The narrative this week is that 1st Place is now a rather unlikely dream, and there is some occasion to worry about 5th Place and a road knockout game. It’s not a most likely result but even a brief slump could do it.
NYC is closer to Atlanta in 5th Place than to either Toronto or Chicago above. In fact, the next 2 clubs behind us could catch us with no help. The good news is that RB has a very tough Away schedule that will make a sustained run difficult. Atlanta’s schedule is easy, except for the timing, which we’ll cover shortly.
At this point exceeding 60 points will take a run that is not something one would expect given performance to date, and requires a Win to Loss ratio of better than 3:1. Given a current ratio of 1.57:1, that is a major stretch. Still, another 4-game win streak would do wonders.
Meanwhile Toronto can get 63 points by going 6-4-2, which is a substantial step down for them.
We’re 4 points ahead of last year’s pace. The 2016 team did not finish super strong. Most of its best work was done mid-season, going 7-2-2 and fitting in both a 3-game and 4-game win streak within games 9 through 19. The 2017 team has not had a stretch nearly as good as that, and surpasses the 2016 team largely by also having avoided anything as bad as the 1-3-4 start.
In the final 12 games last year NYC never won more than 2 in a row, although it only lost 3 times. It was a solid finish, but did not significantly outperform its own average. The same 6-3-3 finish this year would put NYC at 58 points for 2017.
I considered doing a weighted measure, averaging out the remaining schedules against each opponent’s H/A record to date, but decided on something different. it’s a bit arbitrary, but allows you to focus on individual games rather than saying one team has a remaining schedule with a remaining difficulty factor of 1.53 while a rival has a remaining schedule with a 1.47 difficulty factor. I tried to measure who many tough games and easy games remain. I arbitrarily chose the following cut-off lines: Home games are tough if the opponent is in the top 3 spots of its conference, and Away games are tough if the opponent is above the playoff line.
Look at that. Toronto has the easiest schedule, with no tough home games and only 2 tough road games. The most one can argue ist they have 3 games left against Montreal, and they always seem to play each other hard. But still, this chart gives little hope that Toronto will falter unless they just suddenly play much worse than they have to date.
The Red Bulls have a very tough road schedule, which as noted above will make any sustained run difficult.
Atlanta has the most Home games against quality opponents, but also has 9 Home games against only 4 Away. The most challenging thing about their schedule is a stretch of 8 games in 24 days. They play weekend-plus-midweek four weeks in a row. On the plus side there is almost no travel, with 7 of the 8 games at Home, including the first 6 in a row. On the negative, 6 games in 18 days in Atlanta with their style of play could wear them down considerably. But having 3 more Home games than everyone else on this list has to be considered a plus.
Overall, chasing Toronto remains a dream. NYC can catch Chicago, but nothing in the schedule gives us an advantage. RB’s Away sked should give NYC an advantage, but Atlanta has a real advantage, if their fitness can let them take advantage of all those Home games. It is probably easier for NYC to slip to 4th behind Atlanta than it will be to catch Chicago.