here are the next 5 games for Columbus: @SKC, TFC, RBNY, ATL, @LAFC. By the end of that we should have a good idea if the Crew is an illusion held afloat by an easy early schedule or the real deal.
- With Houston next week, NYC will have played 9 of its first 13 against the West. All that is left is @SEA 7/29, VAN 8/4, and @MIN 9/29. The club sits at 6-1-1 through 8 games, evenly split Home and Away. NYC will play 5 at Home and 7 Away against the West this year. It makes up for deficit that with extra home games against both Orlando and the Red Bulls.
- The club PPG is 2.375 against the West and only 1.25 in the East, though to be fair, the latter represents only 4 games, 3 of them Away, and 2 of those Away against the top 2 teams in the league to date. NYC has no more games in Harrison or Atlanta and 3 at home against those teams.
- I added an orange line for bye position in the East. If it ever looks like NYC will be in danger of dropping to 5th I will add one for 4th Place.
- Astonishing that right now the projection for 4th Place and a first round home playoff game in the East is higher than what would win Supporters Shield most years before last. I believe it is shaping up to be a 3-team dogfight for the top 2 spots and a bye. As long as you have a Home game and probably win, I’m not sure it is a great disadvantage to finish 3rd. Maybe a play-in game is what NYC needs to shake off its First Leg blues, but I still hope for Supporters Shield and that 2-year cumulative record CCL spot.
- Here are the line graphs and squad goals. The latter shows how hard it is to expect NYC will finish with lower than roughly 60 points this year.
- NYC’s worst 2 and best 2 games roughly cancel out: 4-0 and 4-0 against 0-4 and 0-3.
- The bad news is that Atlanta has as many Away wins as they had all last year after just 5 Away Games. The worse news is that they are actually playing better Away than at Home. They won’t finish with 2.4 PPG Away, but if they continue to excel Away they will likely win both SS and the CCL spot.
- The good news is that their Away record has not been tough. Ranking teams by PPG in a combined table, they have played 6, 11, 15, 16, and 17. Their loss was to the 11 (Houston) and the 6 is the probably over-ranked Orlando, who have beaten up their own soft schedule (Away to just 5 (the loss to NYC), 14 and 19).
- Here is the Away schedule difficulty for some other top rivals for position this year
- Red Bulls have played only 4 Away (to be fair they have 2 games in hand) against 6 (ORL again), 12, 17, 19.
- Columbus has 1 Away win against 14, 15, 18, 22, 23
- SKC has 3 Away wins against 1, 9, 15, 17, 19
- LAFC has an impressive 4 Away wins against not-so-impressive 1, 12, 13, 17, 18, 21
- The best news is that the NYCFC 2-2-3 Away record was compiled against 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 20. The 10 is Portland, who has not dropped any points at home yet (only 3 games).
- Still, Atlanta has its 4 Away wins in hand, while NYC just has a schedule that gets easier. Winning 4 of 5 Away is impressive no matter the competition. NYC has work to do on the softer part of its Away schedule.
- Also Atlanta lucked out by playing the top 2 West teams — SKC and LAFC — at home. They will also play Portland in Atlanta. On the other hand, NYC won 4 points Away to SKC and LAFC while Atlanta won only 3 against them at home.
- Of course, the big wildcard in remaining schedules is Toronto, who are ranked 22 right now but are (almost) certainly much better than that and could be a very tough game both Away and Home. Notably, except for losing to Columbus in Week 1, they have not yet played any of the major contenders noted above, which means (1) nobody but CLB has an advantage if TFC gets good, (2) TFC can gain ground on everyone by winning H2H, and (3) their remaining schedule is hard.
- The line graphs made me notice that NYC is at 1.0 PPG in the last 5 games. But what a gauntlet: ATL (A), POR (A), FCD (H), RB (A), LAFC (A).
- What is need to achieve squad goals:
- Looking at this last table, remember that NYC has a chance for an outstanding finish if they can keep it together: NER (H), DCU (H), MTL (A), CHI (H), MIN (A), DCU (A), PHI (H).
- PPG standings:
I didn’t want to write this and nobody wants to read it but here we are:
- NYCFC has lost 6 regular season games all time by 3 or more goals. The Red Bulls claim 3 of them.
- 2015 LAG 5-1
- 2016 RB 7-0
- 2016 RB 4-1
- 2017 TFC 4-0
- 2018 POR 3-0
- 2018 RB 4-0
- That NYC has 2 such losses in just 4 playoff games is beyond abysmal.
- All time, NYC also has 6 Wins of 3 or more goals:
- 2016 Colorado 5-1
- 2016 Chicago 4-1
- 2016 Columbus 4-1
- 2017 DC 4-0
- 2017 Orlando 3-0
- 2018 RSL 4-0
- NYC has slipped to 3rd place on the PPG standings in the East, and a 3-way tie for third league wide. NYC’s next opponent is part of that 3-way
- Consecutive scorelines of 0-3, 3-1, and 0-4 drop the Goal Differential down below where it was last year.
- In its six wins, NYC’s cumulative GD is +12, so when it wins it does so by an average of 2 goals.
- In its 2 losses, the GD is an average of -3.5.
- NYC’s 1.33 PPG in 6 Away games is right between its 2016 record (1.41) and 2017 record (1.29).
- NYC is only at 1-1-2 for 1.25 PPG against the East so far this year. It’s only 4 games, but NYC’s 2.0 PPG is almost entire due to crushing the West at 5-1-0 and 2.50 PPG. On the up side, NYC has had only 1 Home game against the East with 3 Away. On the down side, neither of NYC’s 2 Away wins are against the East.
- Two big losses in 3 games feels awful, but many big goals are well within reach, even if a season more or less like the last 2 suddenly seems more likely:
- Finally, here’s a Twitter thread dated about a week ago. Minkus put together a graph showing a bell curve for each team’s likely Total Points based on their xGoals in each match. It takes a minute to figure out how it works but is quite simple once you grasp it. The bottom line is that NYC has been rather lucky in its results according to xGoals. Go down the thread and he has similar graphs using PPG instead of Total Points. You don’t have to think xGoals is perfect to find this unsettling. Click the image to be taken to the original tweet.
Nine games in, NYCFC has passed the one-quarter mark, and it is time to start with graphs, numbers, and pseudo-legitimate projections. The playoffs seem to be a given, but this team has a realistic chance at Supporters Shield, a CCL spot based on 2-year record, and a playoff bye. Last year at this point NYC was third in both the regular and PPG standings behind Orlando and Toronto. That Orlando did not make the playoffs tells you how much weight to give to anything this early. With 16 points, NYC projected to 60-61 points this time last year, a little above their eventual total due to the late season slump.
- NYC point totals after 9 games
- 2015 – 6
- 2016 – 10
- 2017 – 16
- 2-18 – 20
- Here is how PPG stands stands this year 9-games in:
- RSL, the team NYC destroyed, is just above the playoff line in the West, setting a playoff line at 42-43 points.
- The East playoff line is 52-53 points, with a big jump down to Chicago at 39 in 7th place.
- Last year TFC had 2.03 PPG in their record-shattering season. If they get 1.9 the rest of the way in 2018 they end with 57 points. If they get 2 PGG they will have 60 points. Even acknowledging how skewed things are this early, it very well might require they play that well to get a home game. A first round bye seems very unlikely. Playoffs are still probable unless they suffer a year long slump, but their early start means their margin for the occasional bad result like they suffered to Chicago on Saturday is thin.
- Most folks know that the win over Dallas yesterday means NYC has now won a game against every MLS team except LAFC, who they have not yet played. Here are some related facts:
- NYC has also won at home against every MLS team except LAFC.
- 5 teams (including LAFC) have never won against NYC — the others are Colorado, Houston, Minnesota, and San Jose.
- NYCFC has won an Away game against every MLS team except Atlanta, Colorado, Dallas, LAFC, Minnesota, and RSL. That is only 4 when you exclude Minnesota and LAFC where NYC has never played.
- All-time, NYC has dropped 6 points out of 6 playing in plastic garbage fished out of the ocean.
- Line graphs!
- I dropped 2015 from the line charts. It gets cluttered with more than 3.
- Now for a very optimistic chart of possible future records and final point totals. There are 25 games left to the season:
- Counting the Win-Loss differential and noting its progress over the season is a very baseball way of measuring that does not translate perfectly to soccer, but I still want to note that in 2016 NYC finished with 5 more wins than losses, and 7 in 2017. Right now the team stands at 5+ after only 9 games. If they were to finish with a rather disappointing 10-10-5 and not add anything to that differential they would have 55 points. That is how good this start has been.
I started quantifying NYCFC offensive production beyond Villa. I know many players do important things that don’t result in goals or assists. I try not to be the guy whose answer to my team’s woes is “We need more people who score goals. All the goallzz!” But damn, NYCFC needs more people who score or create goals.
Here are the top 5 goal scorers for every East playoff team, plus Portland and Seattle. The first line is the team name and its total goals for the season. Below that the columns go Player|Goals|Pct. of Team Goals|Assists. Then I added salary info for selected individuals. I left the labels off to save space:
Where to begin. First some stuff not in these charts.
- Our second highest goal scorer Harrison scored 7 of his 10 in the first half of the season.
- Wallace scored all of his 4 by Game 13. Yes, our 4th highest goal scorer was goalless over the last 21 games.
Now let’s compare:
- With 5, 4 and 3 goals our 3rd, 4th and 5th best goal scorers compare mostly to Chicago and the Red Bulls. With everyone else there is a clear gap.
- With 10 goals our second best goal scorer is even with Portland and behind everyone else.
- NYCFC is the only team besides Chicago in this group without a double digit assist generator, though 9 and 9 from Villa and Maxi compare favorably to most teams’ top 2.
- Remember that on 2 metrics Chicago is one of the few teams NYCFC compares favorably with and they are eliminated.
To make it clearer, the next tables show (1) the ranking of the same teams by how many goals their 3-5 top scorers made, then (2) the ranking of the same teams by how many goals their 2-5 top scorers made. NYC comes in next-to-last and dead-last respectively. The last column in each chart is what percentage of each team’s goals that group generated:
Again, I love the guys who do the work that don’t make the scoring stats, but somebody does have to score the freaking goals. And NYCFC doesn’t have those guys beyond Villa.
Let’s look at previous editions of NYCFC. This is depressing.
- Our total goals this year are down by 6 from 2016. The difference between a half season of Lampard and his DP replacement is a loss of 7.
- I included Pirlo in 2016 just to show he is our only double digit assist maker in 3 years.
- 2017 McNamara is 2015 Ballouchy.
- 2017 Moralez is 2015 McNamara with more assists. Significantly more assists, but still. Both were the 3rd highest goal scorer with 5 goals. Maxi makes 10 times what TMac makes in 2017.
- With 3 goals, McNamara should not be in the 2017 top 5, but that’s not his fault. The problem is NYCFC doesn’t actually have 5 better goal scorers than him. Plus, he only played 53% of the team’s minutes. How does NYC not have 5 higher goal scorers than a guy who played barely more than half the time? Or 4 goal scorers better than that PLUS a guy who was goalless over 21 straight games?
- Shelton 2016 was a fluke or he regressed horribly. Take your pick. Or a combo pack.
- Who did Reyna and Vieira think would replace Lampard’s goals in 2017? Harrison? Moralez? Remember how much the team improved the second half of 2016 after Frank and Jack showed up? First half of 2016 27 goals. Second half 35. NYCFC needed that production.
- Jack played 21 games in 2016 and had 4 goals and 7 assists. The latter let Shelton edge him slightly which is why he’s not on the list. Jack played 21 games. Projected to 34 games you get 6.5 goals and 11.3 assists. He outperformed those projections on goals and under on assists. I can live with that type of development. He also came nowhere near to being a goal replacement for Lampard and it was crazy to think he would be. But if he was not supposed to do it, then who?
- Project Frank’s stats to 34 games and you get 21.5 goals and 5.4 assists. Project to the 29 games Maxi played and it comes to 18.3 and 4.6. Instead NYCFC got Maxi with 5 and 9.
- Maxi did not have an off year. Here are his stats from whoscored. I don’t know why the 2017 numbers differ from MLS but this is what we have:
- Maxi 2017 is exactly Maxi every other year. Actually better than some. There’s no reason to expect a jump up next year.
- Again. Maxi does lots of great things that don’t get him a goal or an assist, but he cannot be our 3rd highest goal scorer and 3rd highest paid player.
- Can Jack improve, so he gets 7 goals in both halves of the season, assuming he stays? Maybe. I can’t count on it.
- Maxi was a disastrous DP signing. Maybe he could have worked if NYCFC didn’t already have a DP who scored 1 goal in his only full season of contributions to us and was about to become fully useless. But a DP like Maxi is a luxury at best if you are already stacked with goal producers. As NYC does not.Maxi gives us half of what Vazquez creates for 3 times the price and a DP slot. Meram, Higuain, Villalba, Asad, Royer, Blanco all created more goals for less. Hell, Roldan is competitive at about 6% of the salary and no DP slot.
- Maxi can be a great contributing player on a team without MLS salary limits. Or maybe he can be like Bradley, a DP on a team with 2 DP scorers and a TAM who also produces. I don’t know what the hell he is doing here at this cost with this roster.
What does NYCFC do now?
- We’re not cutting Maxi. On top of what I wrote a few days ago about how it will hurt the team’s credibility, I have no reason to think the club is willing to eat $2 million.
- Our Pirlo replacement has to be a goal producer. I have no interest right now in a defensive DP, or some guy who is great at starting a buildup, or goes box to box but doesn’t score, or anything like that. This is even more true because Villa turns 36 next month and we have no idea when he will start to fade. I think one more year of excellence is likely, but far from a given. If he does fade even a shade next year and NYCFC does not get a true goal scorer, the team is toast.
- Do something with TAM. Do we even have a TAM player? After the DPs the highest paid player on our 2017 list is Mix at $770k and he doesn’t count. The next highest is Chanot at $383k. Where is our Vazquez for $700k? What are we doing with it? Why are buying down nobody?
- Maybe try playing Lewis?
- The only reason I wouldn’t can Reyna is the hope we sign his kid in the next 12 months.
Regular Season Wrap Up. Not trying to be comprehensive. First, the last charts. I dropped 2015.
- The total points lines and PPG for 2015 and 16 look like they kiss around week 11 or 12 but they don’t. 2017 took the lead in Game 5 and never fell back afterwards.
- On the rolling 5-Game PPG, 2016 was both better and worse in the first part of the season. 2017 did better in the middle third, and then had a bad end. Even with a seesaw chart, 2016 finished better than 2017.
- After 17 games halfway through the season the Goal Differential was +11. 538 predicted a final GD of +14. I thought they were nuts, and ridiculously undervaluing NYCFC. I expect many others did also. It ended at +13.
- The GD first hit +13 on June 29 after 18 games. Over the last 16 games the subset GD was 0. After slipping to +9 after the TFC 4-0 loss on July 29, the GD climbed to its high of+14 after the win over SKC on September 9 in Game 27. Over the last 10 games of the season, the GD was either +13 or +14 every week.
- After 17 games the team had 30 points which projects cleanly to 60, and 538 predicted only 55. It ended at 57.
I tend to divide the seasons into quarters, but a discussion I had elsewhere led me to see how this year is best divided into thirds. As 34 only divides by 2 and 17, the units consist of 12 games, then 11 and 11. Here is a simple table and chart showing how Goals For per game, Goals Against per game, and PPG went in each third of the season:
- Finally, the Home Away Charts for the year. I do not know why 2 of them make it look like we played more Away games than at Home. It’s a weird Excel thing I can’t figure how to adjust.
- The odd thing here is that the team had its best results when it had the lowest average Goal Differential. Part of this is luck. In the first third NYC lost 4 games each by one goal, while its average winning margin in 6 games was better than 2. In the middle third NYC won 6 games by a total of 8 goals, while it lost only 3 games by an average differential of more than 2.
- The other story is that the GA spiked a whole lot in the middle. Then both it and Goals For went way down in the last third, as did PPG. NYC had a lot of missing players during that period, but I have seen comments indicating that fans believed NYC was less aggressive. I have to wonder if Vieira was so concerned about the sharp increase in team defense that he allowed the offense to stagnate as part of what he considered a necessary corrective.
- No surprises. We were a better Home team all year. In 2016 NYC was actually better Away for half the season. In 2017 NYC earned 5 more points at Home and 2 fewer on the Road compared to 2016.
- NYC earned 1.77 PPG in Primary Kit games (30 games). 1.33 PPG in the Hypnokit (3 Games), and 0.0 PPG in Eco Kit games (1). Sorry oceans, but that’s a bad performance, especially as it was a Home game.
- In its 2 years the HypnoKit earned 1.75 PPG in 8 regular season games.
- NYC performed mildly better against the East (1.69 PPG) than West (1.64). Last year NYC earned 2.0 PPG against the West against only 1.42 against the East. NYC had the odd extra home game against the West and one less against the East which did not apply last year with 10 teams in each conference.
Week 34 – 1 Game
East Record 0-1-0
At Home 0-0-0
On Road 0-1-0
Goal Differential -3
East Points 0
West Points 3
Season To Date
East Record 51-39-32
At Home 39-11-11 (61)
On Road 12-27-21 (61)
Goal Differential +45
East Points 185
West Points 149
On a PPG basis, the East in 2017 (1.52 PPG) did better than the West in 2016 (1.44 PPG). Ties were down which will inflate the PPG for both sides somewhat (and is a pretty random factor as best as I can tell). There were 30 ties in 2016 (30% of games), and only 32 in 2017 despite playing 22 additional interconference games (26% of games drew). The East PPG in 2016 was 1.26 which is slightly better than the West’s 1.22 this year.
East Record 1-2-0
At Home 1-1-0
On Road 0-1-0
Goal Differential -2
East Points 3
West Points 6
Season To Date
East Record 51-38-32
At Home 39-11-11 (61)
On Road 12-26-21 (60)
Goal Differential +48
East Points 185
West Points 146
Week 30 – 4 Games
East Record 2-1-1
At Home 1-0-1
On Road 1-1-0
Goal Differential +4
East Points 7
West Points 4
Season To Date
East Record 50-36-32
At Home 38-10-11 (59)
On Road 12-26-21 (59)
Goal Differential +50
East Points 182
West Points 140
Only 4 games left, though as of when I’m posting this one of those 4 has been played (MIN beat ATL, YAY).
- If NYC comes out of October 15 3 points behind Atlanta then NYC cannot catch up given the tiebreakers.
- If NYC comes out of Oct 15 2 points behind Atlanta NYC gets second by beating Columbus and an ATL loss.
- If NYC comes out of Oct 15 1 point behind Atlanta NYC gets second by beating Columbus and an ATL draw or loss.
- If NYC comes out of Oct 15 even with Atlanta NYC gets second with any better result than Atlanta. A win against Columbus means nothing without some result for Toronto.
- If NYC comes out of Oct 15 1 point ahead, NYC gets second with a win, or a draw and Atlanta draw or loss, or a loss and Atlanta loss.
- If NYC comes out of Oct 15 2 or 3 points ahead, NYC gets second with a win, or a draw and Atlanta draw or loss, or a loss and Atlanta loss or draw.