Back in the glory days of the 24thMinute.com (no one blogs anymore. It’s kind of sad, he says ironically) I used to publish a monthly projection of the MLS standings that was designed to take into consideration the massive swing in fortune between teams playing at home and on the road.
Many TFC fans got irrationally angry at such a suggestion because, at the time, they had seen no evidence of teams excelling at home. Man, weren’t those early days fun! However, the simply projections proved to be remarkably accurate throughout the years that I published them.
After a Twitter exchange with Kurt Larson and Doug Roberson of AJC.com earlier this week I was compelled to revisit my old tracking system. The impetus to the discussion and my curiosity was the fact that Atlanta has an absurd six game home stand in September. As with TFC’s absurd road trips to start 2015 and 2016 the reason for the long stretch at home is stadium related. The Falcons are building the latest shrine to the NFL (No, Tom Brady has not been invited to the grand opening) and Atlanta United is sharing in the spoils. By all accounts it’s going to be one hell of a stadium. It must be because it’s not exactly one of those Soccer Specific Stadiums Don Garber talks about when it fits his agenda.
At any rate, Larson felt that this long home stand, combined with a current solid run of form, meant that Atlanta was in the Supporters Shield race. Roberson, who covers the team for AJC.com, agreed, with the caveat that Atlanta was a difficult team to project in 2017.
I, the contrarian I tend to be, disagreed and I threw a whole bunch of those fancy stats at them to back up my opinion. Specifically they have the worst PDO in MLS, were 12th in xGoals, 19th in xGoals against and 12th in TSR.
For those who read the above paragraph as Greek – the PDO number means they are, statistically speaking, the luckiest team in the league, score way more goals than their possession and shot placement would suggest, let in fewer goals than the same against them would suggest and they typically give up more shots than they get themselves (which has proven to be a very effective measure of success in global football, albeit less so in MLS).
Now, part of the reason Atlanta’s numbers are lower might be because they’ve played more road games than home games (12 to 8), but it’s still dangerous to ignore them completely.
There’s little to no guarantee that a home heavy schedule will automatically mean that you can just automatically say 6 x 3 = 18 GO! Just ask 2015 TFC about that…
But, anyway. I decided to break it down into the simplest projection I could think of to try and factor in the home schedule of Atlanta’s to see how much of a penitential threat the upstarts are to TFC’s Shield run.
Before I present the table please remember that I fully understand that a projection based on past performance in no way guarantees that the same form will continue. It simply means that IF teams continue to play the way that they have this season thus far we can reasonably project that they will finish with X amount of points.
This isn’t a complicated formula (H pts / H GP x 17) + (R pts / R GP x17) = Projected final points.
Here are the results:
1. Toronto FC 66
2. Chicago 62
3. NYCFC 59
4. Atlanta 59
5. NYRB 54
6. Columbus 49
7. Orlando 45
8. Montreal 44
9. Philly 39
10. New England 39
11. DCU 30
1. Dallas 61
2. SKC 54
3. Houston 53
4. Seattle 50
5. Vancouver 48
6. Portland 46
7. San Jose 43
8. RSL 38
9. Galaxy 37
10. Colorado 31
11. Minnesota 27
Ok, maybe not, but the projection backs up the eyeball test that TFC remains the clear favourite to capture the Shield and it also suggests, as most eyeball tests have also suggested, that Dallas is the class of the West.
Another thing that it suggests is that if you’re under the red line in July, it’s going to be a fight to pull above it by October. It’s happened, but far, far less likely than the hype-masters at league headquarters would have you believe. The standings at the 2/3 point are usually pretty close to how things will shake out at the end.
In terms of Atlanta, it does show a very healthy return on points, but ultimately they are probably too far back already in MLS, where 6 points might as well be 20. Of course it all resets to 0 once the final 12 are decided.
As for TFC…maybe don’t plan the parade, but start sketching out the Shield winning tifo design. Quietly. You wouldn’t want to jinx it, after all.