From 1996 through 1999 MLS had no draws, so teams naturally won and lost more games. During that period, 4 teams won 10 or more road games, including DCU in 1997, 1998, and 1999. They won 13 twice.
Since 2000, the record for most road wins is 9. It is not common but it is not rare either, and the record is shared by a handful of teams, most recently San Jose in 2012.
NYCFC has 5 road wins in its first 8 road games, so there is a decent shot of at least matching and maybe setting a new post-1999 record.
Last year only 4 teams had more than 5 road wins all year, which is the norm. Just more road win and we will probably have one of the 4 best Away records in the league.
It seems more likely than not we will have more Away wins than Home, or at least be even. This happens on average to fewer than one team each year. They also usually do not make the playoffs. We seem likely to make the playoffs and that would be a true rarity. Best team to do it was Seattle in 2011 with 9 Home and Away wins each and 63 points. For us to get 9 Home wins we would have to win out.
We have not lost on the road since April 19 in Philadelphia.*
Based solely on Home records, most of our toughest Away games to get wins will be against bad teams: CMB (just 1 home loss to date), HOU (1), SJ (0), and ORL (0). All are currently below the playoff line because they are terrible on the road. SJ and HOU have 0 road wins while ORL and CMB have only 1 each. But they don’t lose much at home (although some draw more than they should, kind of like us). The outlier is Montreal, 4-1-3 at home (same as HOU) and a good overall record.
We face DC (4 home losses)and NER (2) again, where we already won. Is it hard to do the Away double?
Remaining 2 Away are SKC (5-4-1 at home) and RB (6-2-0).
Of our 3 Away wins to date, 3 were against teams that have only lost one other home game: Portland, Chicago and New England, so we’re capable of that. Chicago is surprisingly competent at Home. They are just hideous Away (see immediately preceding post).
We’re in first place, and tied for first via PPG. We’re in 4th place Supporters Shield, and tied for 5th by PPG.
We have raised both our Home record and our record against the East to .500.
In 4 tries over 2 years we have never failed to win our third in a row.
Depending on the ties/losses ratio, we can probably make the playoffs with just 6 wins in our last 16.
It is probably reasonable to start thinking about playoff position and not just playoff attainment.
With all that going on, I find the comparison to last year to be one of the least interesting things about this year.
We’ve never had that placement before. One note is that after tomorrow we will have played 3 more games than our closest rival. As we are currently tied in PPG (we won’t be after tomorrow because we cannot earn 1.5 points obviously) it’s hard to say whether that advantages us because we have points in hand or them because they can pass us without needing us to lose. But just keep it in mind until it evens out. Also this isn’t the result of crazy scheduling for Montreal like last year. We will just be tied for most games played (and alone in the East) at 19 and Montreal at 16 is one above the lowest, which is Chicago. It’s just MLS. And while the amount is lower, every other team in the East will have games in hand on us as well.
The playoff projection line is slightly lower than last week but rounded off is still 43. And we have a very nice cushion right now.
A few weeks ago I was beating the drums about Home/Away. Right now I want to push East/West.
NYCFC v East 4-4-6
NYCFC v West 3-1-0
Our entire margin over .500 is from 4 games against the West. It’s a fun anomaly, and has meant some great wins against quality teams, often on the road, but wins against the East are more valuable because they take points away from rivals. I’m not warning of anything here, but it’s good we’ve improved this and if the current run of play continues it should just get better and do us a lot of good.
Our record after 3-game win streaks is poor. Going 3 games out, our record in those 9 games is 1-5-3 for 6 points out of 27. We play our next 3 away against New England, SKC, and — look at that — Montreal.
Finally, here’s what we need to get to assorted point totals. Like I said, 6 wins out of 16 games looks like playoff territory.
This is about Toronto but will directly affect NYCFC, perhaps. After all those road games to start the season, TFC has not really taken advantage of their home games to date. They’re only 2-1-3 including a tie this weekend against the same punchless Sounders team we just dominated in Seattle. Out of curiosity, I was looking at their upcoming schedule to see when they start making up the 4 game home gap they have and was surprised to see it is not until the very end of the season when they have their last 5 of 6 at home. As long as they stay close, that finish with 5 home games against RB, PHI, ORL, DC and CHI gives them an opportunity to make up lost ground, especially if they get healthier than they are now. Those 5 teams have a combined 4 away wins to date. They are terrible, terrible road teams.
TFC’s away game mixed in is at Montreal. Their last road game before this stretch is in Chicago on September 10. Right now we have a 7-point lead on Toronto (who has 2 extra games to play) and I would like to see that stay at least that large, if not increase, between now and September.
* PS and ETA: 2 of those teams’ 4 road wins are against NYCFC.
We’re halfway through with 24 points and so the easy math says we project to 48. We’re also in second place and the playoff line sits at roughly 43 making our cushion nearly 5 points.
This was a very good week for us. We also jumped from Fifth to Second in the PPG standings (I believe that is the highest all year), and no longer does every team in the conference have games in hand on us (although most do).
Philadelphia might be slipping.
The Red Bulls cannot win on the road (except Yankee Stadium).
Our road record continues to impress (1.86 PPG) as does our record against the seemingly superior West (2.25 PPG).
Our overall PPG of 1.41 is a shade short of 0.3 better than anything we reached last year excluding thru the first 3 games.
We played most of the first half without a certain pair of English midfielders who make us demonstrably better. Barring more injuries, we should expect to be a better team in the second half than we were in the first.
As bad as our home record was, it just seems unlikely we can continue to drop as many late points at home as we did in the first half of the season.
Cup Half Empty
We have 10 road games left and no matter how good a road team we are it is tough to maintain road excellence. We might do it, but don’t discount the difficulty.
We also have 2 games left against the Red Bulls. I don’t believe we’re doomed to lose to them always but I also hate betting against a trend.
I expect 3 of the teams below the playoff line: Toronto, New England and Columbus, to make solid runs in the second half and improve. Toronto especially because they have 12 home games remaining and they’re not weird about H/A ratios like we are.
I could add more here and there, but on balance I’m currently in a Glass Half Full mood as the bullets suggest. The next 5 games will be huge as we play Red Bulls twice and 4 of the 5 are on the road. We either prove our Road Warrior record is real or not. Here are the PPG standings:
How Tough Is Our Road?
The previously mentioned the next 4 are not so bad considering. The Red Bulls have 6 home wins and 4 wins over losses but New England, SKC and Montreal are a combined 4 wins over losses total at home. Those 3 are road points looking to be grabbed. We are also lucky to get the Rapids in NY this year as they are 7 wins over losses at home to date. But, one item of worry is that our last 6 road games are among our hardest. As those teams have a combined 14 more wins than losses at home. I would really like to keep building our road record in the next 4 because the rest of the schedule is notably more difficult.
What Do We Need to Do?
Probably another 6 or 7 wins:
I prefer to hope we can manage 4 wins in our remaining 7 homes games, then squeeze out another 3 out of 10 on the road. Last year Vancouver and Portland tied for the league lead with 7 road wins. To match that would be a significant accomplishment. To exceed it would be outstanding., and likely guarantee a playoff spot.
I Think The 23 Set piece Goals in 26 Home Games Stat Is Very Wrong
HRB has this stat and doesn’t provide a source, and but the RSL announcers mentioned the 23 set-piece concessions at home stat (without adding how many games) during the condensed match. They said it right after the Burrito goal off a free kick. So they are probably the original source for this.
I went back and reviewed the summary and sometimes highlights of every game.
I count 12 set-pieces conceded last year, with 6 at home. This counts the SKC throw-in as a set-piece.
I count 8 this year, all at home. That adds up to 20 total, and 14 at home. If you want to be strict and exclude the throw-in it is 19 and 13.
It’s possible I missed one, or maybe even 2-3, but there’s no way I missed 9 home set-piece concessions. Plus I think I’m right.
We have in fact played 26 home games, so the stat has that going for it.
Here they are with the game number, date, H/A, Type, scorer, and minute 2015
1 3/8/2015 Orlando Away Free Kick kaka 91
4 3/28/2015 SKC Home throw-in Opara 13
11 5/15/2015 Chicago Home free kick Cocis header 14
13 5/30/2015 Houston Home corner kick Bruin header 16
14 6/6/2015 Philadelphia Away corner kick Sapong 46
17 6/28/2015 NJRB Home free kick Duvall 52
Home free kick Miazga 73
26 8/23/2015 Galaxy Away free kick (quick kick) Zardes 36
28 9/12/2015 Dallas Away corner kick Michel 45+
31 9/26/2015 Vancouver Away corner kick Amarikwa 72
32 10/2/2015 DC Away free kick Saborio 90+
34 10/25/2015 New England Home corner kick Rowe 55 2016
2 3/13/2016 Toronto Home free kick Perquis 45+
4 3/26/2016 New England Home free kick Tierney 38
8 4/27/2016 Montreal Home free kick Oduro 90
13 5/21/2016 NJRB Home corner McCarty 3
Home corner McCarty 51
Home free kick Veron 83
Home corner Baah 89
15 6/2/2016 RSL Home free kick Burrito 67
That’s still terrible but I guess qualifies as slightly positive news. I also note that both times we conceded more than once in a game has been to our favorite local energy drink team.
Also, 6 of them were at 45 to 45+ or 90 to 90+. That’s killer.
UPDATE: It probably is people counting PKs to make up the difference, but if so that’s a case of letting definitions confuse things. Nobody cares how well a team “defends” penalty kicks. Nobody defends penalty kicks well, and it’s a fundamentally different animal than corners and free kicks, even though they all start with a dead ball.
Reasons To Be Cheerful
As noted before, the playoff line jumped up quite a bit at the end of last season.
I tried to figure out what happened and found that it was at least in part a result of things that I think are unlikely to repeat. But let’s start with the slightly not-so-good news. Interconference Games
The East usually loses points when it plays the West and this suppresses the playoff line for the East. The MLS schedule lowers the number of interconference games in the last 2 months of the season. Last year there were 15 IC games in September and October, representing 15 of IC games during the last 20.5% of the season. This year there are only 11 IC games in the same period. This would actually cause the playoff line to go up compared to last year if form holds, but I’m not too concerned about that because f the next factor. Interconference Results
Last year the West outperformed the East earning 142 points in IC games to only 97 in the East during March through August. Then, for some reason, the East went on a tear winning 27 points the last 2 months compared to 15 for the West. That, I’m sure, did more to raise the playoff line in the East than the simple number of IC games. I’ve no idea why this happened, and no reason to expect it will repeat itself. It could of course, but there seems to be no reason to predict it will. If that is in fact the case, expect the line not to rise so much late in the season. Frequency of Ties
Last year there was an extremely low number of ties in the last quarter of the season. A game that ends with one team winning creates 3 points. A tie only creates 2. So ties lower the total number of points in the league and thereby lower the total number of points needed to make the playoffs. So I checked.
I divided the season into 4 quarters of 9-8-8-9 games, and then counted how many ties came in each quarter league wide. Ideally I would do this for East Conference games alone but that was too hard and I think this is a good enough proxy. Last year only 16.7% of the total ties for the year took place in the 4th quarter of the league schedule. That’s the lowest percentage for any quarter in the last 5 years. I found no trend that the 4th quarter tends to have the lowest number of ties. I did OTOH notice that in 4 of the last 5 years the second half of the season had an unusually-seeming number of ties: 43%, 55%, 46%, 42%, 35%. The average in those 5 years was that 44% of ties came in the second half of each season.
But then I went back to the previous 5 years and that trend disappeared and the second half tie percentages are 52%, 50%, 57%, 43%, and 51%, which yields a nice 50% average. Basically there is no pattern, but if you look for an anomaly the 4th quarter of 2015 had the third lowest percentage in MLS in the last 10 years. That is unlikely to repeat this year. Again, it could happen, but I see no reason to predict it. This would mean that again, the playoff line should not increase so much at the end of the season the way it did last year.
Specifically in the East, here is how each team just stopped generating tie games at the end of the season in 2015:
Chicago last draw August 29
Columbus last draw August 19
DC One draw after June
Montreal no ties in last 8 games
New England 1 draw after July
RB last draw August 5
NYC last draw August 19
Orlando one draw after August 8
Philadelphia one draw in last 9 games
Toronto no draws after July
The chances of this happening again are beyond my ability to calculate but it seems really unlikely. I do think the final playoff line will be higher than where it is right now, but I think it will be a few points lower than last year.
NYCFC’s problem is that the Mean Number of Wins in Home Games for playoff teams is double our current rate. To do that over the remaining games means winning 6 of the remaining 9 home games. I find assuming that to be tough, so we’re left guessing how close we get to that and how far the Away record drops. Here is a scenario that works:
Home 5-3-1 16 Pts 1.78 PPG
Away 4-4-3 15 Pts 1.36 PPG
Those 31 points added to the current 18 gets us to 49. One way or another you have to figure we need to win at least 9 of our remaining 20 games. It could require more.
Think of that as 4.5 wins per 10 games.
Last year we earned 2.94 Wins per 10 games.
Last year in the last 21 games after the winless streak we managed 4.28 Wins per 10 games.
This year we are sitting at 2.86 Wins per 10 games.
Basically to hit the playoffs we likely need to do a bit better than we did after the winless streak last year. It’s not out of reach. But it’s also something we’ve never done. Both are true, which is one of the reasons it’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.
Last year NYCFC was 17th in the league-wide Supporters Shield race, but 19th in points won at home. This year NYCFC is currently 10th for Supporters Shield, and 20th in home record (TFC has fewer points but better PPG and many fewer GP).
It’s worth mentioning that we’re first in Away record also, so 10th overall is right where we should be I suppose.