Logjam: Home/Away Splits With Two Games Left

The battle for the final two playoff spots in the East remains delicately balanced, yet fiercely contested. - Jonathan Daniel

Our first look at home and away point totals for a month shows Fire, Union and Revs all rising to the challenge in the race for the playoffs; San Jose, Portland coming on strong in the West; Montreal, Seattle and Dallas all reeling

The last time we looked at these numbers - which divide each team's schedule into home and away portions, figure their average point total in each, and project a final points number - the league was still very much in flux. Several teams (Seattle and Montreal leap to mind) had multiple games-in-hand; as those teams had also been successful, the projections showed them stretching their advantage as summer turned to fall.

Funny thing about games in hand: They don't mean much if you don't win them. Both Seattle and Montreal found difficulty when their games-in-hand became games-in-fact, and as a result, they're the two teams plummeting down the table.

Let's start with the current Supporters' Shield standings. Now that games in hand is not such an issue - only LA and Montreal have one outstanding - it now gives us an accurate snapshot of the state of the league with two rounds left to play:

# Club PTS GP PPG W L T GF GA GD HG HGD RG RGD
1 New York Red Bulls 53 32 1.66 15 9 8 50 39 11 29 15 21 -4
2 Portland Timbers 53 32 1.66 13 5 14 49 33 16 29 18 20 -2
3 Real Salt Lake 52 32 1.63 15 10 7 55 40 15 29 14 26 1
4 Sporting Kansas City 52 32 1.63 15 10 7 44 29 15 28 13 16 2
5 Seattle Sounders FC 51 32 1.59 15 11 6 41 39 2 28 14 13 -12
6 LA Galaxy 48 31 1.55 14 11 6 51 37 14 31 23 20 -9
7 Colorado Rapids 48 32 1.5 13 10 9 42 33 9 27 13 15 -4
8 Houston Dynamo 48 32 1.5 13 10 9 39 37 2 24 10 15 -8
9 San Jose Earthquakes 47 32 1.47 13 11 8 33 41 -8 21 9 12 -17
10 Montreal Impact 46 31 1.48 13 11 7 48 46 2 29 10 19 -8
11 Chicago Fire 46 32 1.44 13 12 7 44 47 -3 28 7 16 -10
12 Philadelphia Union 46 32 1.44 12 10 10 40 40 0 22 6 18 -6
13 Vancouver Whitecaps 45 32 1.41 12 11 9 48 42 6 29 10 19 -4
14 New England Revolution 45 32 1.41 12 11 9 45 36 9 26 12 19 -3
15 Columbus Crew 41 32 1.28 12 15 5 40 42 -2 19 7 21 -9
16 FC Dallas 41 32 1.28 10 11 11 45 50 -5 27 5 18 -10
17 Chivas USA 26 32 0.81 6 18 8 29 60 -31 17 -7 12 -24
18 Toronto FC 26 32 0.81 5 16 11 29 46 -17 22 0 7 -17
19 D.C. United 16 32 0.5 3 22 7 21 56 -35 15 -12 6 -23
PTS: Points, GP: Games Played, PPG: Points Per Game, W: Wins, L: Losses, T: Ties, GF: Goals For, GA: Goals Against, GD:Goal Difference, HG: Home Goals For, HGD: Home Goals Difference, RG: Road Goals For, RGD: Road Goals Difference,

Two straight wins in October have vaulted the Fire into the thick of the playoff race in the East; but their viability (and that of New England and Philadelphia) has been aided greatly by the absolute free-fall of the Montreal Impact. Similarly, the pretensions of New York, Portland, Salt Lake and Kansas City as Supporters' Shield candidates have been greatly buoyed by Seattle's early-October meltdown: Three straight losses by a combined 10-2? Youch.

Throughout July and August, Montreal and Seattle supporters looked at their healthy positions in the standings, and - reasoning from points-per-game figures - imagined a runaway ending to their respective conference crowns. Now, though, each is in crisis mode, as the games in hand have turned into precious few points. Which leads us to the home-away splits board:

Current points Projected points 9/17 update Change
1 New York Red Bulls 53 56.31 56.83 -0.52
2 Portland Timbers 53 56.31 53.62 2.69
3 Real Salt Lake 52 55.25 56.83 -1.58
4 Sporting KC 52 55.25 54.14 1.11
5 Seattle Sounders 51 54.19 60.99 -6.80
6 Colorado Rapids 48 51.00 52.38 -1.38
7 Houston Dynamo 48 51.00 49.52 1.48
8 LA Galaxy 48 53.34 54.92 -1.58
9 San Jose Earthquakes 47 49.94 43.55 6.39
10 Chicago Fire 46 49.33 46.50 2.83
11 Montreal Impact 46 50.01 56.04 -6.03
12 Philadelphia Union 46 48.88 45.33 3.55
13 New England Revolution 45 47.81 44.93 2.88
14 Vancouver Whitecaps 45 47.81 47.08 0.73
15 Columbus Crew 41 43.56 41.37 2.19
16 FC Dallas 41 43.56 48.57 -5.01
17 Chivas USA 26 27.63 30.03 -2.41
18 Toronto FC 26 27.63 27.20 0.43
19 D.C. United 16 17.00 18.21 -1.21

As virtually everyone has one home and one away game left, and virtually everyone has played 32 games, the home/away split numbers converge almost completely with the league table. An interesting artifact of keeping these numbers through throughout the season is that it's easy to pick out the form teams - when comparing with earlier projections, just see whose projection has increased the most.

The teams in green- San Jose, Philadelphia, Portland, New England and the Fire - are the form teams over the last month of the season. Since September 17th, the Fire have seen their points projection derived from average home and away points rise from 46.5 to 49.33. The current numbers have the Men in Red finishing fifth, edged out by Montreal (50.01).

The Impact's advantage is due to their game in hand, which they'll play Wednesday night against the Galaxy in LA. Did I mention both Montreal's starting centerbacks will be out for the game?

If the Impact can't summon a stunning performance on the 16th, their point projection - with two games left - drops to 48.88, .45 below Chicago.

The real form team in the league, looking at the numbers above, is obviously San Jose. The Quakes struggled from May through mid-July, finally righting the ship a bit about a month after sending Frank Yallop packing. But since September 1st, they're the hottest team in the league, as one can see by their 6.39 improvement in projected points. Last week's 1-0 win over Colorado blunted the Rapids' rush to the top of the West, and was their fifth in six games. The Galaxy seem to have their number, but every team in the west would dread a series against San Jose.

Besides the Fire and San Jose, it's the pack fighting for fourth and fifth in the East. It's going to be a great finish.

Dallas joins Montreal and Seattle in the red 'poor form' highlights. The Schellas Hyndman era seems to be burning up upon re-entry into atmosphere.

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