Major League Soccer has always tended to be unpredictable, even ranging into the completely unstable in terms of how things play out in random, inexplicable or even incalculable ways.
But as I studied some history and looked at San Jose’s chances of getting past this year’s playoff velvet ropes, even I was surprised to see how many times the reigning Supporters Shield holders have completely crashed out of post-season pursuits just one lousy year later.
Heck, a couple of clubs won Supporters Clubs and didn’t even come back – as in, they were gone completely!
D.C. United was the last to drink from this tainted cup of ignominy, winning Supporters Shield in 2007 and then falling over the cliff a year later under Tom Soehn.
San Jose won in 2005 – and then hightailed it down south to Houston.
That wasn’t as bad as in 2001, when that great Miami Fusion team (with the young likes of future U.S. internationals Nick Rimando, Pablo Mastroeni and Kyle Beckerman) claimed the shield awarded to the club with the best regular season record. Then the team folded.
Overall, six Supporters Shield winners in 17 previous seasons have failed to make the playoffs the following year.
So, what of San Jose this year? This recent, thorough piece from the Quake Rattle and Goal blog does all the heavy lifting, but I can make it simple for you: Probably not.
San Jose has five matches remaining and probably needs to go 4-1 just for a chance.
It’s a tall order. It gets tougher if Chris Wondolowski and Co. cannot get at least a point at RSL this weekend – and that is a tough point to chase, especially considering RSL is coming off a poor night, and manager Jason Kreis is sure to have his team at full rev. After that, the Earthquakes’ schedule isn’t bad, with three of the last four checking the box under “potentially winnable contests.”
Still, there’s just so little room for error. Considering that San Jose is in eighth place, three spots out of playoff grace, I think we’ll be adding No. 8 to the list of Shield winners that couldn’t get there a year later.