You may have noticed at the end of our last post something that looked like a throwaway line:
“In fourth place now, Dallas could find themselves outside of the West’s top five by the time their biggest threat returns.”
Really, Mr. Author? (Oh, wait. That’s me.) You’re just going to say something like that without offering any proof?
Fair enough. Let’s go ahead and take deeper look, trying to assess:
1.) Where we stand right now, in terms of the edge of the Major League Soccer’s Western Conference playoff picture;
2.) What each team is looking at schedule-wise between now and Aug. 4; and finally,
3.) The difficulty of that schedule.
1. Where we are, right now?
Fourth place … FC Dallas looks good, right? Not really. The important thing to note: The two teams with the best points-per-game rates and goal differences have the fewest games played, by a long shot. If you could choose to be one team out of this group, you’d pick Los Angeles, and ask Vancouver to be your backup.
Even if Castillo wasn’t suspended, Dallas should be worried.
2. What does each team’s schedule look like?
Games between now and Aug. 4:
|Date||FC Dallas||Vancouver||LA Galaxy||Portland|
|July 5||vs. Philadelphia||vs. Seattle||vs. Portland||at LA Galaxy|
|July 13||vs. Chivas USA||vs. Real Salt Lake||at Seattle|
|July 17||at Toronto||vs. New England||vs. Colorado|
|July 20||vs. New England||at Real Salt Lake||at Sporting KC|
|July 27||at Vancouver||vs. FC Dallas||at Seattle||at Montréal|
|August 2||vs. Portland||at LA Galaxy|
While Dallas’s schedule isn’t particularly tough, it is particularly thin. The pack is playing five or six games over the next 32 days, while FCD takes the field three times. This is where that games played column begins to even out (and Dallas’s post-Mauro Diaz slump begins to hurt).
3. And how difficult is that schedule?
We’ll look at this a number of ways: Opponent’s average points-per-game; number of home games; number of opponents with average-average PPG rates:
|FC Dallas||Vancouver||LA Galaxy||Portland|
|Avg. Opp PPG||1.35||1.54||1.53||1.55|
Here’s the silver lining for Dallas: Their schedule is slightly easier, with two out of three games at home. Contrast that with the other end of the spectrum, Portland, who has only one home game in the next month and has the most difficult of the four schedules, both in terms of points-per-game and above average teams. Add an Open Cup match against Seattle (at Seattle) on July 9, and Portland’s schedule is as congested as LA’s.
It all comes back to the conclusion we made at the end of point one: “If you could choose to be one team out of this group, you’d pick Los Angeles and ask Vancouver to be your backup.”