The good news is the Blues are third in the conference and fourth overall while playing an Away-heavy schedule of only 5 at home and 8 on the road.The semi-bad news is more than a third of the league is within a one game swing of overtaking the Bluebirds so that position is precarious. The PPG standings also place them in 3rd in the East and drop them to 5th overall.
Also, the Celestes really need to pick it up at home. They have dropped 5 points at home in only 5 games, which is not particularly good for a team that high in the standings. The two teams ahead of the Pigeons have dropped a combined 6 points in 14 Home games. Gotham City could win 9 straight at home and will have built a Home record 1 point better than TFC and the Fire have combined for so far. If the goal is to make the playoffs, the current Home pace of 2.0 PPG is fine. But a challenge for top of the East will require improvement. Here are the possible results.
Looked at another way, the Blue Hawks have 5 losses in their first 13 games. If they are going to end up in the neighborhood of 60 points, they can probably lose at most another 5 in the final 21 games. They could easily lose 4-5 of their remaining 9 Away games. They might do better, but that would hardly be a surprise. Las Palomas lost 5 of their last 9 Away games last year (after the first 8 Away games last year they had only 2 losses compared to 4 this year). Which means, switching back to the Home perspective, the club might need to go undefeated the rest of the way or lose at most one more to improve on last year and be reasonably certain of avoiding the initial one-game playoff round.
I do not see this team as designed to excel in the playoffs. I see this team being built to excel on an overall everything-being-equal basis. By that I mean that the philosophy seems to be to play in a consistent way that creates more chances for you and less for the opponent, and over a full season that will mean success. But there seems to be no plan to win any specific game when things go awry, Down, 3-0, the Pigeons play the same way they do up 2-0. There is no apparent strategy to play with more urgency when a game starts going the wrong way. I fully understand that manufacturing goals at will is an iffy proposition at best, but when this team either plays poorly, or plays well and suffers a bit of bad luck, it seems to be done for. Winning a set of 3-4 playoff match-ups in a row with that foundation seems to be wishful thinking, and avoiding at least one of those playoff rounds would likely increase the odds of success considerably. Last year 54 points did that, but current indications, while admittedly still early, are that finishing top 2 in the East could require more.
It needs to start now, with 6 of the next 8 at Home, the last 2 of which are against the teams the Blues are chasing — Chicago and Toronto.
I think it is worth considering where NYC finishes in relation to the top West teams. This is not so much for Shield purposes as for a potential MLS Cup Home Field advantage. This is why I’ve added the West PPG standings to the posts this year. The number at the bottom of those charts is the average PPG of each conference.
Finally, here are the year-to-year graph comparisons.
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