MLS: Looking at the next month on the fringe of the West’s playoff picture

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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?

Pos. Team GP PTS GD PPG
4 FC Dallas 18 23 0 1.28
5 Vancouver Whitecaps 15 22 3 1.47
6 LA Galaxy 13 20 6 1.54
7 Portland Timbers 17 20 0 1.18

 

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
Total Games 3 5 6 5
Avg. Opp PPG 1.35 1.54 1.53 1.55
Home Games 2 3 4 1
Above Average 2 3 4 4

 

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.”

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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