Archives for September 2019
On Monday April 15, after playing 6 games, NYCFC had 5 points and no wins. Five Thirty Eight gave them a 4% chance of coming in first, and a 54% chance of making the playoffs. The team got better quickly, and for the past few weeks the biggest obstacle to them sitting in first has been a low number of games played. Comparing all East teams based on points through the same number of games played, as we have been doing here for several weeks, NYCFC has had more points at each point for 9 out of 13 games since Game 16, including the last 5 in a row. But it was just this week when NYCFC ever held or shared first place in the East, in Week 27 and after 28 games played.
Now NYCFC has clinched a playoff spot, and 538 says they have a 66% chance of finishing first. With 6 games remaining nothing is guaranteed, and the game against Atlanta could decide the issue, but this has been quite a turn around already.
In 5 of NYCFC’s last 10 wins (PHI, COL, CIN, RB, and NE), the opponent scored first. In another (Houston), NYCFC trailed 2-1. I’m not sure this is a positive overall. It did not happen once in the first 5 wins, largely because of a lot more clean sheets, though of course it is good to know the team can come back from negative game states. On the flip side, NYCFC led in 2 of its 5 losses (RB and RSL).
The rolling 5-game PPG has hit the maximum of 3 for the first time.
The 10-game rolling PPG has hit 2.4 for just the second time. The first was 16 games into this season.
We’re hitting the trail end of the season when the PPG standings mean less, but here it is.
At the same time, this table is everything now:
The magic number for New England and DC is 2. For Red Bulls and Toronto it is 4. All could happen this coming week with 2 win and/or those teams dropping points, and would guarantee finishing no lower then third. Philadelphia and Atlanta are both at 14 so still a ways off. Looking West, NYC has clinched over Colorado, Houston and Vancouver, and at worst a draw on points with SKC. The remaining numbers are Dallas 6, Galaxy 8, RSL, Portland and Seattle 9, San Jose 10 and Minnesota 11.
Four straight wins matches the best such streaks of NYCFC’s history. Still, to put themselves in the best, most defensible position to win the top spot in the East, they might need to extend it to 7, because the next three home games against New England, toronto and San Jose, are the easiest on NYCFC’s remaining schedule. NYCFC probably will need in the area of 12 more points to finish first in the East. It will not help that NYC will play all or some of those games without all or some of Johnson, Matarrita, Chanot, Callens, Sands,, and TBD: Héber (status uncertain) and Shradi (return date completely unguessable).
With less than a quarter of the season remaining, NYC have the league’s second best PPG, second fewest losses*, second best Goal Differential, second most Away points, second best Away PPG, are 1 of only 2 teams with a winning Away record and positive Away Goal Differential (LAFC is the other of course). Largely due to having fewer games played, they are third in Total Points (Philadelphia is second with 1 more point and 2 more Games Played), and fourth in Total Wins (Philly and Atlanta both have 1 more win with 2 and 1 additional games played).
- Some may wonder if the games in hand diminish this stat, but NYCFC has 3 fewer losses than the two closest in this category, with only 1 or 2 extra games to play. Even if NYCFC lose every extra game, they still lead this stat, pening the remaining games in common.
I do not know what the argument is that NYCFC is not clearly the second best team to date in MLS. Schedule congestion for Atlanta? It’s a fair point to note, with their recent Leagues Cup and MLS cup runs, plus the CCL early on. Some note that NYC has lost 3 of the most recent 4 games against teams above the playoff line: RB (both a win and loss), RSL, and Atlanta. You can create excuses for all those games based on missing players and ref calls, but I prefer to note that NYC also has won against DC (A), the Galaxy (A), Philadelphia and Seattle, plus the previously noted RB game. NYC’s record against teams currently above the playoff line is 5-4-3, with 7 of the 12 games on the road, including 2 of the wins.
It’s hard to measure that against how other teams have played against playoff teams. It is a small game sample, subject to change as teams move above and below the line, and most importantly, ignores Home and Away. I think Home and Away is more important in MLS than playoff status. All of NYCFC’s remaining games are against teams currently above the playoff line, and 4 are Home and 3 Away. If you gave me the opportunity to switch that to having only 3 of the Games against playoff teams, but all 7 Away, I would not take the offer. I think you measure tough games in MLS at least as much by Away performance as by the opponent’s overall record. With those disclaimers, I checked the records of Atlanta, Philadelphia, Seattle and Minnesota against current playoff teams. Of those, I would only say Philadelphia has a better record, subject to all the factors just listed. And the Union lag NYCFC in all other major stats. besides the ones listed above, they had 5 fewer points at 27 games than NYC does now.
I dropped more low end results from the following table. I could conceivably add some to the top, but that seems hubristic, and simply unlikely, though not impossible.
2019 NYCFC is finally ahead of 2018 after 27 games, with 50 points to 48. There is a tie with 2017, which team only managed 1 win and 4 ties in the final 7 games. We’ll see if 2019 can survive the presumed absence of Heber and avoid a similar finish.
Finally, second place with games in hand looks good here.
If Philadelphia wins the Division with their remaining schedule I will be both impressed and shocked. They have only 5 games left, compared to 6 for Atlanta and 7 for NYCFC. Philadelphia has only 2 home games left against the 2 best road teams in the league (LAFC and NYC), and visit solid home teams RB and SJ, plus Columbus. They could very well manage a couple of wins, but there are no near-certain wins in that set of games. Maybe they shock and beat LAFC, but more likely let’s say maybe a draw there, a win in Columbus and draws in the other 2 road games. That’s 6 (57 total) points going into Decision Day, 60 max at season end, and frankly all that is somewhat optimistic.
Meanwhile Atlanta has 4 extremely likely wins. Atlanta, a great home team, gets to host Columbus, SJ and New England, none of whom are great road teams (though the Revs improved a bit since Arena took over), and are Away to Cincinnati, NYC and the Impact. That’s 4 very likely wins at least. Then let’s say NYC beat them (not a given but quite likely chance) and they draw the Impact. That’s 13 points and 61 total at season end. Their decision day game is home to the Revs and I already gave ATL that win.
That has us aiming for 62 points. It has to start with winning all the home games, including Atlanta. That is 62 points right away, but it does require beating Atlanta and maintaining a 7-game win streak. All else the same, a draw against Atlanta drops us to 60 and Atlanta up to 62, which requires winning a remaining road game to overcome that. Dallas and the Union are both excellent, above 2 PPG at home. New England is 1.60 including the pre-Arena days.
My bottom line is if NYCFC wins out at home including Atlanta, then the rest probably takes care of itself. Alternatively any 4 wins as long as 1 is Atlanta does it. Disclaimer: no guarantees, etc., etc, but these are reasonable possibilities. If the Union beat LAFC or Atlanta drops points at Home or in Cincinnati, then everything changes, for worse or better.