Entering the final quarter of the season is a bittersweet thing to me. It's great that we are moving towards the Playoffs and the MLS Cup, but also it means that a lot of my Saturdays are losing something to look forward to each week. The other thing that begins to happen is that we all start speculating on things such as awards and also where the teams will land in the final standings.
This is one such speculative post, but obviously with an RSL focus. How does RSL get the Supporters Shield?
More after the jump.
Let's say in some crazy world that everyone could win every game remaining, in that case you'd have for the top 4 teams (in order) Los Angeles Galaxy (73 pts), RSL (69 pts), Seattle Sounders (69 pts), Dallas (67 pts). Now I say in order but the end result would be RSL and Seattle tied at 69 points each, but RSL comes out with a better goal differential (currently) which would be the tie breaker. Not too shabby for a team that currently sits behind all three of those other teams.
Now obviously we do not live in this crazy world, and with RSL playing two of them down this final stretch (Seattle Sept 10th, L.A. October 1st) the chance to break away from both is there. Should RSL go on a winning streak in their final nine games that same list goes to L.A. with 70, RSL with 69, Dallas with 67 and Seattle with 66 (assuming they all won their non RSL games). Again, not very probable, though it does show that Supporters Shield in reach.
So what is a more probable situation and how does RSL get there? At this point I am going to eliminate FC Dallas from this speculation, RSL has been a bit better overall and the Hoops have a very packed schedule with CONCACAF matches mixed in which will not help them be quite as rested for their MLS games.
Let's start at the top. How to get the Galaxy into reach is the first thing that needs asking. 4 points is not a lot (going off of max possible) of difference, and being that one of those games is against an RSL side that beat them 4-1 earlier in the season I think that number could be as low as a single point difference. A tie in another game would put RSL ahead. However this is thinking that RSL will win every game, and while I am more than happy to dream of such a thing reality does need to set in. L.A. has won 14 games this season, RSL 12 but they also have 2 games in hand over L.A. Currently % of games drawn plus the % of games lost RSL sits at 52% and L.A. 48%. Now on the assumption that RSL will beat L.A. in October these numbers come out to 50% for both sides. If the two teams perform exactly the same each week with only a single slip up of a draw by L.A. on a week that RSL wins pushes RSL beyond L.A. An exact point total is tough to figure out at this point but the difference in the two teams wouldn't be more than 1-3 pts I wouldn't think. Doable to simply match L.A. in 3/4 of the remaining games. For the remaining 1/4 a win against L.A. and a slip up by them puts RSL in the front runner position in that battle.
So what about Seattle? Very much a contender. Their performance in the second half of the season has been phenomenal. Add to that their USOC and CONCACAF games and it makes it that much more impressive, but I think that something has to give soon, and that might be this Saturday. Century Link is a tough place to play. It's that way in not only the MLS but also has a reputation in the NFL for the same thing. With having won at Rio Tinto already this season I have to think this is RSL's biggest road block in this chase of the Shield. What needs to happen? RSL needs to win this game. While it's still possible I think dropping this game of any takes the shield out of the reach of RSL. A win on the other hand, and then simply match Seattle on results (or of course doing better) puts the claret and cobalt out in front of them as well. A draw means we have to match them the rest of the season no matter what and also pick up a draw (at least) on a week they drop all 3. Amazingly Seattle is sitting on a Draw+Loss % of 51.85 vs RSLs 52%. Again having games in hand is going to be something RSL is going to have to take advantage of in order to get ahead of another quality side that has a real chance at this run.
So RSL fans, do you have faith your boys can make that end of season push to get themselves ahead of their competition? If not right now, how about if Javier Morales were to come back in October to finish out the season?