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.
Busy week so the text and commentary will be slight.
For this first time this year, NYCFC has played more games (26) than there have been weeks in the season. Still a couple to make up though, as this year has only 31 weeks with the playoff shift.
This stat is not original to me, but NYCFC is 11-2-3 (2.25 PPG) when Heber plays at least 60 minutes and 2-3-5 (1.10 PPG) when he does not.
I dropped 4 lines from the bottom of the possibilities chart, and frankly, 52 and even 55 seem barely possible. Both would entail a ridiculous collapse.
Two-game week so 2 of these. I started doing it at 16 games. NYC has been on top by itself 5 weeks, including the last 4 in a row, and tied twice: once with Atlanta (Wk16) and once with Philly (Wk19). The Union was on top the other 4 weeks.
NYCFC has clinched over Cincinnati and Columbus.
Next Magic Numbers: Chicago 2, Orlando 6, Montreal 6.
NYCFC has 6 of the last 10 at Home, which is nice, but the next 6 games are where the team needs to accumulate wins and points. Five of the next six are at home, and the lone Away game in that stretch is against Vancouver, which has a losing record at home right now. Yes, that game involves transcontinental travel, and other games will be on short rest, and the Red Bulls are always tough, and NYCFC’s record at home against New England is worse than against any team outside of Portland. But there is no denying these games are easier than the last 4 games of the season. None of the 5 teams NYC will host at Yankee Stadium in this stretch has an Away PPG better than 1.15 PPG. That’s New England’s Away PPG, and it’s also worth mentioning that the Revs are undefeated Away since firing Friedel (3-0-4). But these are still 5 poor Away teams with an average of fewer than 3 Away wins per team. NYCFC probably needs 15+ points (OK maybe 13 or 14 if other things go well but that’s pushing it) from these 6 games to have a shot at finishing first as it heads into the final 4 games, which include hosting Atlanta, and Away to Dallas, New England and Philadelphia.
It looks like a 3-way race for first place in the East right now.
NYCFC have now played at Rocky Mountain altitude in 2 of their last 3 games, winning once and losing once (with a win at 33 feet above sea level in NYC in between).
Last week NYC won while most of its East Conference rivals lost, this week NYC loses while Atlanta, Philadelphia and the Red Bulls win.
The most dangerous lead in soccer is apparently 1-0 in a NYCFC Away game. The team to score first has lost in NYCFC’s last 3 road games, and has only won 4 times this year in 11 games. Every one of those 4 wins was a shutout (3 by NYC).
NYCFC’s last 5 games L-L-W-W-L has them again sitting just below Philadelphia on both the current PPG and Points at 21 Games metric. Missing players forms a common thread to most of NYC’s recent struggles. At RSL they were without arguably their best winger (Shradi), best defender (Callens) and bets player (Maxi). But that has to be a concern going forward as NYC has to make up so many games, which will definitely require some squad rotation and possibly cause injuries.
In the race between annual versions of NYCFC, we have just hit the peak of 2018, when Domè won 5 of his first 6 games as head coach and everyone was wearing pineapple shirts.The 2017 slide started about 6 games later, if you’re wondering when 2019 has it’s best chance to catch up.
Based on their records at Home, the just concluded RSL game and Atlanta game in a few days are the 2 toughest Away games on NYCFC’s schedule all year. After Atlanta this coming weekend, the schedule gets very easy, on paper at least, with 7 straight very winnable games of which 5 are at home. After that, there is a tough final month with FCD(A)-ATL(H)-NER(A)-PHI(A).
You don’t have to be so tough (well come on)
I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough (well come on)
July – 20 Games
East Record 7-12-1
At Home 5-4-0 (9)
On Road 2-8-1 (11)
Goal Differential -4
East Points 22
West Points 37
Season to Date
East Record 37-48-17
At Home 27-15-9 (51)
On Road 10-33-8 (51)
Goal Differential -22
East Points 128
West Points 161
It’s becoming something of a rout (and as a preview, the first weekend in August continued the trend). The pattern is pretty consistent, as well. The East wins most of its home games, but not by much, while the West wins a much higher percentage of its home games. It’s that simple.
NYCFC has never had more than 4 players score 5 or more goals in a season. It managed this twice before this year, in 2016 and again in 2018. This year, with 14 games remaining, NYCFC has 4 already (Heber, Moralez, Castellanos and Mitrita), plus a fifth poised to do so once he gets healthy (Shradi). Even Ring has an reasonable chance with 3 to date.
Meanwhile, in the summer transfer window, the team added an additional player, Gerard Mackay-Stevens, who seems very capable of putting up at least 5 given a full season of work.
Two years ago in 2017 NYCFC finished with just 3 players at the rather modest 5-goal threshold (Vila, Harrison and Moralez). This did not go unnoticed, and it now seems clear that team management noticed as well, having obtained Castellanos, Heber, Mackay-Stevens, Mitrita and Shradi all since the end of the 2017 season, and the team now has one of the most (if not the single most) balanced and deep attacks in MLS.
And having used this attack to drop 3 goals on a struggling SKC defense, NYCFC again sits with the second best PPG in the league (though only 9th best by points and 4th place in the East conference due to games in hand).
The biggest gap in the East table is between Montreal at 8 and Orlando at 9. The conference is shaping up to have 8 teams vying for 7 playoff spots down the stretch. In addition, with the much smaller gaps between all of the top 8 teams, there will likely be a true competition for every spot on the table at the end, though both 538 and the Playoff Status website both give NYCFC a better than 50% chance to finish first.
With 2 straight wins after a pair of disappointing losses, NYCFC is as good or better than every team in the East after 20 games, and is poised to take the lead once it plays its additional games, as long as it does not suffer another late season slump.
The Revs have managed one of the more impressive in-season turnarounds in MLS. They now sit above the playoff line in 7th Place in the real standings, and hold 6th Place by PPG. The are undefeated at 6-0-4 in the last 10 games after starting the season a dismal 3-8-2.
The toughest part of the Revs season is coming up, with games at Home against LAFC (next) and NYC. Away they still have Seattle, the Red Bulls, NYC, Portland and Atlanta. Their H/A adjusted Opponent’s PPG to date is 1.26 (with no real difference between when they were terrible and the undefeated streak). The upcoming adjusted Opponents’ PPG is 1.53. They do have some quality, impressive wins during the streak including San Jose at Home and the Galaxy Away, but they are facing an upcoming series of tests the likes of which they have not yet faced.
New England also has an impressive record of 6 wins against 0 losses and 2 Ties against the West, but they arguably have 3 of the toughest West games remaining.
On that note, it is worth mentioning that 4 of the 8 top teams in the East still have to play Portland in Portland: Atlanta, DC, the Revs, and Red Bulls.
On the table showing how NYC gets to various levels, we are close to dropping some of the lower possibilities.
Before closing, a word on the NYCFC defense. They have a league 4th best Goals Against per Game of 1.20 based on 24 goals conceded in 20 games. They started the season allowing 11 goals in the first 6 games, then tightened up considerably to allow just 13 in the last 14 games with 5 shutouts.
But there still is some cause for concern, as the more medium-term results are 12 goals allowed and just 1 clean sheet in last 9 games. NYCFC seems to be in that mode where there is at least 1 mistake in each game that is not forgiven by their opponent. In the last 4 games, a review of how they gave up those goals shows that the team defense in the regular run of play remains excellent, while concentration and/or execution in specific moments fail. With 5 goals conceded in the last 4 games, they came off of (1) in the regular run of play, (2) a PK, (3) a free kick, (4) a throw in signalled as a corner, and (5) a corner kick.
Finally, let’s note that DC United, Vancouver and Chicago now have 9 Ties each and NYCFC no longer leads the league in that oddity.
Break, eject, eject, eject